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RE: Philosophy of School Design - Was: Long Beach CA -- March 10, 1933

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There seems to be a knee jerk reaction that the special provisions for
public schools in California are without fault.  In response to this I
would like to raise a few issues.

It is well known that people are not consistent in how much weight is given
to various risks.  We react emotionally to various risks depending on what
buttons are pushed, and the need to protect children definitely pushes some
buttons. In this context I would suggest that we should consider the
various tradeoffs to decide what is the right balance.  I do not think that
we are having this dialog.

Consider if the rational is to protect small children who are required to
be in school, why do we apply the same standards to junior colleges where
the students are typically over 18 and attendance is optional but not to
state colleges and universities.  We are not consistent.

Much has been made of the need to minimize damage to schools in addition to
the need to protect life safety.  While I encourage clients to consider
designing for higher performance levels I would like to suggest that this
is a choice that should be left to the Client.  Especially in times where
funds are tight it is possible that a local jurisdiction might decide that
the money is better spent on public health initiatives or smaller class
sizes than on more durable schools.  Maybe the investment in other programs
could reduce public expenses treating chronic health problems or could
reduce the number of individuals we have to send to prison.  Why not let
the local districts decide?

I will admit that public schools have a good record.  This appears to be
true even for those schools that were upgraded in the early 1940's.  If you
look at the drawings for some of these old buildings you will see numerous
conditions that currently would not be considered acceptable.  Yet these
schools are considered to be acceptable to house students because some time
in the past they were reviewed by DSA plan checkers.  Why has the record
been so good even though many of these schools are substandard in the
context of modern codes?

Given the good performance of schools one could ask which of the
regulations are most effective in improving the performance.  I would like
to suggest that we get most of the benefit from a fraction of the
regulations while other regulations add cost without much benefit.  I
believe that there should be an ongoing dialogue as to where to strike the
balance.  I would hope that we can ask these hard questions.

Mark Gilligan SE

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