ignore. In recent years, Howard University
has confronted its deferred maintenance
problems and taken measures to remove
the elephant from the living room by
developing and implementing an infrastructure upgrade plan.
Figure 1. Percent of Deferred Maintenance Costs by Building System, Howard University, 2001.
Plumbing: 2.8% Roofs: 6U. 7 n known Systems: 0.1%
Others: 26.3% Electrical: 10.3%
Academic institutions in general,
especially historical ones, have tended to
grow very tolerant of the dysfunctional
status quo when it comes to failing infrastructure. Unless the infrastructure condition deteriorates to the point that it
interferes with the education of students,
the old adage “it has to get worse before
it gets better” seems to be the reality.
Howard University faced exactly this
scenario before its infrastructure upgrade
plan emerged. In 1998, mechanical systems
had deteriorated beyond the limits of
economical repairs in a major building
housing the university’s fine arts program.
Though a fast-track design and ensuing
procurement and construction completely modernized the heating, ventilation,
air-conditioning (HVAC) and ancillary systems and resolved the issue, the incident
was a reality check that prompted the
university to take a serious look at its
backlog of deferred maintenance projects.
A university-wide analysis of the
condition of campus building systems was
conducted using external resources, and
the conclusions were submitted to the
university in April 2001. The resulting
findings were not at all unexpected. More
than 50 percent of the buildings on campus are more than 40 years old. The failed
internal building systems were found to
be directly associated with older buildings.
There was a direct correlation between
the facilities condition index (FCI) and
the age of the buildings. (FCI=deferred
maintenance/current replacement value.)
The building systems that are dynamic
in nature – such as electrical, mechanical
and ancillary piping systems – showed the
most functional obsolescence. (See fig. 1.)
The HVAC systems alone accounted for
more than 30 percent of the total cost of
the university’s deferred maintenance.
Once the enormity of Howard
University’s failing infrastructure was
realized, the facilities management group
collectively decided to further prioritize
the most critical buildings. The criteria
Fixed Equipment: 7.5%
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P RlteeAudrrii oc
H I LnVrxtc
Source: Howard University.
used in the prioritization process were to
ensure ( 1) safe and comfortable work
environments, ( 2) completion of any
needed roof repairs, and ( 3) compliance
with all new regulatory codes. Upgrading
the HVAC systems, as well as the electrical and life-safety systems, then emerged
as a ‘must-do’ working model based primarily on a building’s deteriorating condition.
Failing energy infrastructure with
outdated regulatory components, the
need for new code enforcements and rising energy costs forced Howard University
to address its deferred maintenance woes.
In response, the university developed an
infrastructure upgrade plan encompassing all these issues and re-examining the
university’s energy portfolio.
Failing energy infrastructure
with outdated regulatory
components, the need for
new code enforcements and
rising energy costs forced
Howard University to address
its deferred maintenance woes.
The original infrastructure upgrade
plan, which included 15 buildings, was
developed in late 2002, with funding
approved in 2003. The funding level was
an annual allocation of approximately
$6.5 million for the following seven years,
totaling $45.5 million. Construction
began in June 2003, and four buildings
were renovated by October 2006: Blackburn
University Center; Inabel Burns Lindsay
Hall, which houses the School of Social
Work; the chemical engineering wing of
the L.K. Downing Hall; and the Seeley G.
Mudd Building, part of the College of
This original plan, however, was initially funded using internal resources. By
the end of this three-year period, it was
realized that, although the projects were
making substantive progress, their cost
was a big drain on the institution’s annual
capital budget. The pace of progress was
deemed too slow for the patience level of
deans and directors occupying ‘critical’
buildings awaiting upgrade.
An opportune change-of-guard at the
university’s senior vice president level
triggered a re-examination of the financing options. As a result, an accelerated
plan evolved, which included the upgrade
of 10 additional major buildings, scheduled for completion by the end of 2008.
This accelerated approach meant the
funding had to be in place.
Thanks to the university’s excellent
credit rating, District of Columbia Revenue
Bonds could be used to finance the infrastructure upgrade plan so that it could
be completed over a two-year period.
Within two months, with the formal
approval of the university’s president