Dunbar Hall’s ‘Useful’ Life Nearing End

dunbar hall
GABBY HARTZE | THE SPECTRUM  Dunbar Hall is a chemistry building faced with problems ranging from lower level flooding to ventilation issues to lack of research space.
GABBY HARTZE | THE SPECTRUM
Dunbar Hall is a chemistry building faced with problems ranging from lower level flooding to ventilation issues to lack of research space.

Dunbar Hall may not be around for much longer.

The chemistry building is reaching the end of its “useful” life as its mechanical systems are impossible to renovate. Dunbar would be unable to follow codes for accessibility or accommodate needs of those who use it. Should the state legislature approve a new building, that new structure would replace Dunbar Hall with construction beginning in 2018 in the parking lot north of Dunbar.

The legislature did not approve or discuss funds to replace Dunbar in 2014, which received a $45.9 million recommendation last year from the State Board of Higher Education for a new building.

“I struggle with how the state can continue to let its leading research university’s facilities increasingly be deplorable,” President Dean Bresciani said last May. 

The Dunbar Hall project did receive a contingent appropriation from a state senate bill in June. The appropriation would replace Dunbar should the state legislature exceed its legislative estimates by at least $250 million in the first 18 months of the 2015-17 biennium.

In a June Listserv, Bresciani said he was “optimistic” the university will reach “the ‘trigger’ level of increased tax revenue” to begin replacing Dunbar.

In his state of the university address, Bresciani said Dunbar has been closed this fall due to water in its electrical system. 

Facilities management director Mike Ellingson said the incident likely stemmed from a broken cooling tower valve that led to 8 inches of water filling a lower level crawl space.

Since the flooding, alarms have been added to Dunbar in case of another valve leak, Ellingson added.

Other closings of Dunbar this semester have been because of its ventilation system. Ellingson said when the building has smells, Dunbar is shut down and evacuated.

The ventilation problems could be from the building’s pressurization system, fume hoods or main systems, he said.

Renovating Dunbar’s air ducts and mechanical systems is also a problem, as there isn’t enough room for all of that infrastructure, Ellingson said.

Dunbar’s size is also an issue facing its researchers and students.

Ellingson said there is not enough space in the building for all the equipment and students. Graduate students have to work at lab benches instead of having their own work area.

Dunbar’s labs are too small and equipments sits in walkways and egresses.

Ellingson said Dunbar’s conditions and activity makes it one of the worst buildings to renovate because it is “so mechanically intensive.” He added there isn’t a place for everyone who uses the building to relocate.

Dunbar was built in 1963 at the cost of $1 million.

The life span of most mechanical systems in a lab building is 10 to 30 years and up 50 years maximum, Ellingson said.

Should Dunbar be torn down, the skyway connecting the building to Hultz Hall would still be connected to Ladd Hall.

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