By President Eric Kaler
It's the Minnesota way to renew, renovate, and restore. It’s in our culture to preserve, to invest prudently in what we’ve got, and to transform what’s old into something that’s even more usable, accessible, and efficient than before. Those values are at the heart of the University’s bonding request to the Legislature, which just opened its 2018 session. We don’t always need shiny new objects. So, what we’re seeking this session is all about facilities renewal—particularly in our request around what’s called HEAPR, or Higher Education Asset, Preservation, and Replacement funds.
According to our analysis, we have as much as $4 billion in facility renewal needs across our nearly 30 million square feet of building space on five campuses—or four times as much space as the IDS Center and Mall of America combined. On our Twin Cities campus alone, half of our 260 structures are 50 years old or older. Some date back to the 19th century. That’s a lot of years and millions of students, faculty, staff, and visitors pushing buildings to their limits.
What do we need to do on our campuses? Replace obsolete heating and cooling systems. Fix roofs. Install fire sprinklers. Make windows more energy efficient. Redo electrical systems. Bring buildings up to Americans with Disabilities Act codes. It’s not sexy, just necessary and forward looking, like the 104-year-old Main Energy Plant we recently renewed, reducing the University’s net carbon footprint by at least 10 percent and saving $2 million a year in energy costs.
Our efforts are not about our love of bricks, pipes, and downspouts. It’s about our enduring commitment to our students, our faculty, and our staff today and for years to come. We can’t prepare a dynamic 21st century workforce in tired buildings. We can’t support our researchers in laboratories built for a past era of discovery. We can’t serve Minnesota’s key industries or compete with the nation’s other leading public research universities for top students and faculty in frayed and antiquated facilities.
Governor Dayton has offered his full support for our request and, actually, added to it. I’m looking forward to working with the Legislature to get this across the finish line. You can help. If you haven’t already, please join our UMN Advocates to keep track of our legislative efforts and be alerted to key times to contact your legislators. Alumni are our best advocates. Your voice matters. Please check out these websites for more details: z.umn.edu/umrenew and advocates.umn.edu
For our museums, our concerts, our public lectures and gatherings, our Gopher athletic events, and our students’ energy, I hope to see you on campus soon.
Follow me on Twitter @PrezKaler. Or, feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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