By Mandy Redfield, PE, LEED AP BD+C
Senior Project Manager

When it comes to the cost of labor and materials, the current construction climate in Colorado is volatile. We’ve seen construction costs rise month after month, but our clients’ needs and schedules remain unchanged. How can we, as MEP/T engineers, continue to provide a high level of service to our clients while managing to stay within their budgets that were likely generated in a completely different construction market? This is a very real challenge that M.E. GROUP has been facing on recent projects. Although this issue applies to the entire A/E/C industry, we’re going to take a quick look at some recent K-12 projects to explain how we’ve been able to overcome this barrier.

BVSD Schools

Douglass Elementary, Erie PK-8, and Emerald Elementary are under construction in Boulder, CO. These are all BVSD schools that have benefited from the 2015 Bond Election.

Last summer, we completed design on several new schools for Boulder Valley School District. The schools have aggressive sustainability and energy goals, as well as budgets that were put in place prior to the 2015 Bond Election. Typically, we would suggest an HVAC system that is guaranteed meet these energy goals based on past experience (geoexchange), but we knew that there wasn’t room in the budget for a well field. We had to use divergent thinking.

Through several design charrettes and a team-oriented CMGC project delivery process, we were able to keep the schools within budget and within arm’s reach of their energy goals. This was accomplished through an iterative process of evaluating different HVAC options and architectural characteristics, along with a lot of simulation analysis.

As it turns out, it’s much easier to talk about “design charrettes” and “integrated design” than it is to actually do it. What were the keys to success?

  • An owner committed to energy and sustainability goals
  • An entire design and construction team committed to energy and sustainability goals
  • Up-front discussion about each consultant’s individual goals, and discussion about how each of our goals align each other’s
  • Open, honest discussion with the design and construction team about cost, installation and energy use of different HVAC systems and other design options
  • Did not rush HVAC system selection – we took the time to look at many different system configurations, used simulation analysis to predict performance, and utilized the General Contractor and Mechanical/Electrical Subcontractors for early pricing analyses
  • Continued use of simulation analysis throughout the VE process to ensure that we weren’t letting the energy goals slip away
  • Open communication during the construction process to stay on schedule

The biggest key to success, which is embedded in many of the bullet points above, is real teamwork. The ability to maintain professional relationships while being open and honest is the most important pillar of the design and construction process.

All of the schools will be open for fall 2017 classes.

All of the schools will be open for fall 2017 classes. As we have worked through construction, we have faced additional cost challenges, and the team has continued to work together to move the projects forward. M.E. GROUP is excited to evaluate our clients and the school staff and students after the buildings open to see the impact of our work. Above all, we work to improve lives through a better built environment.


Mandy’s specialties are project management, staff management and business development. Working at the forefront of a progressive industry, Mandy’s focus on early, integrated design establishes sensible, sustainable solutions that provide long-term positive impact for the project and the team. She is an advocate for approaching projects from a broad, holistic perspective and values engagement with design partners and the public.

phone: 720.384.6081