DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad Lautenbacher Jr., left, and NOAA Pacific Regional Center project manager John Shrewsbury talk about the new center, located on Ford Island. An L-shaped building built in 1942 was converted into the new facility, which will service NOAA ships that will eventually dock there.
NOAA site retains wartime character
Retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad Lautenbacher Jr. was reminded of the "This Old House" television series as he toured the first building in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's new Pacific Regional Center on Ford Island.
But the NOAA administrator wasn't looking at improvements to a house. It was a restored, World War II warehouse.
The 12,000-square-foot building was erected in one month in 1942 to provide storage for aircraft carriers, according to the Historic American Buildings Survey.
Lautenbacher said he was amazed at the work done on the building, which has won a General Contractor Association of Hawaii Award of Excellence for Federal Construction.
"It has been restored to its original beauty and strength," he said.
NOAA worked with the Navy and preservation architects to retain the building's historic character, said John Shrewsbury, project manager.
The L-shaped building — No. 184 — was one of only two metal-sided buildings among the structures on Ford Island and the only wood-framed building.
Five wooden storm doors, about 14 or 15 feet by 12 feet, that slide horizontally were the main historic feature, Shrewsbury said, noting they were rehabilitated and they work. The building also has most of its original concrete and floors, he said.
While it looks like a World War II hangar on the outside, inside it has modern, green features expected to reduce electricity use by 30-50 percent.
It has many skylights, insulation to keep it cool and a unique ventilation system providing fresh outside air, Shrewsbury said. "It's a very nice open facility."
The $22 million renovation project was completed last October on time and under budget, Lautenbacher pointed out. NOAA's three research ships had already moved to Ford Island in March, last year, from Snug Harbor, where they shared the University of Hawaii's marine facilities.
He said four ships can operate routinely from Ford Island and NOAA's new ship Okeanus Explorer is expected to arrive later this year for about two years of Pacific explorations before it's home-ported on the East Coast.
Marine operations and logistics staff and storage facilities for the research ships and rotating scientific crews are located in the newly renovated building.
NOAA has $60 million in its 2009 budget to continue incremental development of the new centralized "NOAA campus" — estimated at a total cost of roughly $300 million, Lautenbacher said.
Most of NOAA's fisheries, coastal, tsunami, weather, oceanic and atmospheric programs will be relocated there when it's completed, tentatively in 2013.
NOAA scientists now at Kewalo Basin will occupy the next building due for repairs and restoration — No. 130. It is the oldest one in the complex, built in 1931 by the Army, Shrewsbury said. A construction contract is expected this year, he said.