Committee recommends capital budget request, learns of improvement projects

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State is requesting $129.2 million in capital funding from the state for fiscal year 2015-16, with a primary focus on funding major building renewal and maintenance projects. The request was included in the consent agenda for the Board of Trustees Committee on Finance, Business and Capital Planning, which met today (Sept. 18).

The University submits the capital budget, which includes building and facilities funding requests, to the Commonwealth each year. Although projects may be listed in the capital plan, their inclusion does not guarantee Board of Trustee approval, nor does it guarantee funding from the state. Individual projects normally are presented to the board twice, and the board selects the architect, approves final plans and authorizes construction. Following approval by the board, the request is submitted for further consideration by the state Legislature. The capital budget request consists of those projects for which the University is seeking authorization for subsequent funding by the governor -- which is not assured. The following projects included in the 2015-16 capital budget are:

-- the renewal of Hosler Building. Built in 1950, the structure has seen few changes, leaving it in need of upgrades. The project will include replacing aging electrical, heating and air conditioning systems and windows, addressing accessibility issues and modifying the interior spaces to make them better suited to research and other activities in the building, which houses the Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering. The University is requesting $42 million.

-- improvements to the Vairo Library at Brandywine campus. The University is requesting $12 million to support making this library more accessible and replace outdated mechanical, electrical, plumbing and exterior building systems.

-- expansion and improvements to the Health and Human Development East Building to meet the needs of the College of Nursing. This project includes expanding the building, major renovation to interior spaces to provide modern classrooms, laboratories, offices and meeting and student support spaces. In addition, upgrades will be made to the entryways, flooring and lighting. The University is requesting $25 million.

-- construction of a new classroom and laboratory building at Penn State Abington. This project will provide much-needed space to support growing enrollment. The University is requesting $30 million for the facility, which will include classrooms, laboratories, offices and support spaces.

“These facilities are in need of significant renovations and upgrades. In some cases, the buildings’ conditions hamper the research and work being done by faculty and students,” said David Gray, senior vice president for Finance and Business. “In many instances, the work that needs to be done involves bringing the aging infrastructure up to date. That not only improves the facilities for the people who use them, but makes them operate more efficiently and brings them in line with contemporary standards for building construction and accessibility.” 

The request will be submitted to the Commonwealth Department of Education for further consideration by the state Legislature. The capital budget provides funding for facility and information technology investments. It is separate from the University’s operating budget, which pays for the day-to-day operating costs of the University as it conducts its mission of teaching, research and outreach.

Although projects are listed in the capital plan, their inclusion does not guarantee Board of Trustee approval. Individual projects normally are presented to the board twice, and the board selects the architect, approves final plans and authorizes construction. A list of all projects in the five-year plan is available at online.

In addition, the committee recommended for approval the appointments of design build teams for a residence hall in North Halls and the renovation of Findlay Dining Commons in East Halls, both on the University Park campus, as well as the final plans and budget for the renovation of Whitmore Laboratory and the Material Research Laboratory, also on the University Park campus.

The firm of Irwin and Leighton of King of Prussia, Pa., was selected for the North Halls project. Turner Construction Co. of Pittsburgh was selected for the Findlay Dining Commons project. Final plans for the projects will be brought to the Board of Trustees for approval when designed and costs have been established.

Whitmore Laboratory, a three-story building houses chemistry laboratories for undergraduate classes. While almost 7,000 students from nearly all colleges at the University are taught in these spaces every year, the building hasn’t seen substantial changes since it was constructed in 1953. Plans are for a complete interior renovations, including new labs, offices and building system upgrades. The trustees approved a budget of $31.7 million for the project.

Material Research Laboratory, located on the eastern side of the University Park campus, houses labs and classrooms. It has not received any significant upgrades since it was built in 1969, and the building system infrastructure has reached the end of its useful life. The trustees approved a budget of $25.3 million for the project, which will include replacing mechanical, electric service, and the fire suppression systems. The roof will be replaced and hazardous materials will be abated. Offices will be renovated, and the new MRL building chilled water system will be connected and provide service to the chilled water system that services the adjacent Land and Water and Central Biological Laboratory Buildings.

The committee also learned about several other projects and actions. Informational items on the committee's consent agenda included:

-- lighting upgrades for energy efficiency at University Park. The work will include relamping, rebalasting, replacing light fixtures, incidental painting and patching, and upgrading selected controls and wiring in Armsby, Boucke, Buckout, Business, Chambers, Chandlee, Ferguson, Grange, Henning, Keller and Thomas buildings. The cost estimate for this project is $2 million.

-- improvement of the Zebrafish research capabilities at The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center by creating a Zebrafish Functional Genomics Core. The College of Medicine has been awarded a grant from National Institutes of Health (NIH) to pursue three specific aims: increase and centralize housing, quarantine and procedural space; improve efficiency and cost effectiveness by purchasing and installing a state-of-the-art husbandry system; and establish an embryo procedure room. The cost estimate for this project is $1.02 million with the NIH Grant providing $476,191.

-- renovations to the Cellular and Molecular Physiology Chair Laboratories at The Milton S. Hershey. Medical Center. The proposed laboratory renovations will provide new flexible open laboratories and a smaller core support laboratory. The open portions of the laboratory will feature fixed casework with dedicated sitting height write up space along the exterior wall. A dedicated tissue culture room and dedicated fume hood rooms will be provided for each laboratory module. To provide for better interaction and collaboration among the laboratory investigators, the offices serving the newly renovated lab, the department chair, and administrative support will be grouped in one area. The cost estimate for this project is $1.6 million.

-- naming of 300 North Science Park Road the “Technology Support Building” at University Park. The University intends to change the name of the 300 North Science Park Road building to the Technology Support Building. The building brings together staff specializing in the delivery of information technology systems and services that help the University fulfill its teaching, research and service mission.

-- purchase of property in Smethport, McKean County. In July 2014, the University purchased a 3.7-acre property including a 1,168 square foot residence adjoining Penn State property, located at 9021 Route 46, Smethport, Norwich Township, McKean County, from Timothy Stuck for $41,500. The purchase provides strategic expansion opportunities for the University’s Agricultural Cooperative Extension and eliminates the possibility of adverse ownership.

-- sale of gifted property in Hazleton. In July 2013, 139 N. Vine St., Hazleton, was gifted to the University by Pasco L. Schiavo. The terms of the gift do not obligate the University to retain the property, and the University has no specific use for it. The University listed the property for sale in December 2013, and sold the property to Srdjan Muncan in August 2014 for $135,000. At the donor’s request, net sale proceeds are to be allocated at the discretion of the University at the Penn State Hazleton Campus.

Facilities upgrades such as those included above enable the University to offer the high-quality educational experience students expect, and also are a factor in drawing top faculty and students to Penn State. For more information, visit online.