Why Does It Cost So Much for a DISD Building to Get Built?

Is DISD inefficient, or are their other factors at play?


Really interesting post by Julieta Chiquillo at the DMN about a new study from the state’s comptroller office showing that DISD has some of the highest construction costs in the state, compared to other ISDs. [CORRECTION: Cost is for ISD projects in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I am dumb.] My first thought was, well, that’s obvious: big city, old infrastructure, old buildings, more costs. But Chiquillo says the survey controlled for a whole host of factors so that it was comparing apples to apples.

It’s not as though DISD’s DFW costs were way out of whack — they were less than San Antonio’s for example. But we spent way more on average than Houston, which is our nearest comp. I checked with someone I know who runs a construction company that primarily works with ISDs so he could give me some insight. Is Dallas just inefficient, or are their other factors at play here? And in any case, are their lessons to be taken in terms of cost-savings from Houston that can be applied? He said he wasn’t sure, since he’s on the down-channel (buzz term!) end of these projects, but that it doesn’t take much inefficiency (terrazzo tile at $12 a square vs. vinyl at $1.25, for example) to add up fast on projects of this size.

One note: The post says that many ISDs stonewalled the comptroller’s office and took forever to get the requested info submitted in a timely manner. According to the online data tool provided, though, it looks like Dallas ISD was one of the first to respond, about 12 days in. So we’ve got that going for us, which, when paired with a gold star, means we get a gold star.


  • Los_Politico


    That report isn’t about the costs in DISD, it’s about the costs in the Dallas metropolitan area. The examples mentioned are in Denton and Plano.

    • Eric Celeste

      Duh. So it should say, why does it cost so much to build school buildings in Dallas-Fort Worth? I am super dumb.

  • Todd Williams

    Eric, generally the biggest driver of overall costs within a region will be land, so I am assuming that their comparison ignores the cost of land and looks at building costs only. The next driver will be overall construction activity, as contractors will be hungrier or less hungry depending on how much competing business they have (in terms of their own profit margin they charge above cost reimbursement) as well as the cost of labor….the tighter the job market, the more you have to pay for labor to build the asset. This is before any additional costs associated with contracting requirements associated with building for a public entity.