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Saturday, September 30, 2023


Regents approve budget increase

The UH System Board of Regents approved an increase of two construction projects’ budgets Friday because of inflation and additional structural building.

"This is not something I like to do," Associate Vice President of Plant Operations David Irvin told the board about increasing costs to construct new buildings. "We hope to prevent this situation in the future."

Calhoun Lofts, approved by the board in November 2006, will have a budget increase of $11 million, raising the cost of the construction project budget to $107 million from $96 million.

Irvin said the increase is due to inflation and additional structural construction needed for the foundation, which is being built beside Bauer College of Business. Inflation for the construction project is $8.6 million since the project was approved last February by the board. Irvin said that the reason inflation costs were so high was because of delays in obtaining approval by the board for the construction.

The lofts have undergone changes in construction plans, which included upgrading mechanical and electrical systems, adding energy conservation standards and making building changes consistent with University construction standards.

"Had we gone forward with the original project, then the operating costs would have been greater," Irvin said.

Changes also included routing electricity from the University power plant instead of city power lines to lower costs to students and adding commercial-grade doors, insulation and city utilities, such as plumbing and sewage drains, to increase the lifespan of the building to approximately 40 years from 15 to 18 years.

"There will be an opportunity to move students from substandard housing to this new project," Vice President for Finance and Administration John Rudley said.

Irvin said that the original plan for the lofts included classrooms, which would have made the budget $99 million that were later discarded because plans for Cemo Hall – to be built later this spring for $9 million – were finalized.

The increase in the budget is not expected to impact the construction schedule and construction will be completed by July 2009, Irvin said.

Parking lot 19A, beside Melcher Hall, closed down in September to make room for the lofts’ construction.

Board members voiced concern over the increases, saying that students may not be interested in the lofts once constructed because of its high cost to build.

"We’ve got to build these kinds of buildings," Regent Leroy Hermes said. "When we’re all gone…then this campus will really be something."

Vice President for Student Affairs Elwyn C. Lee said that the additional changes to the lofts’ plans would be beneficial to students living in dorms as opposed to living off campus because utility and rent rates would be much lower than the other locations in the city.

"(Students have to) make sure they appreciate what’s included," Lee said.

The UH Sugar Land campus also received a $1.8 million increase to raise its construction budget for a new academic building to $36.8 million from $35 million.

Previously approved by the board in 2005 for a total of $30 million, the budget increased further in October 2006 by $5 million, according to the board agenda. The increase will cover a maintenance building and additional structural construction, which includes raising the building’s elevation because of a delay of a levee being built nearby.

The building is scheduled for completion in December.

The board also voted unanimously to allow UH President and UH System Chancellor Renu Khator to negotiate a land purchase near campus. The 43 acres of land, located along Martin Luther King Boulevard, Spur 5 and Old Spanish Trail, is up for sale through commercial real estate company McDade, Smith, Gould, Johnston, Mason and Company for a minimum bid of $25 million.

The board said that acquiring the land would help the University expand in the future and that it had no immediate plans for it, if obtained.

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