IN THE NEWS: For Idaho’s Design and Construction Firms, It’s Smart to Head Back to School

In the April issue of the Idaho Business Review’s Square Feet, the quarterly supplement focuses on the basics of Idaho school funding, the design/build process, historic preservation, and distance learning. Education design studio lead, Corey Johnson, spoke to the planning process.


A scorching hot construction market, competition for appropriate sites, and volatility in the prices of materials such as steel and concrete make long-range planning for education projects essential.

“A lot of preliminary work goes into the most successful projects,” said Corey Johnson, an associate principal with CTA Architects Engineers. He is also the education design studio director.

Meeting long before a bond or levy election helps set a good foundation, on both the design and master planning levels. CTA’s client list includes St. Ignatius Catholic School, College of Western Idaho, College of Southern Idaho, the new Stricker Elementary School in Kimberly, and Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario.

“Something that our firm embraces — and does quite well — is pre-bond planning that engages the community, faculty, staff, students, and teachers,” said Johnson, who added that the firm’s first project, when it was founded 80 years ago by an architect and engineer, was a high school.

“Whether it’s our firm doing the design or guiding the planning process, we notice that the bond success rate goes up exponentially,” he added. “CTA at its inception was about education, and this (area of work) continues to be a primary focus and specialty.”

Early partnerships with clients mean more informed decision on land acquisition, initial expenditures, and early-stage design concepts, Johnson said. That early planning includes coming up with preliminary budgets and construction schedules in concert with the general contractor.

He made it clear that CTA and other design firms are always working to find better ways to protect students. Most of the new elementary and high schools recently built or currently under construction feature a number of security upgrades and new safety features.

“A new school allows you to plan and design for school safety,” Johnson said.

The firm also retains a historic architect on staff. These skills come in handy whenever a project calls for an addition to a historic school building.

“You don’t want to entirely replicate the old style of architecture, but create something that is sympathetic and complementary,” Johnson said. “There’s a real art to doing this well.”

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