Dec 19, 2012 4:31 PM by KATC
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is planning renovations to Joel L. Fletcher Hall to remediate water damage that has been a problem since it was constructed in the 1970s.
Fletcher Hall was designed to have a glass-covered atrium but due to budget restraints, it was built with an open-air central courtyard instead. Years of exposure to rain have resulted in extensive water damage to wood features and parts of the building's interior and exterior.
The university implemented several remediation measures over the years but the building continued to deteriorate, finally reaching critical conditions, according to Bill Crist, director of the university's Facilities Management.
In 2009, the university asked the State of Louisiana for emergency funding to repair the water damage and to prevent future leaks. That same year, Louisiana legislators approved a $4.2 million Fletcher Hall Emergency Repairs project budget.
As part of the state's process for construction projects exceeding $500,000, the Louisiana Architect's Selection Board chose the architect for this project. Ziler Architects, of Lafayette, was awarded the project in October 2009.
First, Ziler Architects conducted testing on the facility. According to Crist, the firm conducted a destructive investigation by removing portions of the building's exterior finishes, including the plaza deck, to determine the amount of damage to the substructure.
"Upon discovery of the tremendous extent of damage to the building substructure, Jim Ziler identified serious budget deficiencies, with the project more than $9 million underfunded. It was temporarily put on hold until additional funding could be explored," said Crist.
The university conducted meetings with the state's Office of Facility Planning and Control, local state legislators and the UL System office in an attempt to obtain additional funds, but was not successful. Ziler Architects was instructed to proceed with the project at the original $3.5 million construction budget.
"Now, more than three years after we started, this project is ready to bid," said Crist, referring to seeking bids for construction, the next step in the process.
A preliminary model studying the forms has been circulated. However, it does not represent the current design, according to Ziler. Some members of the university and community have expressed dissatisfaction for the design of the proposed renovations based on the preliminary model.
"I am open to design modifications that can be accomplished within the critical timeframe and that are possible within the budget allocated by the state," Ziler said.
Major changes to the plans could significantly delay construction and negatively affect the next accreditation review in spring 2014 by the National Architectural Accrediting Board, according to Robert McKinney, director of Academic Planning and Faculty Development. But, Ziler added that he is willing to consider design modifications that would not delay the project.
The new design is being rendered and should be available for view shortly.
Fletcher Hall, which opened in 1977, houses the School of Architecture and Design, as well as its Department of Visual Arts, and the College of the Arts Media Resource Center.
According to the project's timeline, the state will seek construction bids for the renovations in January. Construction should begin in February and take about a year to complete. The project has a total budget of $4.2 million, including $3.5 million for construction and $700,000 for fees, testing and contingencies.