FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Built in 1962, Edmondson Hall on the UH-Manoa campus is overdue for renovations. Zoology Department assistant chairman Steve Robinow showed broken, dilapidated cabinets in a lab last week.
Aging building at UH to close
An October fire is the last straw for aging Edmondson Hall
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The electrical system at Edmondson Hall at the University of Hawaii at Manoa is so out of date that labs on the upper floors cannot get high-speed Internet access.
Electrical and air-conditioning failures have ruined experiments, researchers said. And last month, an electrical short was blamed for a fire in an office on the third floor.
There's also termite damage and drainage problems.
The fire on Oct. 20 apparently was the last straw.
UH officials are moving everyone out of Edmondson Hall and will close the aging building at the end of the academic year. It will likely not reopen for several years until it can be renovated or torn down and rebuilt.
Zoology Department faculty who work in the building are overjoyed at the prospect of moving out.
"If it will get us out of this dump, it's great," said associate professor Kassie Cole.
The problems at Edmondson might just be the tip of the iceberg. The current estimate is that $114 million is needed for repair and maintenance at UH-Manoa.
But the administration is conducting an updated study of the campus and says that needed repairs might top $225 million.
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FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
The office of Dr. Lenny Freed was among the rooms that sustained several thousand dollars in smoke and water damage in an Oct. 20 fire at the hall.
Zoology faculty members at the University of Hawaii at Manoa could barely contain their glee when told last week that they will be moving out of Edmondson Hall by the end of the academic year and that the building is being shut down until it can be renovated or redeveloped.
"It (Edmondson Hall) is an embarrassment," said Steve Robinow, a professor and assistant chairman of the Zoology Department.
A fire at Edmondson Hall on Oct. 20 caused several thousand dollars in smoke and water damage to a third-floor office and classrooms, and apparently has focused attention on the electrical system and other problems with the 45-year-old building.
In an online newsletter, UH-Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw said she is moving everyone out of Edmondson Hall for "health, safety and economic reasons."
The building is safe to occupy, said Kathy Cutshaw, the UH-Manoa vice chancellor for administration.
But rather than spend money to fix the office and classrooms and then spend more money to tear it all out and renovate the entire building, the university is shutting the facility down and trying to determine how best to upgrade it, Cutshaw said.
The university is moving all classes out of Edmondson by the end of the year and will move faculty, graduate students and their labs to Snyder Hall next door and other space by the end of the academic year, Cutshaw said.
Edmondson Hall, built in 1962, has space for 18 zoology faculty members, graduate students, labs and classrooms. It also houses an extensive fish collection. About 1,000 undergraduate students attend classes in the building.
On Thursday, the Board of Regents approved a request to spend $150,000 for a feasibility and structural study to determine whether Edmondson and Snyder halls should be renovated and/or redeveloped and how much the project would cost.
"Is it more feasible to renovate or is it more feasible to tear it down and start it up again with a different use?" Cutshaw said.
The problems with the four-story, 42,000-square-foot building were obvious during a short tour given by Robinow.
He pointed to a high-speed Internet router box that is unused because of an inadequate power supply. The building is wired for high-speed Internet, Robinow said, but it doesn't work because they can't attach the box to the electrical system.
In each hallway outside the laboratories, there is a shower -- an emergency chemical and eye wash, a safety requirement for modern labs. But the shower doesn't have any drainage. If someone turns it on, "which happens occasionally," Robinow said, the floors flood and have to be mopped up.
In another lab, termites have eaten away at the storage cabinets. And in a first-floor classroom, students sit on a hodgepodge of desks and chairs, some of which look like they date to the 1960s, and electrical cords hang from the ceiling.
"We've lost thousands of dollars worth of equipment and experiments because of blown fuses," said professor Heinz Gert de Couet, who added that it's hard to do quality research in a building like Edmondson.
The university has tried to get money to fix Edmondson and other buildings for years.
The current budget request, which has been sent to the governor, calls for about $48 million for repair and maintenance at UH-Manoa.
But that's only a fraction of what's needed.
In January, UH-Manoa estimated that the backlog of repair and maintenance is $114 million. And that figure is "clearly underestimated," Cutshaw said.
An updated estimate being prepared, based on the age and size of the buildings and current construction costs, might be closer to $225 million, said David Hafner, assistant vice chancellor for campus services.
The university is asking the governor and the Legislature to approve $7.5 million for a new classroom building and $1 million to plan a new research building. It's also asking for $10 million to renovate Gartley Hall, which was built in 1921, and $4.1 million to design a new College of Education building at the UH Lab School.
The new classroom and research buildings would allow UH-Manoa to move people out of old buildings while they are renovated as funding becomes available, Cutshaw said.
"Most of our building stock was built in the 1960s, and we have a failing physical plant at the moment," she said.