Florida's cramped universities need $3.4 billion for construction projects to meet student demands by 2012.
Last November, the University of Florida held a grand opening for its 280,000-sq.-ft. cancer and genetics research building in Gainesville. "The biggest research building" on the campus, says Douglas Barrett, head of UF's health sciences.
Barrett says he has been on a mission to build research space ever since UF doubled its research funding without adding space. "I said this is simply not sustainable," Barrett says. "They say, 'What are your priorities?' It's labs. And after that labs and labs."
Lab Work: Douglas Barrett, head of UF's health sciences college (standing in front of the university's new cancer and genetics building), says his priorities are "labs. And after that labs and labs."
[Photo: Jeffrey Camp]
Throw in amenities such as student unions, projects such as stadiums and ubiquitous parking garages, and Florida will need to be well-stocked with cement mixers.
- Based on square feet per student, Florida's public university system is one of the most crowded in the country. All told, the universities need $3.4 billion to put up another 10 million square feet of classroom and lab space by 2012 to meet demand. As the state currently does business, 50% of needed space will be funded by 2013. "We're very worried about the ability of our facilities to absorb that growth and stay competitive," Rosenberg says.
- Buildings constructed to educate Baby Boomers are in need of renovation and retrofitting as they reach age 40. The state estimates a $1-billion backlog in maintenance.
- Universities, community colleges and the K-12 system share the same funds generated by the utilities and communications services tax to construct buildings. The universities historically got 31% of the pie, but that's under pressure from voter-mandated K-12 class-size reductions.
- The global construction boom has driven up the cost of steel and cement for Florida university building.