Renovation project to include Old Science, Roy Cullen
Some of the oldest buildings on campus are getting a facelift thanks to a new campus restoration initiative.
The Core Renovations Project, set to get under way in December of this year, will update some of the oldest buildings in the central part of campus. The buildings include the Science and Engineering Research Building, Old Science, Roy G. Cullen, McElhinney, Agnes Arnold and Science and Research.
The buildings selected to receive improvements were chosen because of their poor rating with the facility condition assessments, said Jacquie Vargas from Facilities Management. The University is committed to fixing these buildings at the center of campus.
“These buildings are seen as the education core of the campus,” Vargas said. “They are classroom and lab buildings used most often by our students and which are home to 26 academic departments.”
Interim College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Dean Steven Craig has been focusing on space issues for the college for the past year. While the college is experiencing growth like the rest of the University, CLASS has yet to receive a new building while the University continues building STEM-related buildings and projects.
“We have 40,000 students on a campus built for 30,000,” Craig said. “We always try to utilize the space better, but then it gets to a point so severe some faculty members do not have offices, which is a problem. So space is crucial.”
The University secured money from the state going towards capital projects. Most of the buildings in the Core Renovations Project are CLASS buildings. However, the first building up for renovations is SRC1, exclusively a science building.
Charles E. McElhinney Hall is CLASS’s second newest building, completed in 1971. While it currently hosts a variety of departments and 17 general classrooms, it has a wide array of problems to update.
“McElhinney has a lot of logistic problems and leaking water which is expensive to fix,” Craig said. “The inside of it is not designed well or efficiently so I think with some remodeling, we can use the space better.”
Completed in 1939, Roy G. Cullen is the oldest building on campus. It currently hosts the English department, and while many students today believe it has two floors, it actually has three. Because there is no working elevator in the building, the University had to close off the third floor in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Vargas said the project will not come without challenges.
“Potential problems include the age of the buildings, temporarily relocating occupants, budget limitations and schedules,” Vargas said. “As well as enhancing and updating systems like technology (Wi-Fi) and building mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.”
Political science graduate, class of 1966, Bill Soffar had chemistry in the Old Science building during his time as an undergrad. Soffar lived through the University of Houston becoming a public institution, and the building has not changed much.
“The Science was old and dilapidated even when I was there,” Soffar said. “On the outside, it had old, weathered gray granite and inside had elevators that almost never worked. It was just in disrepair and looked horrible.”
The Old Science building has been sitting dormant since 2013 and will become a swing space to house the displaced departments until renovations are completed on the other buildings.
“The primary functions of the Old Science building after the renovation will be general purpose classrooms and faculty/staff office space,” Vargas said. “The UH campus is extremely lucky to have a building that can serve as swing space during the duration of the Core Projects.”