University of Iowa going back to work on new residence hall

Air flow into Chemistry Building requiring $322K in changes

Exhaust from Catlett Residence Hall is vented on the east side of the building in Iowa City on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Exhaust from Catlett Residence Hall is vented on the east side of the building in Iowa City on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa is planning some $300,000 in additional work to the $95 million Elizabeth Catlett Residence Hall it opened just six months ago after discovering exhaust from the dorm’s food service operation is disrupting experiments in the nearby Chemistry Building.

The exhaust is not posing health concerns, but it’s flowing toward a Chemistry Building intake, affecting research space used for air test modeling with sensitive equipment, according to UI Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations Rod Lehnertz.

“The equipment picked up the change in air present since the Catlett food service has been operating, and this impacts some of the research they continue to do,” Lehnertz said.

The problem was unexpected, he said, prompting further study of how to solve it. Engineers have determined that extending the dining hall’s air exhaust ductwork to a higher elevation will address concerns and eliminate air reading variations, according to Lehnertz.

Because construction on the dorm largely finished in the summer, this additional work must be bid separately and is expected to cost $322,000.

It’s not the result of an oversight that would justify penalizing the original design team by asking it to return and do the job for free, Lehnertz said. But costs for changes are addressed within the Catlett project and don’t require a total budget revision.

“Each project maintains construction contingency funds intended to address unforeseen changes or design omissions, based on historical evaluation of change costs for projects of similar complexity,” Lehnertz said.

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Administrators in the UI Department of Chemistry did not respond to questions Thursday about specifically for the airflow was affecting the work or lab experiments.

Upgrades to the Catlett dining exhaust system are expected to start in the spring and wrap by Aug. 1, according to Von Stange, assistant vice president for student life and senior director of University Housing and Dining. The work, he said, isn’t expected to affect students.

Catlett Hall is the university’s biggest and most expensive dorm to date. The 12-story east-side hall — featuring three towers overlooking the Iowa River, along with a marketplace, cafe, study rooms and lounges — welcomed its first students in the fall, more than 1,000 of them.

It was funded largely through dormitory revenue bonds, as UI Housing and Dining is a self-supporting enterprise that doesn’t receive tax money or general education revenue to operate.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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