Building contractors throughout the Northwest may be watching nervously for signs that their markets are starting to contract, as is the case in other parts of the country, and indeed there are a few warning flags on the horizon. Whether the region's economy is in a recession or not, the mere raising of the question is cause for concern. Likewise, announcements of project delays and postponements can shake the optimism of anyone.
One bright spot, however, is higher education construction in Oregon. Spurred by the Legislature's 2005 infusion of cash into the Oregon University System's capital programs, construction projects are under way this year or upcoming soon at all six of the state's public college campuses. Hard hats are in evidence at many of Oregon's private colleges, such as the University of Portland and Reed College, as well.
At the April meeting of the State Board of Higher Education, Bob Simonton, OUS assistant vice chancellor for capital programs, provided an update on current capital construction, deferred maintenance and repair projects on the OUS campuses. Simonton noted that there were currently 160 projects under way on the campuses, with a six-year spending authorization (2003–05 to 2007–09) of almost $1.8 billion. Of that funding, 21 percent is state supported through bonding authority, but only 3 percent is made up of actual state General Fund dollars, he said.
The objectives of these capital investments include building quality facilities, making program improvements, and ensuring access and ability to handle enrollment growth. Simonton said that all new construction must ensure sustainability aspects and is required to meet a minimum of the LEED silver standard in construction.
There is also active outreach by the OUS to increase participation in the construction projects through attracting new Minority, Women, and Emerging Small Businesses. Ongoing training is occurring with campus personnel in controlling construction costs and other aspects of project management.
Summaries of campus projects are as follows:
- Eastern Oregon University has seven major projects that are 20 percent complete and are all renovation-related.
- Oregon Institute of Technology has 10 major projects that are 52 percent complete. They are 70-percent renovation and 30-percent new construction.
- Oregon State University has 46 major projects that are 32 percent complete. They are 61-percent renovation and 39-percent new construction.
- Portland State University has 33 major projects that are 26 percent complete. They are 70-percent renovation, 21-percent new construction, and 9-percent acquisition.
- Southern Oregon University has 12 major projects that are 50 percent complete. They are 67-percent renovation, 25-percent new construction, and 8-percent acquisition.
- University of Oregon has 40 major projects that are 23 percent complete. They are 57-percent renovations, 33-percent new construction, and 10-percent acquisition.
- Western Oregon University has 11 major projects that are 21 percent complete. They are 91-percent renovation and 9-percent new construction.
Simonton came back to the Board of Higher Education in July to present the 2009–2011 capital construction budget request, which totaled $1.36 billion. After some discussion, the board approved the capital budget proposal to be presented to the governor for consideration in the 2009 session of the Oregon Legislature.
Approximately 63 percent of the request is related to capital repair, code needs, modernization, and collaborative projects; 24 percent is related to facilities for instruction, research and OUS service missions; and 13 percent is for auxiliary projects. Simonton noted that OUS deferred maintenance is now close to $700 million.
The top priorities, Simonton said, include the following items:
- Systemwide capital repair, deferred maintenance,code and safety investments ($83.1 million);
- South Waterfront Life Sciences Facility, a collaborative facility for several campuses ($250 million);
- Bates Hall/Hallie Ford Centerat Oregon State University ($12 million);
- Geothermal — Renewal Energy Demonstration at Oregon Institute of Technology ($6.6 million);
- School of Business Administration Building at PSU ($90 million);
- Health/Wellness/Recreation Center/Classroom at Western Oregon University ($18 million);
- Waste Gasification — Renewable Energy for University of Oregon ($10 million);
- Theatre Arts Expansion and Remodel at Southern Oregon University ($11 million);
- Regional Library Services Center for use by multiple campuses ($13 million);
- Innovative Learning Complex and Prince Lucien Campbell Hall Expansion and UO ($57.3 million);
- Academic Modernization at Eastern Oregon University ($5.5 million).
OUS construction projects directly create nine jobs per million dollars expended, so the 2009–2011 request would create almost 12,300 high-paying, family wage jobs across the state, positively impacting local and state economies. Simonton also noted that OUS represents half of all state-owned facilities, including almost 1,200 buildings with a replacement value of $3.7 billion, and serving 100,000 students, faculty and staff each year.
If the Legislature and the governor support the OUS capital request, it appears that higher education construction projects will continue to supply a steady stream of work for Oregon contractors for the foreseeable future.
Two substantial construction projects are under way this year within sight of each other on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene.
John Hyland Construction Inc., of Eugene, is nearing completion of the $17.8-million expansion and renovation of the MarAbel B. Frohnmayer Music Building. The expansion will add 29,000 square feet to the existing building, increasing its total size by about 50 percent.
The work includes renovation of existing facilities plus construction of two significant additions, the Leona DeArmond Academic Wing and the Thelma Schnitzer Peformance Wing.
A groundbreaking ceremony took place Nov. 3, 2006, and construction work on the additions started early in 2007. The schedule called for Hyland Construction to start the renovation work in spring 2008, with project completion this fall.
The building design team included BOORA Architects, Portland; Kirkegaard Associates, Chicago; Lango Hansen Landscape Architects, Portland; and PAE Consulting Engineers, Portland.
Meanwhile, the Portland office of Lease Crutcher Lewis started work last fall on the Hedco Education Building.
The three-story, 66,000-square-foot education building will sit above a 47,000-square-foot below-grade parking garage with space for 200 vehicles. In addition to the new building, the $35-million project includes renovations to four existing education buildings, landscaping work, site utilities infrastructure, and surface parking.
The project will add new office space, interactive classrooms and teaching clinics for speech, reading and counseling. The Hedco building is designed for LEED Silver equivalency and will incorporate daylighting strategies, green roofs, an on-site storm water retention system, and radiant cooling panels.
The design team included Thomas Hacker Architects Inc., Portland; Walker Macy, landscaping; and Czopek & Erdenberger, interiors.
Site demolition and preparation began in fall 2007. Construction began winter 2007–08 with completion anticipated in summer 2009.
At Oregon State University in Corvallis, a major project involves $12 million in building improvements for the Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The clinic includes an intensive care unit and isolation facility for cattle, horses and other large animals; a multipurpose, all-weather arena for assessing lameness; a nuclear medicine suite; teaching and research space; and a new imaging wing.
But campus officials are looking forward to OSU's most expensive project ever, the $62.5-million Linus Pauling Research and Education Building, which is slated to begin construction early next year.
The Pauling project is part of The Campaign for OSU, the university's first comprehensive fund-raising campaign, which recently surpassed $400 million in new commitments toward a $625 million goal. Facility improvements are a major part of the campaign, and other projects include the Student Success Center and improvements to Reser and Goss stadiums.