Lafferre renovation to start early 2015

MU still has three buildings that have ranked 0.5 or higher on the Facilities Conditions Needs Index.
A woman walks past the 1936 addition of Lafferre Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014. This section, among others, of the building is in need of repairs. MU will receive $38.5 million in state funding to renovate Lafferre.

In one hallway of Lafferre Hall, 14 buckets catch the water dripping from the leaking roof after a thunderstorm. Towels are pressed against the base of the walls to soak up water on the floor. Sheets of plastic are stretched over research equipment to funnel rainwater into Tupperware containers. Pieces of the rotted ceiling regularly collapse in peoples’ offices.

But now, the building’s future is looking less stormy. Gov. Jay Nixon voted Oct. 16 to issue $38.5 million toward renovating Lafferre, according to a news release from his office.

The renovations will repair sections of the building that were built in 1935 and 1944, and are expected to add 20,000 square feet for research space.

According to the release, renovations are expected to begin in early 2015 and will be completed by December 2016. The building is expected to reopen for the spring 2017 semester.

“We are extremely grateful to the governor and the state legislature for supporting the bonding and capital improvement bills,” Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said in the release. “The renovations made possible with these bonds will provide our students access to state-of-the-art engineering facilities and enhance our researchers’ capabilities to conduct groundbreaking research, leading to innovation and economic growth for the state.”

Lafferre received a 0.91 rating on the Facilities Conditions Needs Index earlier this year, which means that 91 percent of the building needs to be updated.

Facilities inspections were conducted on all university-owned or leased buildings in the spring following the Feb. 22 structural collapse at University Village, which killed a Columbia firefighter.

“We can’t prepare our students for the jobs of the next century in facilities designed in the last century,” Nixon said in a news release. “That’s why this project is so important, not only to enhance the educational experience of students here at MU, but also to strengthen our state’s ability to compete and create jobs in the global economy.”

Marty Walker, director of administrative services in the College of Engineering, said the renovations will reduce stress among faculty and students who work in Lafferre.

“It causes a lot of consternation with the students because whenever it rains you don’t know what you’re going to find: It’s like playing the lottery,” Walker said. “People have to take unusual measures to make sure their work is usable when they return to their desk the day after a rainfall.”

He said a patchy roof is just one of the building’s many issues. Lafferre was built on a slope, so the floors aren’t level and don’t connect normally. There are also only two elevators on opposite sides of the building.

“It makes it very difficult because you have to give yourself plenty of extra time to maneuver through the building,” Walker said.

He said low-hanging, exposed pipes make walking through the halls difficult for taller individuals, and many of these pipes are rusted and leak regularly.

In the materials lab, the wall is pulling back and buckling in, Walker said. The seals on many double-pane windows are broken, which makes them foggy and leaky.

“There are areas in hallways that are cut off, rooms with no doors, leaks in the roof … it’s like a cage,” MU spokesman Christian Basi said. “It’s not a great environment right now. The entire building has significant issues.”

Maintenance workers are part of a “Band-Aid squad” called in nearly every time it rains to try and patch leaks in the roof where they can, Walker said.

“There are so many leaks that you Band-Aid one up and you have two more,” he said.

Members of the Missouri Students Association and the Associated Students of the University of Missouri traveled to Jefferson City last year to rally for renovation funding, MSA Senate Speaker Ben Bolin said.

“One of the biggest reasons we (rallied) is because the lack of a roof and huge leaks prevent higher education learning” he said. “We could teach in a cardboard box here, but it wouldn’t be nearly as effective.”

ASUM President Trey Sprick said so many facility needs could also hurt the university’s ability recruit “high-quality students interested in the STEM fields.”

But Lafferre isn’t the only building that needs renovations.

Currently, MU hasn’t received funding for McKee Gymnasium, Waters Hall and Mumford Hall, Basi said. These buildings have ranked 0.8, 0.8 and 0.5 on the FCNI, and are expected to cost $15 million, $22 million and $24 million to renovate, respectively.

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