Engineering campus awaits renovation

For the past eight years, the University of Toledo has been actively constructing and maintaining the College of Engineering campus, according to Jason Toth, associate vice president for facilities and construction.


However, in the next five to six years, Toth stated that if  funding goes through, the engineering campus can expect an extensive amount of construction.


Currently, the state of Palmer Hall is described by Toth as being “rundown.”


Students have mentioned issues such as damaged ceiling tiles, water stains and other problems that occur regularly in the building.


One such student is Brent Biernacki, a fourth-year mechanical engineering major who is currently on co-op but has previously had classes in Palmer Hall.


“It has part of the roof that leaks a lot,” Biernacki said. “It’s not always the most comfortable to sit in because the thermostat isn’t always adjusted. I know people always complain that it's too hot in the summer.”


Biernacki continued that none of the issues impeded his ability to learn, however, including having never experienced issues with technology in any class.


Toth said that work order numbers are low for engineering. Only 732 work orders out of the 13,979 total for main campus occurred on the engineering campus for this academic year.


“I encourage all of our students, faculty and staff to make us aware,” Toth said. “We aren’t saying that we can immediately fix it, but make us aware and notify us of issues.”


He added that without a work order, Plant Operations has no ideas about issues that may be occurring.


Toth said that the university launched a new program in August 2017 called SchoolDude to handle maintenance requests. The program even has an app that you can download that allows you to make requests and to include photos of the issue from your phone, according to Toth.


“Renovation of the space is not envisioned because of the fact that we would be investing capital that would be demolished in the end,” Toth said. “We are making sure we are taking care of safety issues and building envelope issues.”


Toth said that continued maintenance on Palmer will occur until the planned demolition of the building, which he estimates won’t begin for another five to six years.


The construction is part of the 10-year master plan approved by the UT Board of Trustees in February 2017. For the engineering campus specifically, the plan will have three parts.


The master plan outlines an extension to a public pathway going from the south side of Bancroft to the north side of Dorr.


Toth said that the pathway will also connect to a bridge the university plans to install over Douglas Road.


“Currently, the students come down the grass incline, and they have worn a path and illegally cross at an unmarked crosswalk near Savage Arena,” Toth said. “So, part of the master plan is to build a bridge that would allow safe passage for students.”


The second portion of the plan is to install a high base space in North Engineering that will have updated classroom spaces and technology for student use. The number of classrooms available will be less than currently held in Palmer, according to Toth, to help increase efficiency.


“What the data tells us is that, not unlike many other higher education institutions, we are not very efficient users of our space,” Toth said. “So that means that we may have a classroom that is only being utilized 30 to 35 percent of the time.”


Which, Toth explained, is a core reason for consolidating classes in the new space. 


Finally, according to Toth, once the high base space can be used, Palmer Hall will be demolished and a multidisciplinary research building will be put in its place.


“It’s not an engineering-based building, it’s a university-based building, so you can have natural science and mathematics researchers, you can have physics researchers, you can have engineering researchers in a collaborative space,” Toth said. “That has come to show that that drives greater discovery.”


As far as the master plan, Biernacki said he thinks it will be a good solution to confronting student needs on the engineering campus.


“I’ve only known Palmer as what it is right now; it hasn’t drastically decreased in quality in the past four years I have been there,” Biernacki said. “I mean, obviously, the sooner the better, but it isn’t groundbreaking, like you can’t learn in it.”


If you see something wrong and wish to report it to maintenance, you can download the app, go to the University of Toledo Facilities and Maintenance page or call (419) 530-1000 to make a verbal report.



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