University facilities in need of repair, funding

Conditions of University facilities are falling behind the national average. The recently released University Facilities Conditions Assessment evaluated buildings at the University across all five campuses, with a primary focus on the Twin Cities campus. The report, released Sept. 12, covers issues of age, technology rating, future needs and funding of University buildings. Since 2002, the University has been a client of Intelligent Systems and Engineering Services , a company that privately evaluates education, government and health care facilities. On campus, ISESâÄôs findings show high-tech research buildings to be in the best condition, while clinic, office and residence hall facilities rate lowest. The company projected replacement needs valued at more than $2 billion over the next 10 years. Of the University systemâÄôs 28 million square feet, more than 23 million contain Twin Cities-campus facilities. Of that total, nearly 10 million square feet was built or renovated more than 50 years ago. ISES uses a buildingâÄôs estimated replacement value and projected 10-year financial needs to develop a ratio of facility quality. The University currently rates as âÄúfairâÄù on the companyâÄôs scale, with the Twin Cities campus rated worst among the five campuses. While much about facilities on campus has been worsening in recent years, the University placed fourth in a facilities technology rating that compared a group of 15 universities. The group includes other Big Ten schools such as Purdue and Northwestern , as well as schools such as Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology . The Sept. 12 assessment used Nicholson Hall as an example. In 2005, before major renovations, the buildingâÄôs projected 10-year needs were higher than its replacement value. After renovations, the hallâÄôs rating improved to âÄúworld class.âÄù Assistant Director of Facilities Management Sean Schuller said the report is confirmation that University buildings are in need of significant investment. âÄúCurrently the âÄòUâÄôs rating is certainly not good or world class,âÄù he said. Funding was a main concern for Schuller, who made a distinction between constructing new buildings and doing current-building maintenance. He said while funds for new buildings and facilities are often quickly attained, capital funding for existing ones hasnâÄôt kept up. âÄúThe longer Folwell Hall took to remodel, every year it was more expensive to maintain,âÄù he said. Though Folwell recently went through a large exterior renovation, conditions inside still have room for improvement. Mary Ann Beattie and Kathy Lundquist , administrators in the Spanish and Portuguese studies department that hold classes in Folwell, said they appreciate the buildingâÄôs charm, but noted that heating, cooling and classroom conditions all need improvement. German and Scandinavian studies professor Charlotte Melin said the space is in great need of better working areas for graduate student assistants and professors. Last year, funding for interior renovation was cut from the stateâÄôs bonding bill. In 2008, the University requested $100 million from the state legislatureâÄôs Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement fund and received less than $40 million. To maintain the UniversityâÄôs current ISES rating, the Facilities Conditions Assessment projected a capital need of $160 million per year. Actual funding has averaged $88 million over the past two years.