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Seismic Upgrades of Cal building near completion

by John O'Brien Special to the Daily Planet
Saturday January 12, 2002

The seismic upgrades of the Hearst Memorial Mining Building made a symbolic step forward Friday as UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl assisted in the removal of provisional foundation support, allowing the building to rest fully on its new base isolators for the first time. 

“It's akin to kicking the stilts out from under it,” said Berdahl before descending to the construction area to help remove the final support. “This damn well better work. This is a great moment for us all.” 

The seismic upgrades of the four-story building cost some $68 million. The building is the first university complex designed by John Galen Howard, who also designed the Doe Library and Campanile tower. Completed in 1907, the building stands only 800 yards from the Hayward fault. 

In the event of an earthquake, the new layer of base isolators should theoretically allow the entire building to move up to two feet in any horizontal direction, dissipating the energy of the seismic activity. 

“What we are celebrating today is the completion of one of our major goals: the preservation of the Hearst building,” said Assistant Vice Chancellor Rob Gayle. 

To complete the load transfer Chancellor Berdahl activated a winch to draw the metal support away from the building, while Richard Toloy, the foreman from Malcolm Drilling, lay underneath the building and used a blow torch to cut through the final metal support. 

“Preserving what is by any measure the most beautiful building on campus is a significant achievement,” said Berdahl. 

After the completion of the renovations, the building will house a nanoscience center and new laboratories for the College of Engineering's Material Science and Engineering department.