Local News

Rising Costs Are Slowing UNC Renovations

Posted September 4, 2007 11:18 p.m. EDT
Updated September 4, 2007 11:58 p.m. EDT

— Renovation projects at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are being scaled back due to an increase in building materials and labor costs. 

"The pace of construction from when I first got here has quadrupled," said Bruce Runberg, associate vice chancellor for facilities planning and construction at UNC-Chapel Hill.

However, Runberg said, pressures from the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina reconstruction and an increase in supply buying by the Chinese government have contributed to rising construction costs.

Hinton-James, a 40-year-old high-rise dorm, is one of 45 ongoing construction projects at UNC-Chapel Hill. Earlier estimates were $26 million to install central air, new windows and a sprinkler system, but with sky-rocketing material costs, the renovation could cost closer to $37 million.

"I think they said in a couple of years, all of the rooms would have air conditioning, but the one I was assigned to did not have air conditioning," said Donovan Parker, a freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Students may be living in hot dorm rooms longer than expected, because air conditioning is scheduled to be added one room at a time in Hinton-James due to those budget concerns.

Renovation at Ram Village Apartments finished in fall 2006. It cost $18 million more than budgeted, because material and labor costs increased nearly 40 percent.

The building boom at UNC-Chapel Hill was funded partially by a $3 billion state bond referendum in 2000. School leaders have since gone back to the state asking for more money, but legislators said no.

A priority at UNC-Chapel Hill is to make sure all dorms are equipped with sprinklers for fire protection. Right now, just more than half of on-campus student rooms have them.