Keeping campus construction costs down

Kevin Kolus

State funding and availability of needed supplies play a role in state funding

Campus construction may seem endless and expensive, but the Office of the University Architect takes many procedures to keep costs down.

Beth Ruffing, assistant director of capital design and construction for Office of the University Architect, said the university purchases materials manufactured in and around Ohio and also hires local architects, engineers and contractors to save money.

“We try to get as much as we can in-state, and we have fair-trade agreements with neighboring states,” Ruffing said.

The university purchases brick, sheet metal, asphalt and concrete from Ohio manufacturers. Ruffing said the university refuses to purchase foreign steel.

Thomas Euclide, director of Office of the University Architect, said all buildings on campus have a 40-year life expectancy, and 60 percent of them were built during the 1960s. Euclide also said the upkeep of roofs, which last only 20 years, is necessary for a comfortable learning environment.

“A new room is going to benefit students without them worrying about buckets on the floor,” Euclide said.

The rising costs of supplies is one of the biggest obstacles for construction, Euclide said. Prices rise 2 to 3 percent every year, but after Hurricane Katrina, they rose dramatically.

“The markets are skittish with every storm,” Euclide said. “It is something we can predict but worry about.”

Mary Richards, senior business manager for Office of the University Architect, said she spent her spring break in the Gulf Coast aiding the rebuilding effort. She said the shortage of common materials, such as drywall, was an issue.

“As soon as they got any in, they were gone,” Richards said. “You kind of had to wait for the truck to unload. It was very difficult.”

Even the power plant, which saves an estimated $2.48 million per year, is affected by rises in energy costs, said Tom Dunn, associate director of campus environment and operations. He said increases in natural gas, electric rates and energy consumption keep the potential savings of the power plant from being realized.

Euclide said these costs, while an obstacle, have no direct correlation to the prices students pay for tuition.

Money from the state of Ohio goes toward constructing any building that is devoted to teaching, police and safety and utilities, such as the power plant. Tuition, when state funds run out, also go toward operating costs. But state money can’t be spent on what Ruffing calls “auxiliary functions.”

Auxiliary functions are any building without classrooms, including residence and dining halls, and other installations such as the airport, the Student Center and the Recreation and Wellness Center. These buildings raise money for repairs from the resident prices, food sales and other fees they charge.

Ruffing said the university is purchasing newer technologies and durable materials, which are more cost effective.

She said the university will continue to adapt to both the changing market as well as cuts in state funding to keep costs down.

Contact building and grounds reporter Kevin Kolus at [email protected].