The University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees on Wednesday approved spending more than $1 million to put a new roof on a science building that is targeted for demolition.
The school is hoping to begin tearing down the Torrey Life Sciences building in the next five years, but can’t do that until it has enough new classrooms and lab space come on line under the $1.5 billion Next Generation project, said Laura Cruickshank, the school’s master planner and chief architect.
The Next Generation project includes expanding and renovating another science building, Gant, and building a $200 million, 200,000-square foot building, which is slated to open in late 2020 or early 2021.
In the meantime, structural issues and leaks in the roof at Torrey have created serious problems for students and researchers.
“We are going to have to do temporary things to keep the building functioning for the next five years,” Cruickshank said. “Nobody wants to spend any more money, but we can’t leave the people in the building with a non-functional building. Getting wet while you work – that’s a problem.”
The future of the building has been a subject of discussion for more than two decades, Cruickshank said.
Several years ago, the school budgeted more than $130 million to renovate Torrey and bring it up to current research standards. But a recent study showed the problems were too extensive, Cruickshank said.
The windows, exhaust system, electrical system all would need to be replaced. The ceilings also are not high enough to run the proper duct work, she said.
The Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to free up the renovation money for use on other projects.
The school has made more than 40 roof leak repairs in Torrey over the last few years, said Stephanie Reitz, a school spokeswoman. She said there are portions of the building where small drips had turned into small streams.
Cruickshank said a temporary solution, such as a tarp, would not solve the problem. A thermal scan of the building performed in May showed the insulation was saturated. A covering would serve to trap the moisture and force it into the building, potentially causing the roof to fail, she said.
Reitz said spending the money on the roof is like doing a repair on an old car.
“Sometimes you have to replace the starter when it goes, or else you have no way to get from Point A to Point B while you’re saving up for a better car,” she said.
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