McMaster behind by $290M on fixing buildings and infrastructure

McMaster University is about $290 million behind in fixing its buildings and infrastructure, and its students are calling on the school to do something about it.

Issues include aging floors and leaky roofs

McMaster's student union is calling for repairs to infrastructure at the university. (McMaster University Asset Management Plan)

McMaster University is about $290 million behind in fixing its buildings and infrastructure, and its students are calling on the school to do something about it.

Students go to class amongst broken windows and leaking roofs, said Huzaifa Saeed, vice-president of education and community outreach with the McMaster University Students Union (MSU).

He wants the province to boost the amount it allocates for deferred maintenance and for the university to devote more resources to catching up.

"Everyone is talking about pedagogy and new styles of teaching and learning, but at McMaster, we can't even maintain our classic classrooms," he said.

According to last year's figures, McMaster needed $150 million to catch up on its deferred maintenance. About $50 million of that were repairs marked as urgent, which by definition meant they had to be fixed in the next year.

'We're actually no worse than most of our peers'

The cost has increased to $290 million, said Roger Couldrey, vice-president administration. McMaster is not the only university with a deferred maintenance backlog.

"We're actually no worse than most of our peers," he said.

The university allocated about $2 million of its budget to deferred maintenance last year, he said. It gets about $1.2 million from the province each year for the purpose.

McMaster needs to put more emphasis on catching up on the backlog, Couldrey said.

"There's no question there needs to be a plan put in place that involves the interested stakeholders to address the problem."

Saeed worries about asbestos and potential fires caused by old wiring. But Couldrey said students are not at risk.

Any problems that could potentially impact student safety, such as cracked steps, are dealt with first, he said. Many of McMaster's issues include roofs or utility supply lines that need to be repaired or replaced.

Oldest building on campus dates back to 1930

McMaster also needs to upgrade some floors, walkways and streets. There are about 50 buildings on campus, the oldest dating back to 1930.

"It's a small town, so we have all the things a municipality looks after," Couldrey said.

MSU wants the province to increase its contribution to 1.5 per cent of the value of the buildings within the university, amounting to about $25 million each year.

The union plans to push the issue for the rest of the year, Saeed said.

"We will continue to bring it up at every major meeting we have with administration," he said. "We have a meeting with (MPP) Ted McMeekin in mid-February, and we'll bring it up then too."

Mohawk College has about $40 million in deferred maintenance on its buildings, all of which are less than 45 years old, spokesperson Jay Robb said.

The college is in the middle of a renewal project at its Fennell campus, with a new library, new labs and classes, a new recreation centre and plans for major renovations to the school of technology, he said.

Read the MSU's policy paper on deferred maintenance below.