When life gives you lemons, make lemonade! For the past few years, UGAMI has been implementing an infrastructure improvement plan. Hurricane Irma was certainly a setback to those plans (see earlier posts on Hurricane Irma’s damage and subsequent recovery efforts). However, Irma has also presented some opportunities. In fact, Irma has allowed renovations of the Administration Office Building and Carriage Building to take place much sooner than originally planned. Since these buildings had to be gutted as part of the flood restoration, and the construction crews (and their equipment) were already on the island, it is going to be much more cost-effective in the long-run to renovate these two buildings now, rather than restoring them to their pre-storm condition and then renovating them again in a few years. The Institute’s insurance would pay to restore the buildings to their original condition. But the original condition did not suit our needs very well and did not meet current building codes. Fortunately, the insurer agreed to allow us to renovate the buildings; they will reimburse UGAMI for the amount of money that it would have taken to simply restore the buildings to their pre-storm condition. This means that UGAMI just has to fund the difference between the cost of restoration and the total cost of the renovation project. This will result in a significant cost savings for UGAMI.
Renovations to the administrative office and Carriage Building are intended to meet three goals:
- Bring the buildings up to current codes with regard to accessibility and health & safety;
- Reconfigure the interior spaces to better suit the Institute’s needs; and
- Make the buildings more resistant to flooding.
The biggest change to the Administration Building will be the creation of additional offices and construction of a visitors’ center that will house exhibits on the research conducted at UGAMI. This will allow all of the office staff to be located under one roof and will improve our outreach education capabilities.
Much of the Carriage Building will be turned into a recreation center for students. As our academic programs grow, we are hosting more students, for longer periods of time. Having a separate space for fitness and recreation is becoming a major need. The Carriage Building will also have offices for our Facilities Management staff and a commercial-grade laundry facility to make it easier for our housekeeping staff to wash linens.
Flood mitigation measures on these buildings will include raising the foundation slabs approximately four inches, installing back-flow preventers on plumbing drains, raising the height of electrical outlets, sealing cracks in the exterior walls, and mounting flood barriers on doors and windows. These measures will essentially make the buildings water tight to a depth of 32 inches above ground level.
It has been a long, difficult recovery from Hurricane Irma. But we are starting to see how this experience is making UGAMI stronger than ever.
See the image gallery showing the renovation work.