The Walsh Group - NOAA

It is not often that a firm gets the opportunity to work on a location with such historical significance like Pearl Harbor. The Walsh Group is building the third phase of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) new pacific regional headquarters at Fort Island, which is located in the center of Pearl Harbor.

NOAA Site Manager Steve Gallagher says the $330 million project consists of three phases that were long in the planning stages. The first, which was finished in 2008, included the construction of two piers for ship operations and an observation facility.

The second phase, which is currently under way, includes new support facilities and a marine science and storage warehouse. It will be ready for occupancy by Dec. 6. 

“That warehouse will provide storage capacity for the tenants that are currently leasing warehouse space and support marine science research,” Gallagher says. 

The third, which is being built by Walsh, consists of the main facility. “In summary, this is a 315,000-square-foot space for over 700 NOAA employees and contractors,” Gallagher says. This portion will be finished in late 2012.

The finished headquarters will consolidate the operations of 12 NOAA facilities in Oahu, Hawaii, into one. “It’s not only an office building for the staff, but it [can] support the research and rehabilitation of marine animals,” Gallagher says.

Along with a dive center, the facility will include the 24-seven operations of the Pacific Tsunami warning center. “This is a critical center for protecting lives and property in the Pacific Basin,” he says.

The project team also is aiming for LEED Gold accreditation with the headquarters, Gallagher says. This includes the incorporation of a passive ventilation system where the building is kept cool by cold water that is pumped up from 1,500 feet below the surface.

“As a result of that ventilation, our carbon footprint will be reduced by 40 percent,” he says. “It’s one of the first operational federal [facilities] with this type of cooling system.”

Additionally, the building will incorporate natural lighting and graywater capture systems. “We’re going to be capturing that water and reusing it [in toilets and sinks],” he says.

Project Pride

Walsh Group Project Manager Jon Stepanovich says the company is proud to work at Pearl Harbor. “Obviously, it is a great honor and experience,” he says. “The hangars were here for the attack, [and] we’re renovating them into something usable for the future.”

When finished, the hangers will have the same external appearance as hangers built in the 1940s, while the interiors will be modern, efficient office spaces. “[It is] an incredibly positive experience for NOAA to have this wonderful site,” he continues. “All of their experimentation and laboratories will provide beneficial information for the general population.”

Stepanovich says he has enjoyed the environment in Hawaii, where workers hold the welfare of people as their highest priority. “It is a very positive environment,” he says. “There is something new everywhere I go.”

Avoiding Hiccups

So far, Gallagher admits that there have been challenges that Walsh Group and the other contractors have had to overcome.

For instance, NOAA will be relocating more than 700 people into the new facility. “The project has gone without hiccups,” Gallagher says. “[It takes] a lot of planning and a lot of coordination with our offices and the Navy Facilities in Hawaii.”

He adds that NOAA is pleased with the work of Walsh Group, which is 25 percent complete on its phase. “Walsh came in and has impressed both the government and Navy,” he says. “They’ve worked aggressively to get the main facility work done.”

Gallagher adds that NOAA is impressed with the work of the project’s subcontractors. “The steel erection went smoothly,” he says. “They finished most of the groundwork and steel restoration so far.”

“Most of our subcontractors are guys we have not worked with before,” Stepanovich says. “The relationships [we have with them] are growing, and they started off pretty strong.”

He also praises NOAA. “[They are] very willing to get in and assist,” Stepanovich says. “NOAA is a very educated client.”

Positive Perceptions

The public reaction to the NOAA project has been good. “The project is also providing much needed jobs here on Oahu,” Gallagher says.

Stepanovich says Walsh Group experienced some resistance from some who did not like that a contractor from outside of Hawaii won the contract. However, its subcontractors have been quite positive. “[They] understand we’re just here to do a job,” he says. “There’s not a whole lot of negativity.”

Stepanovich adds the Chicago-based Walsh Group wants to win more NOAA projects. “I would love to work with them again,” he says. “When [more jobs] come out from NOAA, hopefully, we can [earn] some other ones.”

Firm Foundation

Founded in 1898, the Walsh Group says it is in its fourth generation of family leadership. "The Walsh Group has invested over $450 million in capital equipment and regularly employs over 5,000 engineers and skilled tradesmen," the company says.

The firm says it never undertakes a contract without the proper resources to guarantee its absolute success. “The Walsh Group’s business model has been to pursue work experience spanning nearly every conceivable sector of construction work,” it states.

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