Seattle Public Schools

School Design and Construction

Design and Construction Process

Project Phases: Design and Construction

When Seattle voters approve a capital levy, the Capital Projects and Planning team start ramping up for the design and construction of the projects included in the levy. Seattle Public Schools Capital Projects and Planning team follow a predictable, consistent path for the design and construction of major projects. These include new construction, replacement school buildings, major modernization of a school, and building additions.

construction phase graphic showing that the school is in the Schematic Design phase


  • A project budget is developed based on the funding amount approved by the voters.
  • A Request for Qualifications (RFQ) is prepared and posted for advertisement seeking architectural and engineering services.
  • Architect and engineering firms are selected through a competitive public process regulated by the State of Washington.
  • School Design Advisory Team (SDAT) is assembled by project management team and school principal. (Read more about SDAT.)
    • SDAT begins meeting to review district educational specifications and interweave their goals, objectives, and aspirations for the school into the design.
    • Architects participate in SDAT process to gather input and feedback from the school and broader neighborhood community.

Schematic Design

  • SDAT continues to meet and develops school or “site specific” educational specifications that conform to the district’s educational vision while recognizing the unique culture of the school and community.
  • Architects consult with district on project objectives, and then prepare schematic design studies in response. 
  • Drawings and other documents are prepared to show the scale and proposed components for review/comment by SDAT and to district approval.
  • Request for proposals are posted for General Contractor/Construction Manager (GC/CM) if project will be managed in that manner.
  • Third-party cost estimate performed to confirm the project is within budget.
  • A value engineering study is completed by a third-party consultant.
    • During the value engineering study, also sometimes called value analysis, a consultant looks at the architectural design to consider how the necessary owner project requirement can be provided at the best value or lowest possible cost.
    • The value engineering consultant can then suggest alternative materials and methods to the architect and district that are a better value or less expensive without sacrificing function or deviating from district standards

Design Development

  • Further development of school’s program elements such as classrooms, offices, commons spaces, etc., are guided by district educational specifications, technical standards, and input from building principal, teachers, and facilities staff members.
  • Selection of building materials and finishes palette — masonry, exterior metal siding, paint and other wall finishes, flooring, and cabinetry — begins.
  • Structural design; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) ductwork and piping; and electrical conduit designs are developed.
  • Design continues to evolve so that educational spaces, support spaces, and public spaces meet the program and technical requirements set by the district and so that the building support systems function well within the building spaces supported.
  • The architect prepares more detailed drawings and other documents to describe the size and character of the entire project.
    • Architectural, structural, mechanical, and electrical systems.
    • Materials identified.
  • A third-party cost estimate is performed again to confirm the project is within budget.

Construction Documents and Permitting

  • The architectural firm prepares construction drawings, specifications, and bidding documents.
  • The district applies for required building permits.
  • If school is 25 years or older, the district submits landmark nomination to the City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board if it wasn’t done in an earlier phase.
    • By self-nominating the buildings, the district avoids having someone else nominate the project, which can delay progress.

Bid and Award

  • Requests for bids are prepared and posted, advertising that constructors are sought to build the project through a competitive process.
  • District and architect work together (and the GC/CM firm if included in project) to evaluate the responsiveness of the contractors’ bids.
  • Construction contracts are presented to the Seattle School District Board of Directors for approval and award.


  • Hazardous materials abatement and demolition are the first construction activities to begin a project.
  • The building is constructed.
  • Building systems (plumbing, HVAC, lighting, intercom, fire alarm, telephone, data, etc.) are started and tested to confirm that they operate as designed and intended by the engineers.

Occupancy/School Opening

  • The school building is substantially complete.
  • The district moves in furniture, fixtures, and equipment (frequently referred to as FF&E) technology, curriculum, and staff contents.
  • Teachers set-up classrooms.
  • Ribbon-cutting event held.
  • School opens.

After school opening

  • Punchlist and warranty items (final things for contractors to address) are identified and completed.