UT’s constant construction is systemic problem, according to landscape architect

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Construction workers wait while their colleague reverses a dump truck into the work zone at Welch Hall on Tuesday. The University only resorts to tearing down buildings on campus when they can no longer be upgraded in a modern way or to make room for other buildings in the Campus Master Plan.

Photo Credit: Hannah Simon | Daily Texan Staff

With UT estimated to physically grow 10 percent every decade, there are constantly construction projects around campus, some of which include the demolition and replacement of buildings. 

Director of Sustainability Jim Walker said the University doesn’t take building demolition lightly.

“It’s not really a simple calculation if the building is more expensive to renovate than replace,” Walker said. “I can see where someone could have that kind of concern, but it’s very expensive to renovate and it’s very expensive to build new.”

Walker said buildings are only torn down if the systems within them, such as heating or air conditioning, are outdated or if the structure of the building does not allow for upgrades to meet modern needs. 

David Rea, associate vice president for campus planning and project management, also said buildings will only be demolished if it’s in the interest of cost and future accommodation. 

 

“The Campus Master Plan envisions that most existing buildings on campus will remain and be renovated over time,” Rea said. “Over the past 25 years, campus has completed many full building renovation projects.”

However, Katherine Stowe, landscape architecture graduate student, said she believes construction projects on campus could be more mindful of the effects the construction changes could have on the future of campus. She said the Frank Erwin Center was an example, which is being demolished and rebuilt in a new location to make room for the expansion of Dell Medical School’s new medical district outlined in the Campus Master Plan. 

Stowe said on the plan for the new medical district, there are two large buildings planned to be built that are labeled “health science gateway,” which will create a more cohesive medical district. 

“It almost seems like spending money for the sake of showing off,” Stowe said. “Personally, I think that that’s wasteful. But I don’t think it’s a UT problem. I think it’s an across-the-board problem.” 

Editor's note: a previous version of this article did not specify the 10 percent growth of the university is physical growth.