U asks for input in design process

by Nathan Whalen

University Facilities Management officials said they want more flexibility in state-funded building projects, directing concerns to Gov. Jesse Ventura during his Thursday visit.
Members of the Board of Regents’ Facilities Committee told Ventura they would like more freedom from a state agency responsible for approving designs for publicly funded projects.
They want the construction process to be streamlined and have suggested the University needs more authority in making final decisions about Legislature-approved projects.
“If you’re going to hold us accountable, then hold us accountable for the whole process,” said Eric Kruse, vice president for University Services.
University officials want to change their relationship with the State Designer Selection Board, a group that approves architects and engineers chosen for construction projects.
The University doesn’t have any recourse if the board chooses substandard designers, and Facilities Management officials said they want to be more involved in the selection process.
A primary reason for dissatisfaction is the lack of flexibility in using more efficient construction methods. The state design board uses only one traditional process, constructing the entire building at once.
University officials, however, have found another, more cost-effective process. By breaking the project down into separate parts, the University can save money by starting construction before a building design is completed.
The process allows designers and construction workers to work more closely, committee members said.
During the renovations of Murphy and Ford halls, the new design-build process pushed projects along about six months ahead of schedule, University officials have said.
This process also allows the University to estimate project costs earlier and make changes to keep within budget.
Construction of the $87 million Riverbend Commons project behind Coffman Union has taken a similar course. Several aspects of the project — including a residence hall, parking garage and plaza — are being modified to curb overspending during construction.
When regents asked for Ventura’s opinion, he remained non-committal.
“I take everything under consideration,” Ventura said. “I don’t make any commitment until I sit down with my staff.”

Nathan Whalen covers construction and facilities and welcomes comments at [email protected]