LSU in disrepair, hundreds of millions needed to fix facilities
BATON ROUGE – LSU estimates there is currently $600 million in damage and disrepair, nearly 70 percent of buildings on campus are more than 25-years-old, and Facility Services hasn't received consistent deferred-maintenance funding from the legislature since 2008.
Chipped paint, broken windows, and old carpet are the least of worries. Decades-old air conditioning systems, leaking roofs and growing mold top a long list of maintenance priorities.
If there were an epicenter of disrepair on LSU's campus, it would be underneath the four floors of Troy H. Middleton Library, a near 60-year-old relic.
In the building's basement, ceiling tiles are missing, discolored flooring covers up foundation issues, ducted-taped plywood lies atop gaping holes in the floor, concrete support beams are crumbling under the weight of the building, and water drips throughout and collects in rusted buckets.
"I know I've had to replace buckets that just fill with water," Student-worker Erin Daigle explained, "My sister used to work here, and one time she told me there was a busted pipe and all of the sewage came down [to the basement]."
In the basement, Facility Services has to use translucent tarps to protect hundreds of thousands of microfilm images and old books from leaks.
"We have a lot of buildings like Middleton that have a lot of deferred maintenance needs," LSU Planning, Design and Construction Director Roger Husser said. "Unfortunately, we have not had the right maintenance funding to get that done."
In no particular order on the maintenance priority list: Coates Hall needs about $50,000 for outdated air-conditioning units plus another $1.1 million in aggregate repairs. Dodson Hall is schedules for AC and heating repairs too, costing about half a million. Plans are in the works for a new, $360,000 skylight at the Design Building. Himes Hall and Middleton Library both need basement waterproofing which is expected to cost more than $50,000 each. Middleton also needs another half million for a new roof. Prescott, Allen and Lockett Halls need new air conditioning at $74,000 each. The Manship School of Mass Communication needs a new roof estimated at $290,000, more than $200,000 in repairs are needed for Hodges Hall, and Johnston Hall needs about $50,000 in new windows.
The total hovers in the $600 million range and continues to grow with inflation and inaction.
"If you have a system that is 28-years through its 25-year life cycle, we should replace it. It could fail any day, but the reality is those systems fail everyday on campus and we have to use an emergency fund to be able to address those," Husser said.
The emergency need is growing, but emergency funds aren't coming, Husser said.
Just to keep that $600 million deferred-maintenance figure from growing, LSU would need a dedicated $25 million a year, and to actually start whittling away at the $600 million, the legislature would have to spend $60 million a year on deferred maintenance. Many consider that unrealistic.
"I do think that is the right thing to do, but I also recognize why it hasn't been done," Husser said.
In 2004, on a scale from zero to 100, each building on campus was assessed based on its condition. A building with a condition assessment of zero is brand new. The higher the number gets, the more it would cost to renovate.
Collectively, LSU's campus has a facility condition index of 22 percent. The recommended average for public research universities is 7.5 percent. Compared to its peer universities (Clemson, Iowa State, Michigan State, Purdue, University of Alabama, University of Mississippi, University of Tennessee, University of Arkansas, University of Florida, University of Illinois, University of Kentucky, University of Missouri), LSU has invested about $11.3 million less in its buildings since 2008.
Sixty-eight percent of the campus is more than 25-years-old compared to 59-percent among LSU's peers.
To better explain deferred maintenance, or back burner maintenance, Husser compares large projects like Middleton Library to an $8,000 car that needs a $4,000 engine. Facility Services must continue to question which repairs are needed to keep the "car" running, but also, at what point would it be more cost-effective to just buy a new "car."
"When a building has a very high maintenance need, just like your car, you always ask the question, you know, is it worth making that maintenance investment or is it worth demolishing that building and replacing it," Husser said.
LSU has no plans of tearing down historic buildings, and those – like Middleton Library – have to be maintained until there's money available to build a new one.
Earlier this year, LSU started working on a 16-month comprehensive and strategic master plan.
The heart of the campus will eventually move further south, near where the relatively new and beautiful Patrick F. Taylor was built, Husser said.
The future plan will include financial planning and benchmarks for maintenance so campus leaders won't be burdened with finding funding for repairs in the future.
Self-generated entities like the Union, UREC and Res-Life all are required to set aside money for repairs during new construction. Part of the future plan could also make a reserve-maintenance account mandatory.
"That plan will determine that we should try our best to reinvest in these older buildings that have a maintenance need rather than building new space without solving the current problems we have," Husser said.