Retrofitting Causes Space Crunch

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Like other large universities located in earthquake country, UC Berkeley has a formidable task on its hands: seismic renovation.

Situated directly over the Hayward fault, Berkeley's largest property owner has come face to face with a logistical nightmare. Campus officials raised millions of dollars to fortify aged buildings and then kicked off several long-term construction projects. Now they must perform a balancing act - juggling the demand for space with the need for safety.

Those familiar with UC Berkeley's infrastructure have long known that many university buildings are vulnerable to major earthquake damage.

A seismic evaluation conducted in 1997 found more than 50 campus buildings susceptible to "significant" or "extensive" structural damage. Other studies suggest the number of buildings susceptible to this degree of damage may reach 27 percent, or as many as 95 buildings.

Under the Seismic Action Plan for Facilities Enhancement and Renewal, university officials recently launched four retrofitting projects. Thanks to a $42 million award from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, construction is now underway at Silver Laboratory and Barrows, Hildebrand and Latimer halls. This round of retrofitting will cost upwards of $90 million.

But these projects mark only a small portion of a broad renovation game plan - contractors are already busy with retrofits and repairs at Hearst Memorial Mining Building and Wurster Hall.

In all, seismic renovations are expected to continue for the next 20 years - a time line that has forced university planners to make some "challenging" decisions, said Christine Shaff, a spokesperson for UC Berkeley's capital projects division.

"We are having a hard time finding space," Shaff said. "Lab space is really tricky. It's very specialized."

Of course, one way to alleviate the space crunch is to construct temporary buildings. The university had to build an entirely new set of structures for the College of Environmental Design, formerly located in Wurster Hall. The steel-framed Hearst Field Annex, which planners call the product of a "surge" or temporary relocation strategy, was constructed in six short months on the Hearst West Athletic Field.

Frustrated with the temporary provisions, some members of the faculty have decided to move off campus altogether. Bruce Ames, a well-known molecular and cell biology professor, said UC Berkeley did not have enough space for all of the laboratories displaced from Barker Hall, so he left campus - at the university's expense.

"Rather than having my space cut in half I moved to Children's Hospital of Oakland Research Institute, which is on (Martin Luther King) Jr. Way," Ames said. "It is a beautiful, newly renovated space about 10 minutes from campus. Being off campus has its costs, but I am quite happy here."

Seismic renovation is not the only undertaking that has constrained space at UC Berkeley. The oldest campus in the UC system has taken advantage of the retrofitting to launch a flurry of deferred maintenance projects, Shaff said.

In addition, the projected rise in student enrollment, expected to hit California colleges and universities in waves over the next 10 years, has complicated an already difficult task.

Planners know they must find creative ways to relocate building occupants at a university with mounting capacity pressure, said UC Berkeley spokesperson Marie Felde. Although the square footage ratio of pre-renovation space to relocated space is not one-to-one, students and researchers are assured room in which to work, Felde said.

"The rule is that functionality has to be equivalent," she added. "You might have (had) a larger office in your old building, but you would be guaranteed space to do the old work."

When Chancellor Robert Berdahl announced SAFER, the seismic action plan, two-and-a-half years ago, he said it would be expensive and time-consuming, Felde explained.

"But really, what other choice was there?" she asked. "You have to ensure that, should there be a major earthquake here, UC Berkeley will continue to operate as a major research university."


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