The first thing you notice is the smell — stale and sometimes dank. A glance upward reveals holes in the ceilings caused by years of condensation from the labyrinth of pipes above. Next to the pipes are beams and ducts covered in asbestos, an unwelcome reminder of the age of Building 90 on the University of Arizona campus.
"After touring this building, it's absolutely clear an overhaul is long overdue," Gov. Doug Ducey said during an Oct. 4 news conference at Building 90. "I'm thrilled we're talking about that investment today."
The event marked the official start of the 51-year-old building's renovation, which was made possible by the newly approved state bonding plan signed by the governor earlier this year. The Arizona Legislative Joint Committee on Capital Review, or JCCR, approved the renovation of Building 90 on Sept. 19.
"The day that JCCR approved this project, we began to take the building down," said UA President Robert C. Robbins. "We're going to make a great investment in this building. It's got great bones, and we're going to get it refurbished in the course of about a year, and get researchers and students back to discovering new knowledge and translating that new knowledge into new products that will make the state and the University great."
House Bill 2547 appropriates $27 million in ongoing funding to enable approximately $1 billion in bond funding for Arizona's three public universities. The UA will receive $400 million, including $200 million for renovations to eight research buildings and several smaller deferred maintenance projects across campus. An additional $200 million will build two new research buildings.
"This is the first building in the state that is going to make use of the funds that were created the last legislative session for investment in infrastructure," Robbins said. "We are happy to say that we will be the first building to be able to make use of those funds. I think we're in the nascent stages of the Fourth Industrial Revolution that will bring physical science, digital science and biological science together, and there's no better place than the University of Arizona to lead that charge."
The renovations on Building 90 will include replacing the mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems, which have not been updated since the building opened. Crews also will remove asbestos used in the original construction.
With regular maintenance through the five decades it has served the UA campus, Building 90's floors, walls, roof and exterior shell remain structurally sound. The ability to renovate the historic building, rather than demolish it and rebuild, translates into significant financial savings. Erecting a new building to take Building 90's place would cost approximately $750 per square foot, while renovation estimates are $200 per square foot.
Currently unoccupied, Building 90 has 59,914 square feet, including 46,050 square feet of lab space. After renovation, the building will contain space in which faculty can conduct research and generate grant funding, in turn providing innovation and learning opportunities for students.
"When it comes to education, I'm proud to partner with President Robbins, with all of our university presidents, on multiple fronts when it comes to some of the things that we're looking to change and improve in the state of Arizona," Ducey said. "Starting with the overhaul of Building 90, the UA will be empowered to continue competing as a leading research institution. Not only will prospective students have access to new and innovative learning opportunities, but new discoveries and inventions are born at this institution. All of Arizona and the world will be watching and reaping the benefits."
Ducey and Robbins took part in a ceremonial sledgehammer swing, christening the renovation by demolishing one of Building 90's old laboratory countertops. Construction is expected to be completed by fall 2018, when faculty, researchers and students will return to clean, modern lab equipment and a building well-equipped to meet their needs for years to come.