Costs: Science teaching spaces are more expensive than standard classroom space. Many of the reasons for this are obvious, some are non. Science casework and equipment is expensive, averaging at this writing, between $50,000 and $60,000 per lab/classroom. Science spaces have significant utility requirements beyond those of a standard classroom: several sinks with hot and cold water, several electrical circuits, occasionally fume hoods and gas, and a separate heating, air conditioning and ventilating system. Science teaching spaces are larger than standard classrooms. The NSTA Guide to School Science Facilities recommends a minimum of 60 square feet per student for a combined lab/classroom at the middle and high school levels. For a 24 student lab/classroom, this translates into a 1,440 square foot space, 60% larger than a standard 900 square foot classroom. Combining all these factors means that science teaching spaces are more than twice as expensive as general classroom space. Further, as most existing science teaching spaces are undersized and are often equipped with sufficient electrical power circuits or separate ventilating systems, renovation of such spaces to meet current standards costs significantly more than typical non-science renovations.
A renovated science space may cost as much as 75% of the cost of new science space. Science educators must ensure that the budgets for their new facilities are adequate to deal with this significant difference in cost.
Schedules: Since new or newly renovated space complying with current standards significantly different from 50-60 year old existing science spaces, the time required to carefully plan, design, purchase equipment, and construct the spaces is significantly greater than a simple classroom renovation. Science casework manufacturers often fill up their book of business for the following summer by the end of January. The reasons for this are obvious; everyone wants their renovations completed during the summer break. Thus, if a renovation is planned for the following summer, planning, design, and bidding for construction work must be completed by the end of December; otherwise the renovated facilities will not likely be ready when the students come back from their summer vacations. The NSTA Guide to School Science Facilities includes appropriate time lines for new construction and renovation projects (pgs. 12-13).
Things change: From the initial planning meetings to the final walk-through of the completed spaces, there are many likely opportunities for change. During the initial planning stages science educators are asked to define their ideal science teaching spaces, without regard for budgets or available space. It is an important step, because, unless the ideal is defined, it is highly unlikely that even a small portion of the ideal will be achieved. Once the ideal spaces are defined and the entire project is programmed, the total estimated cost may well exceed the budget initially conceived. School administrators and board members will then need to determine if the budget can be raised and, if not, where priorities lie. Adjustments to the ideal spaces will be likely-science teachers need to participate in this discussion.