Hearst Mining Building Reopens After Retrofitting

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UC Berkeley's Hearst Memorial Mining Building will reopen Sunday after four years of seismic retrofitting and renovation.

Completed renovations on the building include two three-story additions, expansion of the first floor, new laboratories and a new roof, said Grant Griffanti, senior project manager for Turner Construction Company, the building's general contractor.

"(The building's) very different, very high-tech inside," said Judy Roberts, manager of UC Berkeley's Department of Material Science and Engineering.

The building was originally closed in 1994 to make it seismically safe for campus use, said Beth Piatnitza, project manager for UC Berkeley Capital Projects, the department responsible for planning and construction on campus.

The delays in the retrofitting resulted from complications in its planning, a spokesperson for Capital Projects said.

Because of its closeness to the Hayward Fault-which runs through campus under Memorial Stadium and near McCone Hall-the building was "deemed seismically poor in assessments done by structural engineers," Piatnitza said.

Some classes are already held in the building, although official move-in will be done in phases throughout the fall semester, said Brendan Kelly, a project architect with NBBJ, the architectural firm that worked on the building.

The renovations cost approximately $90 million, according to a Capital Projects statement.

The process of seismically retrofitting a building was pioneered at UC Berkeley in the '70s and will allow the building to move 2.5 feet in any horizontal direction during an earthquake, Kelly said.

"The earth can move very quickly in an earthquake and the building has 30 to 40 seconds to catch up with the earth," Kelly said.

The process involves the base isolation system, by which layers of rubber and steel plates are installed beneath the building structure to absorb most of the shock of an earthquake, Griffanti said.

"(The system) is analogous to thinking of a box sitting on Slinkies anchored to a table," Griffanti said.

The building, completed in 1907 and designed by architect John Galen Howard, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and as a state historical landmark.

"People are thrilled with the new building," Kelly said. "The parts that they loved look better than they have in decades and the parts they haven't seen since the '40s look like they're ready for another century of service."

Because of the historical importance of the building, state law requires the California Office of Historic Preservation to monitor the building's "rehabilitation," said Knox Mellon, a state historic preservation officer.

"In rehabilitation of historic buildings, it's really preferred to leave things in place and put protective covers on them," said Jeanette Schulz, an architectural historian at the office. "Once you remove a piece of historic fabric you lose connection with the original way the building was constructed and the worker who put it together."


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