MU buildings not subject to regularly scheduled structural inspections

Friday, February 28, 2014 | 4:08 p.m. CST; updated 6:56 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 14, 2014

COLUMBIA — MU buildings are not subject to regularly scheduled structural inspections.

That includes MU-owned University Village apartments, where a walkway collapsed Saturday, killing a firefighter and displacing residents.

The buildings are checked by maintenance workers during routine work requests made by residents, MU spokesperson Christian Basi said.

"If they see something that needs attention while they are working in and around the building, they will bring it to the attention of the university," he said.

Regular inspections are made to meet fire and sanitation regulations, and those take place once a year, Basi said.

As the result of records requests from the Missourian and other media outlets, the university is sorting through thousands of pages of work orders placed at University Village over the past 10 years to determine when walkways like the one that collapsed might have last been inspected.

Basi said the walkways at University Village had been inspected and "had some issues" that were addressed sometime in the past three years, but he said the details would not be available until next week with the release of the records.

Residential Life and Campus Facilities are going through more than 4,400 work orders in response to the records requests and have found hundreds of structural work orders, Basi said.

In an interview on KFRU-AM Wednesday, Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin also said that structural inspections are done in response to observations.

"You do look for events, look for signs of problems, as you do other kinds of inspections or maintenance activities, and those may trigger a structural inspection," Loftin said. 

Trabue, Hansen and Hinshaw, Inc., a local structural engineering firm hired by MU, began Monday inspecting all facilities owned and leased by the university and by the end of last weekend had inspected all residential life buildings built before 2014. University Village was inspected immediately after the collapse Saturday. Wooden supports were installed beneath walkways to provide extra stability.

University Village was built in 1956 and designed to house graduate students and families. It is one of four student apartment complexes owned by MU, along with Manor House, Tara Apartments and University Heights.

MU Residential Life had been considering renovating or rebuilding University Village since 2008, according to previous Missourian reporting.

In 2012, Residential Life Director Frankie Minor told the Missourian he had spoken to private developers about the possibility of rebuilding University Village and University Heights but that it had been a struggle to find a financially feasible model for doing so.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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Ellis Smith February 28, 2014 | 7:56 p.m.

The present practice seems like a wonderful way to foster potential lawsuits.

There needs to be a more positive inspection practice AT ALL FOUR CAMPUSES. Also, bear in mind that at least two of those campuses have buildings more than 100 years old.

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