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Laboratory Construction Slows

June 1997

The amount of science and engineering (S&E) research space in colleges and universities continues to increase despite cuts of federal funding, according to a recent report from NSF's Division of Science Resources Studies. The amount of total investment in new construction grew from almost $2.6 billion as reported in 1988 to a high of almost $3.4 billion in 1992. By the 1996 report to Congress, the amount invested in new construction declined to just under $2.8 billion.

Every two years, NSF surveys the nation's 565 research-performing colleges and universities, focusing on the condition of research facilities, plans and costs for renovation, as well as plans and costs for construction. The survey, which has been mandated by Congress since 1986, "shows Congress the status of the science infrastructure," explains project director Ann Lanier. In addition, she says, the institutions often use the information to develop long-range plans for their universities' laboratory systems.

The report, Scientific and Engineering Research Facilities at Colleges and Universities 1996, says that S&E research currently accounts for 136 million net assignable square feet (NASF), up from 112 NASF in 1988. Most (72%) of the space is located in the 100 universities that spend the most on research and development (R&D). In fiscal year 1994-95, state and local governments provided $1.2 billion, or 43% of all construction funding, up from $1.1 billion in 1990-91, or 32% of the total.

At the same time, direct federal funding declined. In 1990-91, the U.S. government provided $537 million, 16% of the total construction funding. In 1994-95, the federal government put in $207 million, 7% of total.

The federal funding for repair and renovation increased from $55 million to $111 million during the same time period. Total expenditures for repair and renovation projects increased 17% from $905 million in 1992-93 to $1.1 billion in 1994-95. However, 43% of all renovation was funded through the universities' and colleges' own institutional funds.

More recently, the Chronicle of Higher Education came out with its own report that tracks funds set aside by Congress for projects at specific universities through 1997, including funding for construction of research laboratories. Lanier says the trend in the Chronicle report matches those in the NSF survey for the years they have in common. "And with their new numbers it appears that the Congressional set-asides for fiscal year 1997 will be increasing. Money for new construction in 1997 will appear in the 1998 survey."

For a copy of the report, call SRS at (703) 306-1773, or visit NSF's Web site: http://www.nsf.gov.

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