The Student Voice of MU Since 1955
Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Campus buildings deteriorate as funding runs low

This is the first article in a series of reports on academic buildings in need of renovations.

Ashley Lane/Graphic Designer

A 2009 report from the Missouri Department of Higher Education reviewed the state of facilities at public institutions of higher education throughout the state and found three distinct trends.

According to the report, public universities are struggling to provide enough on-campus, quality space to students and faculty, with deteriorating facilities and a need for more funding for campus maintenance and repair projects.

The report outlined more than 30 MU buildings in need of renovation. Specifically, it recommended renovations for Lafferre and Strickland Halls and a reconstruction of the Fine Arts Building. Altogether, costs for these renovations and reconstruction would total to an estimated $177 million.

MU needs $187 million to fund all deferred campus maintenance projects, a Jan. 25 report from MU Campus Facilities stated. The report defines deferred maintenance projects as repairs that were not accomplished as part of normal maintenance and have accumulated to the point that facility deterioration is evident.

The Campus Facilities report stated that in 10 years, MU’s total projected facility needs could be as high as $1 billion.

Lafferre Hall

Since it's construction in 1892, Lafferre Hall has undergone 10 additions, some of which were torn down to make room for new ones, said Marty Walker, College of Engineering director of administrative services.

The latest addition, completed in 2009, demolished 24,000 feet of the 1922 portion of the building and replaced it with a 60,000 square-foot addition that houses an undergraduate lab, research space, faculty offices and student study areas, Walker said.

Restructuring the whole building would be in the university’s best interest, he said. Currently, one portion of the building needs a new roof and another needs a new wall.

“Conditions in Lafferre would surprise most visitors to campus,” the MDHE report stated. “Paint is peeling, ceilings are stained, floors are buckling. Much of the building does not receive natural sunlight, and the interior of the building is a confusing maze of hallways, classrooms and tables.”

According to the MDHE report, cracks in the interior and exterior walls indicate potential structural damage -- floors, walls and ceilings show evidence of water damage and some labs are filled with outdated equipment.

Walker said there are some safety issues in Lafferre, and parts of the building do not meet Americans with Disabilities Act codes.

“In years past, there were no ADA standards,” he said.

Buildings are not required to be updated with every new code, but during significant renovations, buildings must accommodate the most current regulations.

“We are very concerned because we want to make the building comply with these standards,” he said.

Some of the standards are impossible to meet without renovating the entire building, which is why it would be more cost effective to build an entirely new structure, Walker said.

Fine Arts Building and Loeb Hall

Constructed more than 50 years ago, the Fine Arts Building now houses the School of Music, art department and theater department but has since outgrown the building’s space.

School of Music Director Robert Shay said there is a disconnect with how it is used now and when constructed in 1958.

“I think it was designed for much smaller programs than we have today,” he said. “The fact that it doesn’t serve our needs that way makes us feel like it has a lot of shortcomings. There’s never enough space.”

Shay said the School of Music is forced to conduct classes in four additional buildings due to the lack of space in Fine Arts.

While there are no pressing safety issues, he said there are minor renovations needed, such as the addition of more railways, safety bars and central heating and air conditioning.

Shay said the students’ learning is affected because there is no one place for instrumental ensembles to rehearse.

The School of Music's Large Instruments and Ensembles coordinator Margaret Lawless said these groups are forced to rehearse in Loeb Hall, which was converted from a dining facility to an academic building in 1995. The building was not finished until five or six years ago, when it was reconfigured to house a small and large rehearsal room and five faculty studios.

In October 2010, a New York City-based professional acoustic designs firm, Acoustic Dimensions, reviewed Loeb Hall. Acoustic Dimensions’ Principal Consultant David Kahn made a series of recommendations to improve the building’s acoustics.

None of Kahn’s recommendations have been implemented. Shay said they are in the process of responding to the recommendations, but most of which will need to be done over a period of years.

“(Loeb Hall) was not really designed with the sound absorbing material and because of that, the noise level in (Room 201) is extremely high and just not good for the players or anyone listening,” Lawless said.

She said she would not want to see anyone bring a lawsuit to the School of Music for the dangerously loud noise levels.

“For the short term, we will be making several acoustical modifications to Loeb Hall later this spring and over the summer,” Shay said. “One of the main changes will be hanging adjustable curtains that will allow the acoustics to be controlled.”

Shay said most of the recommendations would be more costly and would need to be made over a period of years.

Strickland Hall

Formerly known as the General Classroom Building, Strickland Hall was built in 1969 and, according to the MDHE report, has only undergone minor renovations.

Karlan Seville, MU Campus Facilities Communications Manager, said Strickland’s classroom technology needs to be modernized to meet the needs of faculty and staff, and the lighting and building operating systems need to be replaced.

“With the increase in demand for an MU education, as evidenced by a continued growth in our student enrollment, Strickland Hall will continue to be a facility that nearly every undergraduate student will experience through the course of their education and must be improved to ensure a quality environment for providing a quality education,” MU’s request for capital funding for fiscal year 2012 states.

Strickland Hall houses a variety of classes for students, including many for the College of Arts and Sciences.

During the summer of 2010, Room 117 in Strickland Hall was transformed into a model classroom for a task force project led by Jim Spain, MU vice provost for Undergraduate Studies, and UM System President Emeritus Mel George. The group was designed to look into faculty members’ experiences and opinions about classrooms on campus.

Strickland was chosen for the classroom renovation because it houses a variety of different classes from a myriad of different academic departments, Spain said. The renovated room includes new chairs, whiteboards and projector equipment and has no front or back, so students can see and interact from anywhere in the room with faculty.

Finding the Money

Aside from Lafferre, Fine Arts and Strickland, more than 30 other MU campus buildings need maintenance, according to the MDHE report. But with continued decreases in state appropriations for higher education, money for campus facilities and deferred maintenance is increasingly more difficult to attain.

According to the UM System’s FY 2012 Appropriations Request for Operations, as the deterioration of buildings continues to increase, it will be more difficult to catch up on backlogged maintenance.

“Right now with the maintenance and repair budget, we don’t have a very robust pool of money to do those kinds of projects,” Spain said.

According to a previous Maneater report, MDHE Deputy Commissioner Paul Wagner said at some level there is not much they can do.

“There comes a time when deferred maintenance catches up,” he said. “And that time is now.”

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