Capital Improvement Plan Spells Out Top Priorities for Campus

Major infrastructure upgrades, attention to student safety and academic security, and a focus on the legacy buildings on campus highlight the University of Houston's first capital improvement plan.

The comprehensive program, which was approved by the UH System Board of Regents on May 7, provides a solid framework to help the University's decision-makers as they prioritize and decide which capital projects to pursue.

"We want to give them the best information possible as they make these important decisions for the University,” said Mike Yancey, director of Planning Services for the UH System. “This plan arms them with the knowledge they need."

The five-year plan, which will be reviewed and updated annually, is being incorporated into a campus master plan, which should be finished in early 2015. The entire process began with a facilities condition assessment, which looked closely at 75 buildings from an architectural and engineering standpoint to identify remedial work that needed to be done to each of them and how quickly it needed to be done. That assessment was completed in 2012.

From there, a campus-wide facilities users space needs survey was conducted. Thirty user groups, including deans and department heads, responded regarding their space needs and how well their facilities are meeting those needs. That survey was completed earlier this year.

The survey results, combined with the most pressing renovation issues, led to the prioritization of projects to include in the plan. Several utility infrastructure projects were quickly identified as being top priorities. Two focus on improving the campus electrical capacity, distribution and reliability. The other involves upgrading the chilled water and steam piping, which are crucial for the air-conditioning and heating systems for campus buildings.

"Making sure the infrastructure systems can accommodate our needs is a top priority for the University and it is critical that we address it now as the campus continues to grow,” said Emily Messa, associate vice chancellor/associate vice president for Administration. “Having the necessary infrastructure in place allows us to maintain an ideal educational environment, and it is crucial for the success of the important teaching and research missions of the university."

The plan breaks down projects under two main umbrellas: education and general use (which pertain to academic functions and support), and those that are not (auxiliary functions such as housing, dining and athletics).

Eight education and general use buildings have been included in the plan for major rehabilitation or repairs, including the Science Building, R. Cullen, Farish Hall, Agnes Arnold Hall, McElhinney Hall, Lamar Fleming, Science and Research 1 and Engineering Lecture Hall.

"Many of these are older campus buildings in our inner campus core,” said Yancey. “This is where we need to put some real capital money and bring these buildings back up to par so they can serve the campus for another 50 years."

Non-education and general use projects added to the plan include major maintenance work in the Moody Towers residential facility and Hofheinz Pavilion.