University Report Card: Higher-Ed Market Falls Behind
At a time when demand remains strong for new and upgraded facilities at colleges and universities, institutions are delaying projects because funding is difficult to obtain. Still, some projects are moving forward.
�The education market in the Southeast is flat, which means it�s fairly good compared to other markets,� says Scott MacLeod, Skanska USA Building chief operating officer for the Southeast in Atlanta. �Our two strongest markets in the Southeast are health care and education.�
Skanska is building the $140-million, 297,000-sq-ft Hillsborough Hospital and 68,000-sq-ft Medical Office Building for the University of North Carolina Hospitals in Hillsborough, and a $13.9-million student center at Darton College in Albany, Ga.
Michael J. Kuntz, senior vice president of Turner Construction Co., says he anticipates that higher-education construction activity will pick up within the next two to three years.
�We do see some projects being funded on the design side,� says Kuntz, offering as examples the $70-million University of Georgia Veterinary Medical Learning Center in Athens and the $90-million Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Both are being designed by Rafael Vinoly Architects of New York and Stevens-Wilkinson of Columbia, S.C.
�The thought is if they fund design in 2010, they will fund construction in 2011,� Kuntz says. �That�s a positive sign.�
Kuntz also anticipates that Florida Atlantic University will start its medical school building in 2011. FAU has budgeted $48 million in 2011-2012 for the biomedical center building. Turner is currently working on the university�s $19-million, 65,000-sq-ft Arts & Letters Building.
State Spending MacLeod says the state of North Carolina has increased its spending. Skanska is building the $91-million, 247,000-sq-ft Engineering Building III and the $95.2-million, 220,000-sq-ft James B. Hunt Jr. Library for North Carolina State University, both at its Centennial Campus in Raleigh.
But other states are cutting back.
�States are repositioning cash, and capital expenditures have slowed,� says Mike Pierle, senior vice president of BE&K in Charlotte, N.C. �Falling revenues are hitting some capital projects. They are deferring or delaying them.�
Pierle says projects have been put on hold throughout the Southeast due to budget constraints. For example, he says plans for the University of North Carolina School of Law building were pushed back.
Rob Baker, vice president with Balfour Beatty Construction in Orlando, Fla., also says universities have placed several projects on hold or have moved back start dates to 2012 or 2013.
�Higher education has been sparse in terms of the projects funded by the state [of Florida], particularly classroom building projects,� Baker says.
Balfour Beatty recently completed a $53-million, 170,000-sq-ft College of Medicine building for the University of Central Florida at Lake Nona in Orlando. The company expects to complete the $18-million first phase of the UCF Arts Complex II in August, which includes two classroom buildings to house the theater and music departments.
BE&K is providing preconstruction and construction services for an $80-million, 269,000-sq-ft School of Dentistry at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, due for completion in August. The company also is building an $86.7-million, 216,000-sq-ft addition to the School of Dentistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, scheduled for completion in 2012.
At Duke University in Durham, N.C., BE&K is constructing the $260-million, 580,000-sq-ft, eight-story Duke Medicine Pavilion.
�That is one area [Duke] had some aging facilities,� Pierle says. �It wanted to enhance two primary parts of its business�cancer services and surgical services.�
Private Projects Shrinking endowments at private schools during the recession are responsible for a slowdown in higher education capital projects, Turner�s Kuntz says.
�Endowments of the private universities took a significant hit, which makes them a little skittish,� he adds. �There seems to be a glut of projects waiting.�
Hardin Construction Co. of Atlanta began at the end of last year a $22-million capital improvement project at Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C. It includes a 42,663-sq-ft residence hall, 22,542-sq-ft Global Learning Center and 5,627-sq-ft Children�s House and Intergenerational Center.
Holder Construction Group of Atlanta is working on a $20-million addition and renovation to the Georgia Museum of Art for the University of Georgia in Atlanta. The privately funded project began in 2009.
Moving Forward Projects at universities are continuing to emerge.
Stevens-Wilkinson designed the $74-million Bioengineering and Drug Discovery buildings for the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. Birmingham, Ala.-based Brasfield & Gorrie broke ground on the project in July 2009.
The University of South Florida in Tampa selected R.R. Simmons Construction Corp. of Tampa as the design-build contractor to construct a $30-million, 51,000-sq-ft athletic facility. The scope of work includes improvements to the university�s baseball, softball, football and intramural recreation facilities. The university anticipates completion by year-end.
Skanska is working on the $92.8-million, 238,500-sq-ft Interdisciplinary Science Teaching & Research Facility at USF.