Bear with Us: Tracking Campus Construction Since 2013
A look at major capital spending and construction projects at UCLA in the past 10 years.
For completed and active projects from 2013 to 2022, UCLA budgeted over $2.5 billion for new construction and renovations.
Projects completed in 2022, including the Olympic and Centennial dorm buildings and the new Gayley Heights university apartment building, cost over $443 million.
New projects accounted for just under 75% of spending for projects completed between 2013 and 2022, while renovations accounted for the other 25%.
Over the past few years, construction projects have become an unavoidable part of daily life for students on UCLA’s bustling campus.
In order to comprehensively understand the scope of these projects, The Stack collected data from the UC Office of the President’s capital planning information. Between the 53 completed and four active construction projects since 2013, UCLA has pledged $2,518,186,000 to campus development and renovation projects. The average cost of these projects is $4,4178,702. The least costly project was the Ostin AV Equipment Installation at $1,044,000, and the most costly project is the Southwest Campus Apartments, costing $383,290,000. The Stack has identified trends in spending, changes in budget and construction delays that directly affect the campus environment. Of the total $1.95 billion spent on projects that were completed between 2013 and 2022, $490 million went towards renovations, while the remaining $1.46 billion went towards new construction.
Peter Hendrickson, the associate vice chancellor for design and construction, said that construction projects require immense planning and analysis. “A major part of the campus project development process involves evaluating the capital needs of a school, department or business unit, and aligning them with capital resources available to the campus,” Hendrickson said. “For specific projects, project initiation and planning activities involve studying environmental and site alternatives and developing conceptual program, funding and schedule parameters.”
Spending by Year & Cost vs Number of Projects
Including active projects, 2022 saw the most construction spending, while 2018 saw the least. According to the data provided, only one project was completed in 2018, the CHS Seismic Correction and Fire Safety, which cost $52,155,000. In 2017, 26 projects were completed, which is the greatest number for any year between 2013 and 2022. Higher spending in 2022 than in 2017 despite far fewer projects, with only 7 completed and active projects in 2022, can be attributed to far higher costs per project in 2022. Particularly, the average cost of a project in 2022 was $129,053,857, while the average in 2017 was $15,851,154.
Changes in Spending
The number and type of projects play a role in dictating costs, as shown by the varying proportions of projects and costs per year, but other factors often change the cost of construction. Although many projects are able to maintain their initial budget, some projects see significant changes, particularly the Northwest Campus Student Housing Infill, which cost 40% less than initially projected, and the Clark Library Seismic Correction, which cost an almost additional 25%. Before 2022, the primary causes for these changes included favorable and unfavorable offers from contractors and site conditions. However, delays in more recent projects are attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which reflects changes in the factors that influence construction.
The graph above displays projects that were completed between 2013 and 2022. We can compare the original budget set compared to the final amount spent on a project. Typically, construction projects come in at or below budget. There was a dip in completed project spending that began in 2018 and continued through the COVID-19 pandemic. Completed projects spiked between 2021 and 2022, with more than a 435% year-over-year increase in spending. This is due to the new university apartment buildings, as well as the Olympic and Centennial dorm buildings, which were completed in 2022. The new Olympic and Centennial dorm buildings accounted for $223,042,000, or just over 50% of 2022 spending. The total spending for building Gayley Heights was $184,500,000, or about 41% of 2022 spending.
While construction can be frustrating for many students, the new university apartments and dorms allowed UCLA to guarantee housing for all students.
Alexa Escamilla, a second-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student, currently lives in Laurel, one of the new undergraduate apartment buildings. She said she chose an eight-person, four-bedroom, and two-bathroom unit in Laurel because it was a cheaper option than other buildings.
Escamilla said she enjoyed the modern look of her apartment as well as the view of the sunset. However, she wishes the building had a gym. Laurel is also farther from campus than many other university apartments, but Escamilla added that the bus stop just outside her building made getting to campus easy.
Part of the allure of Laurel to Escamilla was that it was a new development.
“I like that I’m the first person living there,” Escamilla said.
On the other hand, some students were upset by the recent construction, since they may not have the opportunity to reap the benefits of the renovations. Doryenna Ammari, a third-year political science student, said that the constant construction is highly disruptive. “It’s been really difficult ever since they got on campus to navigate to my classes.”
She expressed further disappointment with the closure of iconic campus destinations, such as Powell Library’s Main Reading Room, which is undergoing seismic renovations.
“Especially being a student of COVID for 2020, I didn’t have a graduation, I didn’t have my first year of college here, and not being able to take graduation photos and stuff like that at Powell is really disappointing,” Ammari said.
About the Data
The data was collected from the UC Office of the President’s capital annual status reports. The information related to UCLA was isolated from the other UC campuses and organized as “new construction” or “renovation.” Particularly, the figures that appear are the funds dedicated to construction projects categorized by the year they were completed and, in the case of active projects, the year they are listed on the annual status report (2022). These documents described the construction projects in terms of their name, type, original budget, augmented budget, percentage change in price, notes, year and phase of construction. Before 2017, the data also included whether projects are state or nonstate-funded, but funding information is available in a more detailed form in the capital financial plans, which offer six-year projections of construction across the UC campuses.