The University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.

RenewUS: a plan to tackle $577 million in maintenance at the U of S

By in News
Click to enlarge: The University of Saskatchewan campus space plan, colour-coded using the Facility Condition Index.

In the last decade, the University of Saskatchewan has undergone massive growth. Now, university administrators feel it is time for the focus to shift to the core of the campus where renewal is sorely needed. The RenewUS project is intended to revive some of the centrally located buildings on campus that see a high volume of traffic.

While searching for a strategy to tackle the deferred maintenance problem, the U of S turned to other universities that have successful strategies for the same situation. Such universities include Yale, the University of British Columbia and the University of Manitoba.

Deferred maintenance is the result of letting capital renewal fall behind schedule. Capital renewal is the upkeep of buildings, roads and infrastructure such as electrical and mechanical systems.

At 5.9 million square feet in size, the university has a replacement value of $3.9 billion. In order to keep up with the maintenance, theoretically, the university would have to spend between $40 million and $80 million annually.

However, the university spends nowhere near that on maintenance each year. This has resulted in a $577 million backlog in deferred maintenance.

All the buildings on campus are ranked using the Facility Condition Index, a measurement of the conditions of public facilities. FCI compares the cost of deferred maintenance to replacement value — the higher an FCI rating goes, the closer maintenance costs get to the cost of fully replacing a facility.

The three buildings that are in the worst condition are the Biology Building (53 per cent FCI), the Arts Building (36 per cent FCI) and the Physics Building (31 per cent FCI). However, the Murray Building, at 25 per cent FCI, is also included in the plans for RenewUS.

The Murray Building ranks as being in poor condition, while all other buildings being considered for the project are in critical condition. Due to its academic priority, though, it makes the list of buildings that are being renewed.

When asked about the academic priority of the Murray Building, Colin Tennant, associate vice-president of Facilities Management Division, explained that it is not meeting the needs of its two main academic programs of art and art history.

Any projects that have already been completed or are currently in progress are not included in RenewUS. This means the Health Sciences Project, the renovations done to Place Riel and the student housing projects currently under construction in the Campus Quarter are all outside the scope of RenewUS.

Because it is the most inefficient building on campus, there will be significant attention paid to the Arts Tower. Plans for the Arts Tower are still being decided.

With an architectural style from the mid-20th century, the Arts Tower and the Murray Building do not match the rest of the core campus, which was built in a collegiate gothic style. Some ideas for the Arts Tower include preserving its unique architecture, perhaps turning it into the new, modern symbol of the university in the 21st century.

At present, RenewUS is in preliminary stages of planning and gathering funds. Planning for the interior of buildings has not yet started. Tennant had emphasized the importance of preserving the historical charm within the older buildings included in RenewUS, such as the Physics Building.

RenewUS is expected to cost more than $250 million over five years. The Sustaining Capital Grant will provide $70 million of that. New funding is expected to come from donors ($25 million), student fees (approximately $20 million) and an operating contribution of $25 million. The provincial government has also agreed to contribute $125 million annually.

According to Richard Florizone, university vice-president of finance and resources, the increase in student fees will be roughly three to four percent, or approximately $200 per student. But rest easy — RenewUS is still in the early stages of planning and is not expected to have an effect on tuition any time soon.


Image:Supplied

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