Construction Costs Total $1.75 Billion

With all the hammering, hard hats and saw dust at every corner of UCSD, it’s hard to believe that only 0.1 percent of the construction costs come from student registration fees.

UCSD currently has 16 construction projects either underway or in the works, totaling a cost of $1.75 billion. The 12 ongoing projects amount to nearly $750 million, while the 4 pending projects total an additional $1 billion.

UCSD’s construction plans remain unaffected by the ongoing UC budget crisis because university debt, in the form of bonds or mortgages, is the the major source of funding. The bonds, which account for about $873 million of total costs, are repaid by revenue earned from the buildings once they are constructed, or from reserve funds from the housing and medical departments which were set aside specifically to fund future projects. The mortgages for most new construction are standard 30-year contracts, though each is made at a different time, so the bonds have variable payoff dates.

“It’s a great time for construction,” Capital Planning Director Cara Fladd said. “Because of the economic downturn, we’re able to get great value for our projects. A lot of last-minute upgrades were made to some of the residence halls and other buildings.”

Due to the recession, the cost of labor has decreased. Since several construction projects were planned — and their budgets determined — before the economic downturn,  there was money left over from the amount initially allocated to materials and labor.

The next-largest financial contribution for construction, totaling about $188 million, comes from monetary gifts given to the university by philanthropists and wealthy families.

According to Cara, $75 million of this money was donated by the Jacobs family — the namesakes of the Jacobs School of Engineering, who also contributed $75 million last year toward a new UCSD hospital that is now in the planning stages.

State and federal grant money, as well as grants from institutions and private investment, account for the remaining costs. Out of the total costs, only 0.1 percent, which is about $2.2 million, comes from student registration fees.

The only construction being funded by student registration fees is the Dana Recreation Field on top of a new parking structure on East Campus, near Preuss School and Thornton Hospital. Student registration fees are funding this field, which is slated for completion Fall 2010, because it will be primarily for student use.

Four of the 16 projects are for student housing.  Expansions are being added to both the Muir College and Revelle College apartments, while The Village at Torrey Pines East is also under construction, to match Torrey Pines West, which opened in 2009. When finished, Torrey Pines East will house approximately 800 upperclassmen when it opens in Spring 2011.

The Muir College expansion will house about 275 undergraduate students, and the Revelle expansion will house approximately 510 second-year and upper-division undergraduate students. In addition, the Rita Atkinson Residences are being constructed on the School of Medicine campus to house graduate and professional students.

The additional housing is part of the UC Office of the President initiative to reduce the number of commuter students.

“The goal is to have around 50 percent of UCSD students housed on campus in the near future, which will require a lot of construction,” Cara said.

Seven of the projects are for the Thornton Hospital, Hillcrest Hospital or School of Medicine. Thornton Hospital will receive a new cardiovascular center, while buildings in the Hillcrest Hospital will receive earthquake improvements. The School of Medicine is receiving new educational facilities and a new office building. A large parking structure consisting of two buildings with about 1,200 new spaces is also being added near Thornton Hospital.

A new five-story building for the Rady School of Management will have new classrooms, research laboratories, offices and an auditorium. In addition, a new structural engineering building is being added and various parts of the campus are scheduled to receive $73 million in upgraded utilities and infrastructure to reduce the campus’ overall energy consumption.

The upgrades include heating and air conditioning retrofitting, more energy-efficient lighting and thermostats, as well as replacement appliances, like fumehoods and freezers, which use less electricity. Each of the projects is prioritized according to a statewide plan, but the upgrades are expected to be finished around 2013.