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OSU constructing a plan to fix buildings

Although the Ohio State campus is almost constantly under construction, OSU officials say some buildings have slipped through the cracks.

Terry Foegler, OSU associate vice president for physical planning, said 75 buildings on the Columbus campus are in need of major renovation or total replacement.

“Major renovation includes the replacement of major systems such as a new roof, plumbing, heating and ventilation and mechanical systems,” Foegler said.

The 75 buildings in question are at a point where roughly 40 percent of the building costs would be necessary to bring it to like-new condition, Foegler said.

“You get to a point where a building gets low enough, when does it make sense to replace it verses repair it?” Foegler said.

The buildings represent roughly 16 percent of the buildings and 13 percent of the gross square footage of the Columbus campus. OSU’s Columbus campus has 30.2 million gross square feet, spread across 460 buildings with a total current replacement value of nearly $9.5 billion, according to the report.

The majority of space in need of renovation is classroom and academic support space. Included among the buildings is Hitchcock Hall, built in 1967, where many OSU students take classes in its 640-seat lecture hall, room 131.

Bobby Rohweder, a first-year in computer science and engineering, spends a lot of time in Hitchcock for classes and said he is not surprised the building is one of the 75 listed.

“When you walk upstairs you can see water leaking from the ceiling,” Rohweder said. “The bathrooms are in pretty bad shape.”

Rohweder said he doesn’t feel unsafe in the building, despite a mold problem which resulted in a lawsuit against the university after an OSU employee developed a respiratory illness while working in the building. Instead, Rohweder said it is mostly an aesthetic issue.

“You look at the RPAC and it‘s this magnificent building; then you look at this building and you think, ‘Yeah, it‘s been here a while’,” Rohweder said. “Being an engineering student, usually you’re used to working with newer stuff.”

Foegler did not respond to requests for comment related to the safety of the buildings.

But Laura Shinn, senior vice president and director for planning, said in an email, “Any life safety issues are resolved quickly.”

As of now, eight of the buildings have projects assigned to improve their conditions.

Ronald Ratner, university trustee and chair of the physical environment committee, said the issue of building maintenance is serious.

“Over the next 10 years we’re going to have a significant renewal need,” Ratner said.

When Board Chairman Leslie Wexner asked Ratner if he felt the university had the resources needed to tackle the issue, Ratner replied he was confident the university had the right people, but he was not as certain in terms of money.

“That’s going to be the really complex aspect of this is how do you find the funds, how do you allocate those funds?” Ratner said.

Although Ratner said 50 percent of these funds could come from the state, with the budget still unapproved, even this portion of funding is uncertain.

Based on the assessment, the estimated cost to bring the academic and support space up to like-new condition is about $1.4 billion.

Both Foegler and Ratner agree it is neither possible nor strategically prudent to bring all buildings up to 100 percent like-new condition. But Foegler concluded a plan is needed to improve conditions and pay for it.

Ratner said it really comes down to one question: “What condition do we want our campus in?”

 

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