Wear and tear adds up

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By Michael Friscolanti

As Ryerson is poised to construct four new buildings, $54-million in repairs to cracks, dents and leaks throughout the campus remain unattended to.

And Ryerson isn’t alone.

A study released in April says Canadian university campuses need at least $3.6-billion to deal with deferred maintenance damage—repairs that are neglected because school’s don’t have the resources to deal with them.

“Any further delay will make the problem detractable,” said Maurice Cohen, the executive director of the Canadian Association of University Business Officers, which commissioned the study.

Ian Hamilton, Ryerson’s director of campus planning, urged the university’s finance committee last Friday to consider ways of dealing with the wear and tear to campus buildings.

“When strategic decisions are made, when budgetary decisions are made, when fundraising decisions are made,” Hamilton said, “they’ve got to keep deferred maintenance in mind.”

The association that did the survey blames short-term building plans and massive funding cuts for the astronomical costs of upkeep, but says it also has a lot to do with the school’s decisions to build large concrete structures that are expensive to renovate.

Hamilton said holding extra classes also ages buildings.

“With the advent of new schools, new programs, there’s a huge demand for new space,” he said.

The biggest reason damages go unrepaired, Cohen said, is because it’s easy to put them aside.

“Because it is something [universities] can defer, they defer it,” he said, adding it’s a lot harder to convince administrators to stop hiring professors in order to fix holes in the wall.

Cohen said although $3.6-billion is an almost unthinkable amount of money, it can be raised if universities immediately start making the right decisions.

“You have to put the money in now on an ongoing basis,” he said. “The government has been partners in building. It’s time to help out with the maintenance.”

The Ontario government has put a universal auditing system in place to help determine what repairs schools need. The new system mandates each university to internally audit 20 per cent of its own buildings each year for the next five years.

Mike Little, Brock University’s director of physical plants, said it doesn’t really matter how the audits are done—the money’s still not going to be available.

“We have no chance in hell of getting that money,” he said. “It seems artificial to us. Where are you going to get the money from?”

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