Expansions to cost $3m†

The next hurdle for proposed renovations to UH’s Central Power Plant and the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, will be gaining approval from the Board of Regents on Tuesday.

The Facilities, Construction and Master Planning Committee approved the renovations Wednesday.

‘We have to have better reliability, better efficiency and liability,’ plant operations Vice Chancellor Dave Irvin said.

The renovations will replace most of the boilers, cooling lines and all of the cooling towers that the University has been using for 30 years.’

Upgrades will bring the Central Power Plant up to date, allowing it to meet the University’s energy needs for the next 15 years.

‘We’ve tried to be very forward thinking,’ Irvin said. ‘If you’re going to spend $45 million, you want to make sure you do it right.’

Storms such as Hurricane Ike have prompted University officials to design the renovations in compliance with Florida hurricane standards in an attempt to safeguard the Central Utility Plant.

In the interest of disaster preparedness, plans are also in the works for the addition of a ‘fuel farm’ consisting of four 12,000-gallon diesel storage tanks and a tanker to transport the fuel in case regular supply is interrupted.

Once in place, it would allow UH to operate independently for weeks in the event of a major catastrophe Irvin said.

Irvin said he hopes the ‘shovel-ready’ status of the project will help it gain stimulus funding from the state, but funding can be used from the University’s deferred maintenance budget if necessary.

‘One of the unintended silver linings of Ike was it took care of some major deferred maintenance items,’ Irvin said. ‘We had 24 roofs that we’re getting new because of Ike.’

If approved by the Board of Regents and Coordinating Board in May, construction would begin in November and continue through the end of 2012.

‘It’s a fairly long construction time not because it takes that long, but phasing this is a real challenge,’ Irvin said. ‘You have to still continue supplying steam and chilled water to all the buildings and that has to be done with no interruptions of service.’

A $3 million, 5,000 sq. ft. expansion to the School of Communication is also pending the board’s approval.’

The project will allow more students to attend classes and increase the visibility of the communication school.

‘It’s a huge project in terms of setting the stage for where this school wants to go,’ Irvin said. ‘It’s a small project in terms of dollars.’

Despite creating more, newer classrooms and better equipment, the proposal will not completely address the school of communication’s needs.

‘This is a modest proposal,’ exofficio member Welcome Wilson said. ‘It doesn’t come close to meeting the requirements for the school of communication.’

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