Steam plant and classrooms in dire need of repair

Steam plant and classrooms in dire need of repair

The old law school should have been renovated after the current infrastructure in many campus buildings was updated. photo courtesy of

In the next biennium, campus will propose upgrading the steam plant to go along with major renovations to O’Kelly and Merrifield Hall, two of the largest classroom buildings serving students.

UND is eager to update these buildings because they are in dire need of infrastructure improvements, having one of the worst facility condition indices according to the master plan executive summary. The goals of the master plan are to renovate the infrastructure of many buildings on campus, make campus more safe, prioritize the re-paving of cracked roads along campus and increase classroom and lab use efficiency.

The average facility condition index rating for all campus buildings inspected is 0.20, or poor condition. When considering the buildings individually, 40 of the 70 received a “poor” rating.

The minimum threshold for poor condition buildings is anything greater than 0.1. “Fair” ratings range from 0.05 to 0.1. Anything lower than 0.05 is in good condition.

The steam plant is the number one priority for the university. With seven boilers ranging from 24 to 52 years of age, four of the seven boilers are beyond their useful life of 40 years. With the worst index of all buildings surveyed at 0.55, if the steam plant does not receive new equipment soon it will fail. An emergency shutdown could lead to the suspension of classes and moving residents from UND housing units. In that situation, emergency response costs could be astronomical. The cost to make all of the necessary repairs totals to be around $22 million over the next 10 years.

Leonard and Witmer Hall had the lowest classroom building ranking at 0.45 and 0.38. Rankings for other major classroom buildings such as O’Kelly, Merrifield, Abbott, Starcher, the original law building, Hughes Fine Arts and all College of Engineering buildings far exceed the threshold of 0.10 for poor condition.

Throughout the master plan executive summary, the word “critical” came up many times in reference to the renovations that UND is in need of. UND seems to be eager in making campus more reputable given the new medical school and law school. While I understand these new additions will bring money to campus, if you can’t support the current infrastructure, how are you supposed to be expected to have proper maintenance of old and new buildings?

In order to raise the condition of all facilities from poor to good, an investment of $46 million per year over the next ten years will be required. If $27 million is provided each year, buildings will maintain their poor condition. If anything less is provided, further deterioration is expected and the cost to repair buildings will only increase. The total cost of backlogged maintenance will increase from $298 million to $506 million in ten years if no action is taken.

Over the next several months, the master planning process will continue with further analyses. With feedback and comments from the campus community being taken into account, I would encourage you voice your concerns.

I think campus should stop wasting money on new buildings to give campus a facelift and start allocating more dollars to repair the crumbling infrastructure of the old buildings that support the backbone of any institution — the students.

Nick Sallen is the opinion editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]