Each year, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign maintenance crews inspect the conditions of its 17 undergraduate and graduate residence hall locations to correct the deficiencies they find, yet still end up responding to tens of thousands of maintenance requests each school year.
As opposed to other student housing options that undergo the local inspection process, the University is state property, so facility professionals monitor and respond to issues and violations.
“We go through every room in all of Housing and do this as soon as possible after the residence halls close in the spring,” Matthew Brown, director of facilities and services for University Housing, said.
Problems that arise can range from any element in the rooms and common areas, such as lighting, electricity, door repairs and wall damage. But filing an information request to review inspection reports for specific examples isn’t as easy as it seems.
“A search for one month produced more than 800 Maintenance Inspector Weekend Logs, 2,400 Maintenance Request Database entries, and 3,000 work orders in the database,” University of Illinois Chief Records Officer Kirsten Ruby said in an earlier CU-CitizenAccess article.
Brown said the process not only includes going through every student room, but also the common areas as well. But still in the semesters that follow, prior to student move-in, the University of Illinois housing department still receives tens of thousands of service requests.
In order to perform the inspections, University maintenance technicians fill out Excel spreadsheet forms tracking damage or repairs needed for each component of the room.
The form is filled out on tablet devices, and works in a drop-down menu style. Technicians have different drop-downs for certain areas of the room. For entries labeled “Walls”, for example, there are options for damaged walls, mirrors and paint, among other options.
Work assignments are also made in these forms. Damaged walls, for instance, give options requesting a painter or a carpenter depending on the entry. This will help make the determination of what trade should be coming to address the issue when it is turned into a service request.
Form entries are put into a batch file and a program adds them to the housing department’s service request system. From here, the team is able to start addressing items from their list of service requests.
While Brown said that it’s the goal to have the space be “100% ready” for students when they move in, maintenance also will address problems that may arise after they have made checks via student or staff submission.
“We encourage residents to report those issues to us right away as they do move in if they find something, so we can come in and repair something right away,” he said.
Dorms range in age, creating different complexities
Summer inspections are just the start of taking care of the residence halls at the university, however. There is a wide variety of ages and total beds/rooms available between each of the buildings which add complexities to building maintenance across campus.
The ages of the residence halls range from over 100 years old, to about 7 years old. The university’s oldest residence halls are Busey and Evans Halls, each being more than 100 years old. They have been around so long, in fact, that they were each recently recognized as historically important and given a new slate roof to match the original design.
Residence halls are also varied in size and capacity. The smallest residence hall is a tie between Barton and Lundgren halls (with 132 students each) and the largest is Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Hall (PAR) with 1,018 students.
The most updated facilities are known as the Ike North and Ike South halls. This complex on the southwest side of campus has recently undergone a multi-year update and modernization. The newest of all halls, located in the Ike North series of buildings, is Wassaja Hall which opened for residents in 2016.
Some of the residence halls were designed with specific purposes in mind. Opened in 2010, Nugent Hall is one such building. The Beckwith Residential Community portion of Nugent Hall was designed and built specifically to meet the needs of individuals with more serious physical disabilities.
Other buildings are focused on making students comfortable by offering other options. For example, Lundgren and Evans Halls are for men only while Busey and Barton Halls only host women. Located near the engineering part of campus on Illinois Street, Wardall Hall is also home to the Honors learning community. Right next door, Townsend Hall is also geared to students who are strongly focused on science and engineering academics.
While most facilities are open to all undergraduates, some, such as Bousfield Hall, are geared for certain levels. Bousfield is for sophomore, junior, and senior students as well as transfer students.
Despite the differences that exist between the 15 residence halls the Housing Department offers, the one thing which remains the same is the importance of safety.
“Whether they [students] have a lease or contract, our commitment is the same. We want to provide a safe and welcoming location for our students,” University Housing Director Alma Sealine said in an interview.” We believe that we are the best landlords in town, because of our dedicated staff.”
While building-wide sweeps and inspections are performed each summer, students are still able to request other repairs during the year by submitting a maintenance request on the housing website. Director Sealine said this process seems to work well for both students and staff.
Sealine and the director of services, Matthew Brown, also discussed how the university has an organized system for updating buildings. This system is known as the Long Range Master Plan and includes a rotational plan to renovate and improve things such as parking lots, roofing, pipes, ventilation, and lounge areas.