Board of trustees approves $3.8 million for South Tower bathroom renovation
USC is changing.
Monumental renovations on the Women’s Quad and Darla Moore School of Business have drawn to a close, and more are on the way.
The campus you walk across today isn’t the same as it was last year. And a year from now, it will be more different yet.
“We’re challenged by the fact that we have 200 buildings on this campus with widely varying ages,” USC Architect Derek Gruner said.
According to Gruner, 40 percent of USC’s buildings were built between the 1940s and 1960s.
Now, the Health Sciences Education Building, soon to be home of the College of Information Studies and Mass Communications, is on track to reopen and house the College of Information Studies and Mass Communications in May 2015, ahead of schedule and under budget, Gruner said.
USC's board of trustees last week granted Phase II approval for a $3.8 million overhaul of South Tower's 17 bathrooms. All piping, fixtures, exhaust and ventilation systems will be replaced; bathrooms will be waterproofed and retiled; and all asbestos and lead paint will be removed from existing bathrooms and touching rooms.
In total, the funds cut out to around $223,000 per bathroom and around $650 per square foot. But with projects like this, Gruner said, going by the square foot can be misleading because of the work needed in the given area.
"It's an extremely intense amount of construction," he said. "It's a small amount of square footage, but the actual activity is very intense."
South Tower dates back to 1965, and the building still uses the original plumbing systems, which are almost 50 years old.
"My wife was in this building when she was in school," board member A.C. "Bubba" Fennell said, "so it obviously needs an update."
Gruner said the project will likely receive competitive bids — between 10 and 15, he expects — which will show the renovation's value.
"This pretty nearly fully renovates all five of these buildings," Gruner said, adding South Tower to the list of major dorm renovations after Women's Quad and Patterson Hall. "It's a pretty high priority for housing."
The renovation will bring South Tower to around the same level as the four newly-renovated women's buildings and at a fraction of the cost. Patterson's construction ran USC around $31.8 million, and the women's quad renovation was $29.2 million.
But it isn't just the dorms and classroom buildings seeing big changes — several athletics renovations are in the works for the coming years, as well.
Trustees granted Phase I design approval to construct men's basketball offices and team spaces in what is now home to the graduates-only Elephant Room, classrooms and offices. Volleyball and both men's and women's basketball would have team spaces.
In the best case scenario, Gruner said, the "potentially $4 million project" would not break ground until 2020, after the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management moves out in 2019.
The physical effects of renovations around campus are drawing to a close. But campus is still adjusting to the change, especially in increasingly tech-savvy buildings, like the Darla Moore School of Business.
"We have to get our staffed trained," Gruner said. "A person who would have carried a wrench before now carries a laptop computer."