Engineering building funded with $37.5 million debt

On Sept. 15, the Board of Regents approved bonding to fund the final stages of construction on the new engineering building. This bonding, which will eventually require repayment, contributes $37.5 million dollars toward construction, according to Myron Dosch, chief finance officer.

When construction began in the fall of 2013, the budget was set at $108.6 million. However that number did not include the cost of a floor and was soon increased to $118.1 million. However, according to Marmian Grimes, senior public information officer, the project did not receive the full funding that it was expecting from the legislature.

After construction halted in 2015, the uncompleted building’s upkeep was still costing the university about half a million dollars a year, Grimes said. After receiving the funds recently approved by the regents, the final project cost will be $121.6 million.

“When the project is completed, the funding for the project will have included a variety of sources, including the first state appropriation, the private dollars and the bond funding,” Grimes said.

With the recently secured funding, the engineering building is set to be completed by September of 2017, according to Grimes. Classes will not be held in the building until Spring semester of 2018.

“Each year we were looking at the potential for about $2.5 to 3 million in increased cost because of inflation and what not,” Grimes said. “So it made much more sense to finish it now.”

Waiting for further state funding was not a viable option according to Jo Heckman, chair of the Board of Regents.

“An empty building that is not being used for teaching and research is viewed by Regents as an investment that is not providing returns. Its essentially sunk cost,” Heckman said. “We want to put the building to work. The best option was to go the route of bonding and finish it ourselves. Waiting would only add to the project cost and delay putting the building to productive use.”

Construction on the building began in 2013 with plans to open doors to students in the fall of 2015, but the building was never completed as the university did not receive the expected funding from the legislature that year.

“It’s unfortunate that when we started this project, both Fairbanks and Anchorage were assured of funding,” Heckman said. “Anchorage was able to finish theirs and we did not get the support to finish the Fairbanks Engineering building.”

The UAA Engineering & Industry Building was completed and opened in September 2015.

The new UAF Engineering building will be used in conjunction with the existing Duckering building to provide more classroom space for the engineering school whose enrollment has been steadily climbing over the last decade.

“You talk to faculty in that college and the introductory classes are just packed because there’s just not enough space,” Grimes said. “The labs are crowded, the classrooms are crowded, so this will really allow us to have the space we need to provide the education and research the university needs.”

The building itself was designed with an eye for learning opportunities, providing data for engineering students to learn from.

“There are sensors throughout the building, on the windows and the floors and all over the place. There will data coming in from those as well as the solar panels that are on the side of the building. Students are going to be able to have access to all that data to learn from,” Grimes said.

The building is constructed in a simple and seemingly bare bones style so students can view pipes, wires and even beams to better understand how it works, Grimes said.

Included in the building is also be a room called the Engineering On Display room where can view engineering experiments and activities.

Alaska’s first High Bay laboratory, where students can test road bedding as well as experiment with bridge girders is one of the highlights of the building, Grimes said.

“I believe it’s going to be the only place in the state of Alaska where you can test a full bridge girder inside,” Grimes said. “We’re going to be able to allow other state agencies like DOT to come in and do their tests here which right now we have to do that testing outside the state.”

If construction continues on-schedule, classes will be held in the new building in the spring semester of 2018.

 

A mistake was printed in last week’s edition regarding the final cost of the soon to be completed engineering building. The final cost of the building, with the recently approved Regent bonding of $37.5 million dollars included, will be $121.6.

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