- A recent consultant report found that the University of Washington in Seattle has a $1 billion backlog of repairs and maintenance for its aging campus buildings, The Seattle Times reported.
- Consultant group Sightlines found that the $15.7 million UW spent in maintenance in 2015 included only 20 cents per square foot of preventive work, well below the 45 cents per square foot spent by other universities.
- UW's facilities dilemma is representative of other universities that expanded in response to increased college enrollment in the 1960s and 1970s. According to Sightlines, U.S. universities have a total repair and maintenance backlog of $30 billion.
UW officials, under pressure from facilities workers and their union to increase maintenance staffing, said the $1 billion also includes complete overhauls and upgrades of mechanical and building systems, so hiring more employees won't fix the problem. UW, like many other universities, saw its maintenance budget cut as a result of decreased state funding during the Great Recession, but 70% of existing UW maintenance workers have complained that university management has misused whatever maintenance budget there is rather than adding necessary staff.
The University of California Merced, acknowledging the nationwide university building maintenance burden, opted to structure its $1.34 billion campus expansion as a public-private partnership (P3). The Plenary Group-led Plenary Properties Merced (PPM) will design, build and maintain the 1.2 million-square-foot project, which will double the size of the campus.
Dorothy Leland, university chancellor, told the Merced Sun-Star in June that using a P3, particularly with its maintenance component, ensured that the university would "have buildings that are in top-notch condition and will not be saddled, like many other public entities across the nation, with significant deferred maintenance." PPM is also contributing $386 million of private developer funds to the project, lightening the university's financial load.
Other public entities faced with significant facilities renovation and construction needs have also turned to P3s. For example, Long Beach, CA, officials also selected Plenary to design, construct and maintain its new $513 million civic center complex. In an environment of stretched government budgets, officials said using a P3, which helped with financing, allowed them to better utilize their existing funding.