Strong Hall looking for repair funding

For nearly two years, Eastern Michigan University has been trying to secure funding from the state government to renovate Strong Hall.

John Donegan, head of the Physical Plant said, “it’s probably one of the worst condition occupied buildings we have on campus.”

The building, which houses the university’s Geology, Geography, Astronomy, and Physics Departments, has had no significant restorations since its completion in 1958.

The estimated cost of the renovation is $40 million, with 75 percent of the funding coming from Lansing, and the other 25 percent contributed by the university. The money would be allocated as part of the Capital Outlay Process, where a master plan of renovations is submitted annually for review and approval. The plans for Strong Hall were first submitted for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, and again the following year, with an estimated cost of $38 million. A request was then submitted for the 2012-2013 fiscal year for $40 million. The university is beginning the process of reworking the request, to meet new application requirements, to be submitted again for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, according to Donegan.

Once the funds are approved, the university will be faced with a building needing extensive work. The first priority, according to Donegan, is the heating and cooling systems.

“We need to get control of the climate in the building,” he said.
Christine Clark, a professor of geology, said temperatures in the building are unpredictable and range between extremes.

“We’ve had days where it’s been 90 in the classrooms and days when it’s been 50 in the classrooms,” she said. “You can never guess.”

The windows in Strong are also single pane windows, resulting in more difficulty controlling temperature, as well as energy loss.

“The energy loss from these windows is staggering,” Clark said. “The amount of money the university would save from replacing all the windows is amazing.”

The floor tile in some areas of the building also contains asbestos, a standard building material at the time Strong was constructed. While the amount isn’t enough to cause concern, both Clark and Donegan cited the flooring as a key item to be replaced.

Walking around the building, windows and floors are just a few of the problems. In many areas, ceiling tiles are missing, and in some of the basement offices, walls don’t go all the way up to the ceiling. Pipes and wires are exposed, windows and walls have holes, and in some areas, the walls have begun to crumble.

“As you look around, you see signs that it’s an old building, and it’s not being taken care of,” Clark said.

Carrie Fochler, a second year Graduate student, said the building “needs to be updated desperately.”

Senior Terry Kayser also expressed his displeasure with some of the facilities in the building, citing specifically that “the bathrooms are pretty run down.”

Sophomore Christina Van Dyke had a class in Strong Hall last semester. Due to the small size of the rooms, her class was split into two separate labs.
“How can the teacher help everyone when she’s running back and forth between two rooms?” she said.

“We’re looking for some strong input from the faculty and the students who use the building as we go forward and start this reprogramming effort,” he said.

Leigh Greden, executive director of government and community relations, is a key player in the push to get funding approved.

“We’re encouraging the legislature to fund capital projects for universities, perhaps later this year,” he said.

Greden cited the construction of Pray-Harrold as a selling point for the university.

“Pray-Harrold illustrates how Eastern Michigan can complete a project on time and on budget,” he said.

Despite the work to be done, there is still uncertainty as to whether the funding will be approved in the current political climate of the state, according to Greden.

“Time will tell whether the legislature decides to pursue this issue this year.”

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