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HEAPR Funding Extends Life of Buildings, Labs Across U

Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories

This year's HEAPR funding request includes a project to rebuild the deteriorating foundations of cabins at the Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories in Clearwater County, MN.

The University of Minnesota has more than 850 buildings that total about 29 million square feet of infrastructure. For some of these structures, it’s time for some maintenance.

As the start of the 2018 session nears at the Minnesota Legislature, the University is asking the state for $200 million to help maximize the lifespan of buildings, classrooms, and labs. This Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) funding, part of the U’s larger 2018 capital request, aims to repair and renovate existing buildings across the University system so they don’t need to be demolished and replaced—at a significantly higher cost—anytime soon.

Forty-three percent of the U of M system's buildings are over 50 years old. The wear and tear of continuous use means that many of these buildings will eventually fall behind the U’s research and education needs. HEAPR funding remedies that problem by boosting the health, safety, and accessibility of U buildings and improving their systems, utility infrastructure, and energy efficiency.

The funding also makes the U a better steward of state money. Many of the buildings HEAPR benefits were originally built through state funding. HEAPR funding keeps these buildings useful, extending the value of past state investment while also cutting down on the higher operating costs from outdated building systems and utilities.

Allen Levine, the U’s vice president for research, said HEAPR funding supports the U’s research mission by providing safe, reliable, and up-to-date infrastructure researchers need to drive advances in science and keep the state at the forefront of emerging knowledge.

“The University has a long history of enhancing Minnesotans’ health, prosperity, and quality of life through research and discovery,” Levine said. “The HEAPR request is one way to make sure our buildings and labs can keep up with our faculty, staff, and students’ needs as they strive to reach their full potential, push the boundaries of knowledge, and make our world a better place.”

Examples of projects in this year’s request include improvements to heating and cooling systems and accessibility in buildings like the Andrew Boss Laboratory, where animal scientists research meat processing, and the Phillips-Wangensteen Building on East Bank, home to several health sciences departments. Similar renovations are proposed for the U of M Duluth chemistry and humanities buildings. There are also projects that extend beyond the U campuses themselves, such as rebuilding the deteriorating foundations of cabins at the Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories in Clearwater County.

Up-to-date, well-maintained classrooms, labs, and buildings play an important role in attracting top researchers to the University and providing current faculty and staff with the resources they need. Modern labs can also help researchers successfully compete for more federal and industry research grants.

Moving the Bill Forward

While the HEAPR projects have already been approved by the U’s Board of Regents, they need to be signed into law as part of the state bonding bill to receive funding.

In January, Gov. Mark Dayton released his bonding bill proposal, which includes the full amount of the University requested for HEAPR funding plus an additional $10 million for the design and planning of a new clinical research facility for the U’s Academic Health Center. The vision for this health sciences facility is to enhance collaboration by connecting patients, education in the health sciences, collaborative practice, clinical research, healthcare providers, and the biomedical industry through shared common areas and core resources.

What happens next? The next step is for the Minnesota House of Representatives and Minnesota Senate to come up with their own versions of the bonding proposal, which may vary significantly from Dayton’s in how much HEAPR support they provide. A legislative conference committee will then merge the house and senate proposals into a final proposal and send it to the governor’s office. Dayton will either sign this bill into law, reject parts of it and sign the rest, or veto the entire bill.

HEAPR Funding By the Numbers

  • 29 million square feet of infrastructure across U of M system
  • 100,000+ faculty, staff, students, and visitors use U of M campus buildings daily
  • $200 million requested by University for HEAPR funding in 2018
  • 125 U buildings would benefit from this year’s funding request
Kevin Coss

Kevin Coss

Kevin is a writer with the Office of the Vice President for Research.

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