UGA Athens campus running out of room

ATHENS, Ga. -- The University of Georgia is growing in more ways than one.


UGA's student enrollment grew by about 13 percent between 1999 and 2009, but the university's building inventory grew even more - up by 33 percent to more than 15 million square feet on the Athens campus.

And administrators have no plans to stop adding buildings and space anytime soon, according to UGA President Michael Adams.

"We desperately need more lab space" both for students and scientists, Adams said.

The university also needs more room for student services and classroom space, planners say - even after major additions slated for the next couple of years that will add more than a million square feet to the UGA space inventory.

In the past decade, builders completed four big residence halls - UGA's first new dorms since 1968 - as well as several parking decks and a huge addition to the Tate Student Center. Students began using the 200,000-square-foot Miller Learning Center and scientists moved into research buildings like the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center and the Coverdell Building.

Much of the new construction has been financed by the UGA Real Estate Foundation, which has borrowed more than $300 million to pay for dorms and some of UGA's other new buildings.

Despite the building spree, UGA in some ways has been playing catch-up with its space needs - and without the real estate foundation, UGA would lag even further behind, Adams said.

"We hadn't built a dorm room since 1968. We just needed a way to make that project (the East Campus Village residence buildings) happen because we knew the state wasn't going to," he said.

UGA will add a lot more space over the next couple of years.

Just this year, students moved into a fifth, 555-bed residence hall on UGA's campus, called simply Building 1516 - another 182,000 square feet.

When the university takes over the Navy Supply Corps School in Normaltown in March, the school will tack on a whopping 375,000 square feet of building space on 58 acres.

Other big projects nearing completion or in the works include a special collections library (115,000 square feet), and an addition that will more than double the size of the athletic department's Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall (53,000 square feet).

In January, College of Veterinary Medicine administrators will ask state legislators to approve money for a $110 million Veterinary Medicine Learning Center - 280,000 square feet.

Will it ever be enough?

Leaders at one of the country's biggest universities decided they had enough earlier this year.

Ohio State University trustees adopted a policy of no new net space this summer.

Planners don't want more space, but more energy-efficient space, according to Julie Anstine, a special assistant to Ohio State's senior vice president for administration and planning.

State funding for Ohio State is declining, and the university has built up a backlog of deferred maintenance projects, such as replacing worn-out, inefficient heating and cooling systems, Anstine said.

Administrators there still plan to add new buildings - but when they do, they also will try to remove older, less efficient buildings, she said.

At Georgia, new buildings are adding to the university's maintenance costs, Adams conceded.

"The biggest cost is utilities, especially the cost of electricity and water," he said.

UGA's utility bills are going up with the new buildings, but at least they're more efficient. And workers also have installed more efficient cooling systems, lights and other energy-saving devices in older buildings, said Ken Crowe, UGA energy director.

UGA is spending about 4 percent less per square foot to heat and cool its buildings now than in 2007.

That 4 percent may not seem like much, but it's an avoided cost of $1 million a year, Crowe said.

Gov. Sonny Perdue has set a state goal of reducing energy use 15 percent by 2020, he said.

UGA has reduced water use by 30 percent - another $1 million a year savings, he said.

UGA also got about $6 million in stimulus money to make UGA buildings more energy efficient, which also will cut the university's energy bills sharply, he said.



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