UH: A $638 million construction site
Since 2008, the University of Houston has spent $219 million on construction, while another $219 million is being spent on current projects and an additional $200 million is allocated to proposals in the design and financing phase, said UH President Renu Khator in her fall 2011 address.
This has resulted in several construction sites sprawled over campus, closing walkways and obstructing traffic.
“You see it every day when you try to get through campus,” said Director of Facilities Planning Mike Yancey. “We are going to wrap all of those (projects) up as soon as we can.”
All of the construction going on at once has forced students to accommodate to the changes, which include campus sidewalk closures and parking lot closures and reassignments.
“We try to keep the sidewalks open and have good accessibility, but at the same time, we have to do these projects,” Yancey said.
In order to try and limit additional burdens on students, the University has tried to set tighter restrictions on the construction boundaries.
“We limit the contractor’s footprint of the site to where it’s up real close to the building and still allows people to get around,” Yancey said. “The issue is that when you get multiple buildings in the same general location, you get these little narrow slices of traffic.”
Yancey said the University is trying to keep construction at a constant pace to be as non-intrusive as possible.
“I don’t think it’s all at once. It seems that way because we are active right now,” Yancey said.
“What I would like to see is that it continues at an even level so you don’t have big spikes and valleys.”
There are currently three projects in pre-construction — the bidding and procurement phase — they are still being designed and negotiated with contractors.
These projects include a parking garage where Lot 1A is currently located, the University Center transformation project and renovations to the old science building.
“We do some construction-manager-at-risk projects, where you involve the architects and engineers at the same time you involve the general contractor,” Yancey said.
Two residence halls, a dining hall and several academic buildings around campus are considered in the active construction phase, also known as the building phase. These are a mixture of completely new structures as well as renovations and additions to old structures.
“While we are renovating, we are improving,” Yancey said. “The campus is getting better, and I’m really happy with it.”
The financial support for these projects comes from various sources.
“There are a lot of different funding sources, from tuition revenue bonds and HEAF (Higher Education Assistance Fund) to grants and local funds,” Yancey said. “Each project has a different funding source or sources. You can see how the money is combined to do the project.”
Yancey said he does not see a time when construction will not be happening in some form on campus.
“If you look at the life cycle of buildings and the components in a building, in order to maintain and operate it properly, you have to replace certain components in (that) building,” Yancey said.
“As the students and academic people’s needs change, (the University) will necessarily re-purpose the buildings.”