Campus Makeover: Stimulus Funds Help Improve Buildings and Reduce Costs

Thousands of energy-saving light switches, hundreds of windows, acres of outdoor lighting, and at least 35 refurbished classrooms. That’s just a snapshot of what the UT Knoxville campus is receiving through one-time funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), more popularly known as the Stimulus Act.

Campus Makeover

A classroom in Hodges Library updated with the latest teaching technology.

Faculty in Henson Hall, Biosystems Engineering and Environmental Science, the Bailey Education Complex, the Jessie Harris Building and the Health and Physical Education Building are getting the latest teaching tools in technologically advanced classrooms equipped with smart podiums and screen projection systems. Stimulus funds have helped to boost this year’s funding for classroom improvements funded through the student Facilities Fee.

Sorely needed roofs are scheduled for the Alumni Memorial Building and the Health, Physical Education and Recreation (HPER) building. Plans also include replacing windows in the Nielsen Physics Building, Dabney/Buehler Hall, Alumni Memorial Building, and Austin Peay buildings.

Along with providing more time to plan for the full impact of budget reductions, which will become a reality on July 1, stimulus funds are improving and helping to infuse green into campus facilities, some of which are more than 70 years old.

The goal is to spend approximately $35 million to improve classrooms, technology and infrastructure. More than $26 million are investments aimed at reducing future energy costs—the campus’s single fastest escalating operating expense.

Given the age of many of the campus’s 200-plus buildings, it was easy to compile a list that fit the federal criteria for stimulus spending: improvements that will lower future operating costs and make a difference in the learning environment for students. All work must be completed and paid for by Dec. 31 of this year to comply with federal guidelines for stimulus capital funds. The capital funds are part of nearly $100 million allocated by the state in fiscal years 2009, 2010 and 2011 through the Stimulus Act to restore operating funds to the university during the economic downturn.

These improvements will complement the efforts of our campus community. Faculty, staff and students have stepped up to reduce overall energy consumption by at least 10 percent, saving at least $1 million since 2008 through temperature adjustments and changing day-to-day consumption habits. Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek challenged the campus in January to re-focus their efforts to reduce consumption by 10 percent over last year.

From campus wide changes in interior and exterior lighting to new utility meters and heating and cooling systems, UT is furthering its goals for national leadership in campus sustainability efforts.

“Stimulus funding has lessened the impact of an expected loss of as much as 30 percent of our state funding,” Cheek said. “We’ve been able to make strategic decisions and investments that will place the campus in the best possible position to go forward, in spite of these unprecedented economic times.”

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