New Construction vs Renovation

Brought to you by: Capital Impact Partners’ The Answer Key

Another crucial variable is whether to renovate an existing building or to construct a new facility, also referred to as “ground-up construction.” The relative advantages and disadvantages of each must be reviewed in the context of your charter school’s unique circumstances.

New Construction

In a ground-up construction project, you have control over more variables, and therefore you are more likely to achieve your goals within your budgetary constraints. Your architect can design a building with your specific requirements in mind, rather than being forced to work within an existing space. Additionally, there is less disruption to current operations when you do new construction since it will take place offsite.  


There may be compelling reasons to renovate the charter school’s current site or purchase another building and retrofit it to suit the charter school’s needs. The school’s current location may be a huge advantage for staff and students. There may be no available land on which to construct a new building. Your site selection team may locate a building that, with relatively minor renovations, addresses your space and design requirements. An engineer’s building evaluation or assessment may also reveal that the building’s structure, roof, and mechanical systems have sufficient life before replacement is needed. Remember, there are more “surprises” connected with renovating an older building due to hidden or unforeseen conditions. Most budgets add a contingency factor of 15 to 20% for a renovation project versus only 10% for new construction. As you consider renovation, be mindful of the following questions:  

  • What level of rehabilitation will be needed to implement the program in this building?
  • Will hazardous materials become an issue during the renovation?
  • What code compliance issues are involved?
  • If the charter school’s site will be renovated, how will you manage current operations, and where will everyone be situated during the construction project?
  • Will the building accommodate the types of mechanical systems, energy improvements, and safety features needed? Will it accommodate “green” or sustainable building upgrades?
  • Is the building appropriate for the charter school’s programs and activities? Is it a “good fit”?
  • Will the building be accessible to people with disabilities?

In sum, it is important to pull together an experienced site selection team that understands charter schools. Evaluate alternative site options, carefully estimate the costs of each, and initiate a relationship with your lender before making a final decision about your site. At the end of this predevelopment phase, you’ve accomplished significant steps, and your team is up and running. Once a final site decision has been made, you are in a better position to begin the process of designing it and determining how you will pay for your facility.

Legal Disclaimer:

Nothing in this material should be construed as investment, financial, brokerage, or legal advice. Moreover, the facts and circumstances relating to your particular project may result in material changes in the processes, outcomes, and expenses described herein. Consult with your own professional advisors, including your financial advisors, accountants, and attorneys, before attempting to consummate any transaction described in this material.