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A Board of Regents committee — after asking two questions — agreed Wednesday to recommend the full board approve spending $10 to $15 million to replace two floors of damaged or at-risk windows on its 4-year-old, $392.7 million University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
To Regent Milt Dakovich’s question of whether UI Hospitals and Clinics has reason to believe “this is going to be on any other floors” also, UI Senior Vice President of Finance and Operations Rod Lehnertz said, “Possibly, yes.”
“The work that we're doing is wider than just the windows that are impacted,” Lehnertz said, adding, “We will continue to monitor and investigate any other occurrences. But it is not just the windows that are visibly damaged, but rather more widespread.”
He committed UIHC to monitoring all the windows, including faulty ones that prompted the precautionary closure of the new Children’s Hospital playground in 2019, and to replace those “we feel are in the range of some isolated cases of window damage or delamination.”
To Regent Nancy Boettger’s question of how the board can be sure replacement windows will fix the problem, Lehnertz referenced quality testing.
“This obviously was not an expected delamination that occurred, and I don't want to speak ahead of the full investigation as to the sources of the causes for this,” he said. “But … we will take all efforts on behalf of UIHC to — just like any other Building we have on campus — make sure those are built as specified and manufactured and installed as specified.”
During discussion Wednesday, Lehnertz suggested UIHC might not need to tap university hospital Building usage funds for the window replacement costs, as proposed.
“There's still work to be done as to what this may or will end up costing,” he said, acknowledging $10 to $15 million is “no small correction cost, obviously, and a lot of windows.” Though hospital funds are proposed, he said, “we are and will continue the efforts to establish causes related to this and intend to hold responsible the causing parties.”
UIHC is not engaged in any litigation related to the windows at this time, according to its chief executive officer, Suresh Gunasekaran.
Although Lehnertz noted “both manufacturer and installation questions being addressed through study,” he suggested UIHC can’t wait to iron out who’s responsible before moving ahead with the repairs.
UIHC has installed temporary protective film over windows of concern, but Lehnertz said “that is not a long-term solution.”
When UIHC in 2019 sought help investigating the cracking and delaminating windows “in anticipation of potential litigation,” the UI planned to pay a consultant no more than $50,000 to assess the damage and offer options.
In a June 14, 2019, letter to Simpson Gumpertz & Heger — a Massachusetts engineering firm that investigates and rehabilitates structures — UIHC Associate Vice President for Legal Affairs Joseph Clamon referenced a previous contract with the firm and the need to keep findings private.
“SGH acknowledges and agrees that all information related to the foregoing will be kept in the strictest confidence and will be segregated from other work to properly preserve this work done at the direction of legal counsel in anticipation of litigation,” Clamon wrote. “To that end, all communication between UI and SGH shall be with legal counsel or at the direction of legal counsel.”
SGH doesn’t include UI Children’s Hospital work among a list of projects on its website. The university hasn’t yet provided The Gazette copies of any consultant reports or assessments.
Clamon’s letter and related contracts and contract amendments — obtained by The Gazette through a public records request — show the firm’s initial findings compelled further inquiry, expanding the consultant’s work and fees to $367,000 in October 2019 and then $974,000 in July 2020.
“UIHC understands that our scope has changed and agrees that we should continue to bill against our budget,” according to a June 8, 2020, letter from the firm to UIHC — committing to, among other things, support its “glass stabilization” process.
“We previously notified you that as of April 24, 2020, we reached our budget of $367,000. Our ongoing involvement in the project will continue to take us above the previously approved budget.”
The nearly $1 million to SGH didn’t include a $577,751 contract with MGSI Ltd. — an Iowa City glass and windows company — to install the protective film.
All those costs, though, are included in the university’s $10 to $15 million window-replacement spending request, which the full Board of Regents will consider next week. If it OKs the proposal to replace windows on Floors 4 and 5 — along with those on a connector bridge leading to the main UIHC campus — the total Children’s Hospital cost will climb $137 million over its original $270 million budget to $407 million.
In a September 2019 letter from SGH cataloging findings from its initial inquiry into the window concerns, the firm reported Cupples Construction of Illinois provided cladding for the hospital; Wiss Janney Elstner Associates of Illinois was the Building closure commissioner and Cristacurva was the window manufacturer.
Cristacurva makes “custom architectural glass,” including curved tempered glass, laminated and insulated glass units. It boasts on its website of its work on the UI Children’s Hospital, showcasing images of the hospital, shots of the uniquely shaped lobby and view of Kinnick Stadium from a curved window inside.
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