UT combines 5 campus building renovations into one project to save cost, improve efficiency

Laura Morales

In an effort to save money and improve efficiency, Project Management and Construction Services has consolidated five separate buildings’ renovations under the Campus Infrastructure Upgrades project. 

The repairs of Battle Hall, the F. L. Winship Drama Building, the Music Building and Bates Recital Hall, Goldsmith Hall and the West Mall Office Building will be staggered with other planned renovations based on need and coordination over a three-year span, according to the UT System 2020-2025 Capital Improvement Program. The Board of Regents allocated $26 million for the consolidated project at their quarterly meeting on Aug. 15. 

Veronica Trevino, media manager for Financial and Administrative Services, said the project is already underway for infrastructure upgrades, including heating, ventilating, air conditioning, roofing and external building repairs.

“Upgrades will not be done all at once but executed over three fiscal years to ensure we are maximizing dollars, campus impact and getting the highest level of expertise,” Trevino said. 

Mike Carmagnola, director of Project Management and Construction Services, said the renovations are routine but very necessary for the aging buildings.

“Those buildings are 40 to 50 years old,” Carmagnola said. “They are in that sweet spot of when major upgrades need to happen. There is no waiting.”

 



Carmagnola said the number of projects PMCS takes on doubled over the past five years because many of the buildings are getting older. He said project consolidation was his way of increasing efficiency and reducing cost.

“(The increase in projects has) been one of our bigger challenges over the last couple of years,” Carmagnola said. “As you might expect, our staff did not grow 50%. I think we have grown less than 10% in that time. We had to increase our proficiency in that time, and the program was one way of doing that.”

Fernanda Leite, associate professor of construction engineering and project management, said construction contractors bid to provide services and materials for a specific project, and more competition for bids drives down the prices for projects. 

Carmagnola said since UT’s renovation projects are small in scale, many contracting companies do not bid, and the University does not get a wide selection of prices. Carmagnola said noncompetitive bids can drive up the renovation’s price around 10% to 20%. 

“The bid market and the work that is going on in Austin is so competitive that in some of the projects, we are only getting one bid,” Carmagnola said. “We thought, ‘Why don’t we package these things all together, put it out as one lump thing over a multiyear period and hire one person that might be interested in a larger package of projects?’”

Leite said this larger package of projects will attract more companies because it brings in more revenue, builds the company’s portfolio and gives contractors work for a three-year period as long as they do not violate any of the contract terms.

“If you only have one company applying, that doesn’t tell you that’s the best company,” Leite said. “It’s just the only one that is interested. The diversity of projects builds (a construction company’s) portfolio with the owner that can enable them to apply for bigger jobs with this specific owner.”