New research facility clears last hurdle, construction starts this summer
The U.S. Geological Survey has cleared the last hurdle to build its new research facility at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo campus. The final environmental assessment found no significant impact to the environment will be caused by construction.
The 60,000-square-foot facility will jointly house the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), the Pacific Islands Ecosystems Research Center (PIERC), and other governmental agencies. Located at UH Hilo’s University Park of Science and Technology, it will bring together, under one roof, staff from both HVO and PIERC to monitor, investigate, and assess hazards from active volcanoes and earthquakes in Hawai‘i.
This close collaboration will produce the science and technology needed to support sound management and conservation of biological resources in Hawai‘i and other Pacific island locations. This is of great importance to the safety and well-being of our island communities.
Internships, collaborative research, community partnerships
We are honored to host HVO and PIERC and excited about the benefits that this partnership will bring to our campus: internships, hands-on experiences for students, research, alumni employed by federal agencies, community partnerships, and more.
The site location on the UH Hilo campus will enhance collaborative relationships between HVO, PIERC, county government agencies, and university researchers. Our students will be able to interact with the agencies’ staff, receive hands-on experience in geological and environmental hazards and conservation, and envision careers in the earth sciences. Staff from HVO and PIERC will be able to work collaboratively with university faculty and students to strengthen academic and research partnerships.
And there will be opportunities for myriad community partnerships of benefit to all.
A groundbreaking event will be held later this month. Construction will take about two years.
The building was designed by architectural firm AHL, and Hensel Phelps is the construction contractor. All areas of the project are designed to meet federal guidelines for sustainable buildings, for example, low power consumption.
The facility will include two main structures and parking within a campus-like setting, and support for about 50 staff and volunteers at HVO and 53 staff and volunteers at PIERC.
The main building is three-stories. First floor will be occupied by HVO and their laboratories, offices, conference rooms, work areas, and a main lobby. The second floor will be occupied by PIERC, also with laboratories, offices, and work areas. The third floor of the building will have mechanical space and an open observation deck. 
A warehouse and field support building will support HVO and PIERC operations and serve as a bridge between laboratory and field functions. This building will have administrative and lab support offices, a climate-controlled room for archives, field gear storage, maintenance areas, and lockers, restrooms, and showers. Also, an outdoor greenhouse.
I’m thrilled at all the ways this research facility will strengthen our mission to challenge students to reach their highest level of academic achievement by inspiring learning, discovery, and creativity, inside and outside the classroom. The close location also will enhance collaborative relationships between federal and county government agencies and our university researchers. Adding to this good news, we will have a new volcanologist joining our faculty in the fall.
With the positive report in the final environmental assessment, we are on our way to building this profoundly important facility of great benefit to our island communities
I mua!
Bonnie D. Irwin