North Texas Daily

Auditorium building troubles leaves people frustrated

Auditorium building troubles leaves people frustrated

Auditorium building troubles leaves people frustrated
February 12
10:08 2014

Schyler Butler // Intern Writer

For several semesters, students on the way to class in the Auditorium building have funneled around blockades and construction workers. Professors have apologized to countless classes for overly stuffy or freezing classrooms have taught beneath the loud buzzing of the air conditioning and other sounds marking the destruction of something below in the main auditorium.

With several construction projects happening on campus, including renovations to the Auditorium building, many students, faculty and staff are left frustrated at the lack of easily obtainable information on these projects as well as the perceived random order in which buildings or parts of campus are to be fixed.

Facilities, which is in charge of the maintenance, planning, renovation and repair of buildings and other facilities on campus, periodically conducts a Facility Condition Assessment on all buildings in order to gauge which are in need of repair, said David Reynolds, associate vice president of Facilities.

This assessment includes looking at roofs, walls, windows, the foundation and the interior system, along with mechanical, electrical and plumbing work.

Built in 1923, the Auditorium building is the third oldest building on campus. Its renovation is part of campus efforts to “improve energy efficiency and make buildings more comfortable for those who use them,” said Helen Bailey, director of Facilities Management and Construction.

Bailey said currently, there are 68 construction projects in the planning process. While some larger construction projects are part of the 68, the main focus is on smaller projects, such as classrooms, sidewalks, parking lots, interior renovations, and pedestrian lighting.

The estimated total cost for these projects is $17 million.

The Auditorium renovation is one of the larger projects and is split into two phases. One focuses on the mechanical, electrical and plumbing upgrades, to include first floor restrooms and to replace the electrical service switchboard.

Another phase is concerned with architectural renovations in the actual auditorium and was completed in the summer of 2013. It included replacing seating, the ceiling, walls, railings, the entire lighting system, the audio/visual system, projector and stage.

The completed architectural renovation phase cost about $4.4 million, while the ongoing phases have cost $1.5 million. Both projects, as is the case for most construction projects on campus, are funded by the state-supported Higher Education Assistance Fund.

Professors who teach or have offices in the Auditorium building, home of the English department and Student Writing Lab, are bothered by the lack of communication.

“Last year when they were doing the construction in the [main] auditorium, nobody said anything to the English department,” English associate professor Walton Muyumba said. “Ultimately, we don’t know anything. We don’t have any say in these kinds of decisions.”

Reynolds said though the architectural work is wrapped up, mechanical issues in the building are still being worked on, including what Reynolds calls the “testing and balancing of the air conditioning and ventilation system.”

“People have probably heard loud air movement noises in the building, and it should be better now as that testing [continues] going on,” Reynolds said.

David Holdeman, English professor and department chairperson, said the noise from the air conditioning unit is a problem in his office.

“We have had conference calls that we tried to do in this office where the person on the other end couldn’t understand us very well,” Holdeman said. “[This noise] isn’t just kind of bugging me; it’s actually interfering with my ability to get things done, too.”

Bailey said issues from construction projects are common.

“With each major upgrade, this is what happens,” Bailey said. “Problems are to be expected. It takes a while to adjust all the settings and get [these settings] to perform the way it needs to.”

Updated construction reports for the Auditorium building along with other construction projects can be found at www. facilities.unt.edu.

Feature photo: The auditorium inside the Auditorium building was given a face-lift as a part of a $2 million renovation of the entire building. Rails, chairs and an air conditioning unit along with several other items were replaced. Photo by Edward Balusek / Staff Photographer 

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