Planning is underway to make the oldest building on Southern Oregon University's campus greener and safer in earthquakes, and personnel are being relocated across campus to prepare for construction.

Planning is under way to make the oldest building on Southern Oregon University's campus greener and safer in earthquakes, and personnel are being relocated across campus to prepare for construction.

A $5.8 million project will update the interior of Churchill Hall to make it more energy-efficient and less susceptible to earthquake damage.

Churchill Hall was the original building at the Southern Oregon Normal School, built in 1926.

The building is in dire need of renovations, according to Larry Blake, director of campus planning and sustainability. The building's walls probably don't have insulation, and the cooling and heating systems aren't very effective, he said.

"If I did a poll of the building occupants, I think most of them would express concern for the heating system," said Blake, whose office is in Churchill. "But you sort of grow accustomed to it."

Over the years, several walls and partitions have gone up to divide former classrooms into offices, blocking a lot of the natural light the building once received. Trying to bring back this light is one of many goals of the remodel, which will include updated plumbing, electrical and ventilation systems.

"We will try to maximize daylight opportunities and use what the building already has as much as possible," Blake said.

The building has been in need of renovations for some time, but SOU has had to wait for funding from the Oregon University System deferred maintenance program, said Blake.

"We and all the other universities have had to wait for our projects to come to the top of the list," Blake said.

The OUS program prioritizes renovations for all buildings in the university system and chooses which will receive funds based on Federal Emergency Management Agency standards and other assessments, Blake said. SOU now has four buildings, including Churchill, ranked in the top 20 on the list, and Blake hopes all of them will receive renovations in the next decade.

The OUS funding totals $1.3 million to cover seismic retrofitting of the building. Another $2.7 million will come from state energy loans and $1.8 million from lottery bonds. The bonds will be given to SOU, but the loans will have to be repaid over time, and Blake said he hopes the state will help foot the bill.

"I'm hopeful in the case of a building renovation the state will pick up at least a portion of the debt," Blake said.

The school plans to empty Churchill and hand it over to construction crews by the end of summer. The building currently houses administration, payroll offices and foreign language offices.

Administration, including offices for the president and the provost, temporarily will move to the second floor of the computer science building, a previously unused space, according to Blake. The move of administration will be temporary.

SOU will accept bids for the Churchill renovations in August.

"It's a low-bid situation, although we always hope for local general contractors or subcontractors," Blake said.

Bids for the contract will be awarded in September, and the project should take about one year to complete.

Reach Southern Oregon University intern Teresa Ristow at teresa.ristow@gmail.com.