Social science years away from renovation

The social science building on the Ogden campus of Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. (Scott Stevens / The Signpost)
The Social Science building on Weber State University’s main campus. (Scott Stevens / The Signpost)

 In late 2014, Weber State University began plans to renovate the Social Science Building on their Ogden campus. They allotted $30.1 million in order to complete the project. This project was said to be different than similar projects at WSU. Rather than demolish the building and start from scratch, they plan to use the existing building and improve it from the inside out.

“Studies have shown that there’s still value left in the basic structure of the building, so we want to preserve that to minimize the cost of renovation.” Brad Mortenson, vice president for University Advancement, said in an interview with KSL.

The first step of this project will involve redoing the interior of the structure, improving the floor plan and bringing the building up to date with new technology. Next, the porch area around the outside of the building will be closed in, adding additional square footage to the first floor of the structure.

WSU has to get their plan approved by the board of regents, state building board, the legislature, and the governor. This process is said to take three or four years, and the current status of this project remains in question.

“The university is just making plans to do ‘programming’ for the building,” Mortenson said. “The programming phase makes determinations about the needs of the project, from the number and size of classrooms and offices to the types of technology.”

Once that process is completed, they move to putting a more complex plan in place.

“A more detailed ‘design’ process follows that which includes the detailed architectural plans and engineering work to construct the facility,” Mortenson said.

Funding the project remains a major obstacle to its completion.

“As far as getting the project funded, we’re working on that, which means we don’t have a start date for construction,” Mortenson said. “We are getting ready to present later this summer to the state board of regents and state building board for prioritization heading in to the January 2016 legislative session.”

Presenting to the board will be the beginning of the process.

“Then we’ll have to work with the appropriate legislative bodies to see which projects across the state get funded,” Mortenson said. “This will be our first year presenting the project to some of these groups, as we weren’t high enough up the list last year to present to the legislature.”

Delays are expected in what’s undoubtedly a lengthy process.

“It usually takes three to five years to get a project through the process,” Mortenson said. “After that, it takes about a year to do the more detailed design schematics for the building.”

Professors who teach in the Social Science Building at WSU present concerns about the building in which they teach.

The Social Science Building has always been a topic of conversations and complaints among students and faculty,” said Marjukka Ollilainen, chair and professor in WSU’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology. “The 70’s architecture with small windows, dark corridors, and incomprehensible lay out that changes from floor to floor make good jokes, but what is not funny are the structural problems, the fly infestations, the overflowing bathrooms, the brown drinking water, and the falling ceiling tiles—that sometimes fall on students during class.”

Other WSU professors know what they want in the new Social Science Building.

Heating and cooling that actually works,” Ron Holt, professor of anthropology at WSU, said.

Above else, professors are optimistic about what the new Social Science Building will look like.

I’m looking forward to working in improved conditions on the new Social Science Building,” Ollilainen said.