As Kathryn Wayne walks between the bookshelves on the fourth floor of Doe Library, she recalls more than five years of anxiety.
The roof and gutters of the library spouted leaks every year, said Wayne, the fine arts librarian and head of the art history and classics library, and seeping water threatened the fine arts library’s collection of manuscripts, folios and books.
“It was heartbreaking because they were extremely valuable,” she said.
Now, plastic covers the library’s shelves. Yellow and silver scaffolding clings to Doe’s exterior on two sides as construction crews work to finally repair the nearly 100-year-old library’s roof and gutters.
Outside Giannini Hall and Hesse Hall, similar repairs are in progress. Orange flags on top of Evans Hall signify that its roof repair will soon be underway. In all, campus officials targeted 11 buildings’ roofs for repair as part of a new strategy to tackle UC Berkeley’s problem of deferred maintenance — maintenance that should have been performed at some point, but was postponed due to a lack of funds.
Campus officials hope to have the repairs completed by December at the latest.
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In previous years, the campus would repair whatever maintenance problems were most pressing, often an assortment of elevators, roofs, fire alarm systems and heating and ventilation systems. For the latest program, paid for by funds obtained in the 2010-11 fiscal year, the focus is roofs.
“The strategy was to bring a little more focus to the visibility of the program and to tackle things as broad categories instead of scattered projects that were essentially unrelated,” said Assistant Vice Chancellor for Physical Plant and Campus Services Chris Christofferson.
As the oldest UC campus, UC Berkeley’s maintenance problems are unparalleled in the university system. Officials estimate more than $650 million in deferred maintenance. The UC system reports more than $2 billion. The backlog continues to grow every year.
But funds to reduce that number are scarce. As state funding continues to disappear, the UC and its campuses have instituted furloughs, layoffs and tuition increases among other cost-cutting strategies, leaving funding for building maintenance relatively low in priority.
Until the 2010-11 fiscal year, UC Berkeley borrowed $5 million each year to fix the highest priority maintenance problems, which have varied from loose fixtures on Sather Gate to withering tiles on the top of the Campanile.
For the roof repairs, UC Berkeley borrowed $10 million, twice the amount of previous years, to cut into its more than half a billion dollar backlog.
Harvey Kaiser, a facilities management consultant from Syracuse, N.Y., who has been researching and writing about deferred maintenance for more than 30 years, said the campus’ shift in strategies might not be prudent. He said by focusing only on roofs, the campus would be forgoing other high priority projects.
“I would have to question a strategy that is sort of motivated by bringing the public’s attention and emphasizing one category of work,” Kaiser said.
But Christofferson said that out of the $10 million, the campus set aside $2 million to deal with any non-roof problems that cannot further be deferred, such as replacing a chiller in Davis Hall and an elevator in Koshland Hall. There are also roofs that need repair that will have to wait until next year because there is not enough money, such as Gilman Hall’s roof.
And the strategy still is not set in stone, Christofferson said. He said it is unclear whether the category-based approach will continue for next year’s deferred maintenance program.
“That’s what we’re going to propose at least short term,” he said. “But one of the things that we need feedback from is, is that an approach that the administration wants to continue.”
For Wayne and others who use the fine arts library, however, the repair is a relief.
“We’re all very happy,” she said.
Mihir Zaveri is the lead development & capital projects reporter.