While the students are away, the school will play. And, in the case of the University of Arkansas (UArk), “play” in the summer of 2013 meant the completion of $175 million worth of major construction projects across the campus—in the short time frame between late July and early August.
The population at UArk has increased from 18,648 full-time students in the 2007-2008 school year to, most recently, 25,365 in the fall of 2013, and as one of the top 150 research institutions in the country, the school sees the continual upgrading of its facilities as fundamental to properly serving its expanding student body. But, with classes always starting in the third or fourth week of August, the university has a short window to update and enhance its facilities to stay on the cutting edge. “We live from one August to [another] for most of our projects,” says Mike Johnson, the university’s associate vice chancellor for facilities.
“We live from one August to [another] for most of our projects.”
—Mike Johnson, Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities
The summer work is unlikely to end any time soon: the 2013 renovations are part of a 15-year facility-renewal and -stewardship plan that the school’s chancellor and his team first approached UArk’s board of trustees with in 2008. Their aim is to tackle more than 75 years and $240 million in deferred maintenance at the historic university. “In 2021, we celebrate our sesquicentennial—our 150th anniversary,” Johnson says. “Our goal is to reduce our deferred maintenance significantly and to have restored and stewarded our iconic early buildings—as well as build new [ones] and maintain those so that our deferred maintenance doesn’t regenerate.”
If UArk had not begun prioritizing maintenance at the chancellor’s request, Johnson estimates that its tabled projects would today cost roughly $275 million. Instead the university has cut the amount down to about $160 million—a 36 percent reduction over five years. Some of the funding for Johnson’s plan has come from grants, gifts, private investments, endowment earnings, and, of course, the annual operating budget, but a full 40 percent has come from a student credit-hour facility fee. The fee has allowed the university to bond almost $120 million toward projects so far. For any project costing more than $5 million, Johnson and his team use a construction management at-risk procedure, with a guaranteed maximum price to keep the work within budget constraints. The process requires a commitment from a third-party construction manager, who first acts as a consultant through development and design and then as the general contractor during construction. Such a system is necessary for UArk’s large-scale projects because statutes in Arkansas dictate that higher-education institutions cannot do design-build. In-house, the university has a group that does campus planning and design, and it has another group of seven or eight who coordinate construction, managing projects from groundbreaking to completion. In total, the school’s facilities-management team consists of about 360 people, and the teams involved in construction number approximately 30 from across the campus.
Five of 2013’s projects—the Fred W. Smith Football Center, Founders Hall, Hotz Honors Hall, Ozark Hall, and the Vol Walker Hall & Steven L. Anderson Design Center—add up to about $150 million of the allotted $175 million, with the remaining funds split between roughly 10 smaller builds. All the projects have been designed to LEED Silver specifications, a standard (specifying LEED Silver or Two Globes in the Green Globes system) that UArk has held since 2006, and they’re sure to maintain or add to the school’s rich architectural heritage.
Size: 75,700 sq. ft.
Cost: $28.95 million
Board Approval: August 2011
Groundbreaking: May 2012
Completed: August 2013
This six-story facility rests on the central campus grounds. Retail space occupies half of the ground level, and the other half is taken up by a 125-seat eating area. Half of the second floor holds an additional 200 seats, and the remaining four full floors contain 214 beds’ worth of housing. It’s another auxiliary building, subsisting on its combination of housing and dining, but it’s only a small part of the university’s more than three million square feet of total auxiliary space.
UArk constructed the building mainly to ease traffic in the 650-seat dining facility nearby, which currently services 2,800 patrons during every 2.5-hour lunch rush. That number will only grow as the school’s population surges toward a projected 28,000 full-time students by 2017.
Size: 85,500 sq. ft.
Cost: $28.6 million
Board Approval: April 2010
Groundbreaking: September 2011
Completed: August 2013
Built in the 1940s with an addition in 1947, Ozark Hall was originally designed with a U shape that never quite came to be—until now. The missing 18,500-square-foot section was added and now houses the Honors College, a seminar room, lounge areas, study areas, and an administrative-support area. The addition was funded largely by private donations, and it contributes to UArk’s nearly five million square feet of core campus space. The renovation also introduced central air-conditioning and an enclosed quadrangle courtyard, and on the building’s lower floor, a new 225-seat raked auditorium has been added for general use.
Hotz Honors Hall
Size: 96,400 sq. ft.
Cost: $17.2 million
Board Approval: May 2011
Groundbreaking: July 2012
Completed: August 2013
What’s old is new again. Having begun life in 1964 as one of six high-rise dorms on campus, Hotz Hall was converted in the early 1990s for administrative use, but now it has returned to its roots. Construction teams modernized the building inside and out to turn it back into a nine-floor, 416-bed dorm, which serves as home for students in the honors college. The remodeling project saved the university a projected $17 million when compared with the cost of new construction, and the building is now expected to last another 50 years.
Fred W. Smith Football Center
Size: 82,000 sq. ft.
Cost: $42.85 million
Board Approval: May 2010
Groundbreaking: February 2011
Completed: July 2013
UArk is one of 20 institutions in the country where the athletics department is auxiliary and self-supporting. No student fees or state appropriations are used, and the department is instead funded through ticket sales and boosters. The school’s new football center is named after Fred W. Smith, the chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, an organization responsible for $10 million of the facility’s funding through a challenge grant.
The center was built on the depressed site that once held the UArk Razorbacks’ two practice fields. It includes a locker room, team meeting rooms, an equipment room, a student-athlete lounge and study area, and a training room three times the size of the previous one. Outside, to make room for the center’s one artificial field and one natural field, the school razed a parking lot and built a 220-car garage underneath the artificial field. And, as an eco-friendly touch, UArk had two-thirds of the center designed as patio and green-roof space.
Vol Walker Hall & Steven L. Anderson Design Center
Size: 90,955 sq. ft.
Cost: $36.9 million
Board Approval: July 2010
Groundbreaking: July 2011
Completed: August 2013
Vol Walker Hall was the campus’s original library, built in 1935, but since the 1970s it has been home to the architecture department. Its most recent renovation saw the removal of the old library stacks, which were replaced with a 56,635-square-foot gallery.
Construction teams also connected the building, via walkways, to the Steven L. Anderson Design Center, named for the president of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, which donated $10 million for the facility. The all-new 34,320-square-foot building was built using $16.8 million in private funds, and it will allow the interior design, landscape architecture, and architecture departments to exist under one roof.