Structurally unsound


POSTED: Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The future of Gartley Hall, one of the oldest buildings on the University of Hawaii-Manoa campus, might be as fluid as the porous soil it sits on.

Underground water has undermined the building's foundation and seeped into the support columns in the 88-year-old structure, administrators said.

The extent of the problem is still being determined but is serious enough to prompt the UH-Manoa administration to close the building and move students and faculty out.

“;This building is not safe,”; David Hafner, assistant vice chancellor for campus ser-vices, told psychology department faculty members at a meeting yesterday afternoon.

UH-Manoa is dealing with a $268 million backlog of repair and maintenance projects throughout the century-old campus.

“;Your building has turned into ground zero of this problem,”; Hafner said.

The university has unsuccessfully asked the Legislature for money to renovate Gartley Hall for at least seven years, said Kathy Cutshaw, vice chancellor for administration.

        » Built: 1921. It is one of the oldest buildings in the “;Old Quadrangle”; on the campus, which also includes Crawford Hall, George Hall, Hawaii Hall and Dean Hall. All five buildings are on the state and national Registers of Historic Places.
        » Occupied: By the Department of Psychology, which has the largest number of majors on campus.

Two years ago the university got $1.1 million for planning and design of the renovation. But the $11 million or more needed for construction is not a priority in this year's budget request to the Board of Regents.

In the basement of Gartley Hall, wooden support beams hold up the first floor. They were ordered installed this past weekend after engineering consultants discovered that steel rebar in the support columns had eroded.

Hafner said the west side of the building is sinking and that workers need to shore up more of the building. Consultants will conduct further tests to figure out whether the building can be safely reoccupied.

Engineers will also be looking at the underground streams that flow into the structure to see whether the water can be diverted and how much it will cost, Hafner said.

Those reports will determine Gartley Hall's future. Hafner noted that it might not make sense to renovate the building as long as the underground water continues to erode it.

Yesterday, faculty and staff packed years of research materials, computers, books and files into boxes to be moved into temporary office space.

At least 27 classes with four to 115 students each were relocated.

“;We were in shock,”; said Vicky Keough, a clerk in the psychology department, about the announcement the building would be closed. “;We were on the list to be renovated for all these years, and now it's an emergency.”;

Yiyuan Xu, an associate professor of psychology, said he is frustrated with the problem. He has had to put his research on hold to pack, and it is not clear yet where his office will be and when he will be able to resume his project.

“;When I was hired six years ago, I was told that this building would be remodeled,”; he said.

Cutshaw said the university is looking at renting office space off-campus in Puck's Alley, the Varsity Building or elsewhere if Gartley has to be closed for an extended period of time.

Despite the current budget crisis, Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw said the university has no choice but to spend money to address the problems at Gartley.

“;When safety and security are at risk, you have to do what you have to do,”; she said.