UAF engineering building delays imminent, no projected completion date

By Chris Hoch
Sun Star Reporter
04/07/2015

The earliest possible completion date of the new UAF engineering is January 2017.

However, without further funding from the state, only the atrium and connecting hallway between Duckering and Bunnell will be completed and usable.

Workers in the engineering building stop for a lunch break during the workday on Friday. - Chris Hoch / Sun Star

Workers in the engineering building stop for a lunch break during the workday on Friday. – Chris Hoch / Sun Star

The capital budget before the state legislature now asks for $8 million, which would complete two classrooms, fitting 80 and 60 students, above the Schaible Auditorium.

“There is money in the capital budget to keep the building going forward. UAF needs to show they have the funds to pay for the operating expenditures of the new facility,” Tammie Wilson, state representative, said.

“The focus right now is on getting that open, getting the new access to Schaible open and done and getting those classrooms open,” Doug Groening, dean of the college of engineering and mines, said.

Originally, the University Board of Regents asked then Governor Sean Parnell for $31.3 million necessary to finish the building. By the time the next governor, Bill Walker, forwarded it to the legislature, oil had slipped to $45 a barrel, dramatically reducing state funds, which prompted him to reduce funding requested of the legislature to $8 million.

“$8 million would finish the high bay, the classrooms and the associated hallways and bathrooms that come with those,” Wohlford said. The large structural high bay lab is unique to Alaska, 100 foot long and two and a half stories tall with four foot thick floors. According to Wohlford, an earthquake could be simulated in the high bay structures lab, along with a variety of other simulations. “If they give us $31.3 million, we’ll have access to the money on July 1.

Done and occupied by January 2017,” Cameron Wohlford, senior project manager said. “There’s a renovation portion of Duckering included in that 31.3.” The number of freshmen joining the College of Engineering and Mines has doubled over a period of five years. “The College of Engineering and Mines really needs classrooms,” Wohlford said. “Enrollment is still up,” Wohlford said.

The crowding of the Duckering building will not be stemmed until a facility large enough for the number of students has been constructed, which could put UAF’s accreditation at risk if left unchecked. National standards set by Ira Fink and Associates Inc., a Californian private consulting firm, and those set by Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) require a certain number of square feet per student and faculty.

“If they see a school is completely cramped and has no labs, so to speak … we could be in danger of losing our accreditation,” Wohlford said, qualifying that UAF has not yet reached that situation. Plan B1, according to Wohlford, is what happens if the legislature allocates no money for the construction of the new engineering facility. “Basically we leave the site,” Wolford said. “From the outside it will look like a completed building. The road will be back open, the stairs will be back open.”

The connecting hallway between Duckering and Bunnell will open alongside a way for one to get through the building from the flag circle to Alumni Drive. This option is the most expensive one, according to Wohlford.

“It will cost more to bring the contractor back,” Wohlford said, citing the contractor mobilization and staging area set up as large expenses. “Just to set the site up is about 150 to 200 thousand dollars.” he said. “There’s a lot of great people between the design and construction and management teams. If we don’t get any more money they’re going to go somewhere else. Bringing them back is really hard, so you might have to get new people.”

Training new people to get them up to speed with the project takes time, and costs money. Other costs include the inflation and unaccounted for variables and problems that arise as time wears on. “We’ve already suffered a $3 million increase by delaying it … every year beyond here is a $2 to $5 million increase.”

 

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