Seahawks Return to Dobo Hall Following Two-Year Renovation Project

Friday, September 18, 2020

Two years after Hurricane Florence battered the UNCW campus, faculty and staff are beginning to return to Dobo Hall. The 110,000-square-foot science building had extensive damage after its roof breached, allowing water infiltration through the attic, second floor and the main floor of the building.

Although work is still underway to replace equipment, labware and furniture destroyed in the storm, faculty and staff began setting up department offices and labs in August. A select group of faculty was given access to the building during construction to help install and set up intricate research equipment.

“Having our researchers, students and staff displaced into cramped quarters or no quarters for some for two years significantly impacted biology and marine biology’s research programs, especially for our graduate students,” said Heather Koopman, professor and chair of the Department of Biology and Marine Biology. Koopman continues to telework due to COVID-19 and has not seen the renovated Dobo Hall. “People are happy to be moving into their own spaces again and to get research back online.”

Building repairs included the reconfiguration of the roof system and the addition of larger drainage details to remove water from the roof. Aging windows were replaced, as were damaged exterior items. A lightning arrestor system was also added. The cost of the renovations and repairs is approximately $50 million.

“This was a technically demanding repair and renovations project beyond the water damages. There was environmental cleanup necessary before repairs could even begin,” said David Holsinger, UNCW facilities engineer capital project manager. Laboratories required specialized inspections, cleaning, demolition and final clearances through a number of agencies because of chemicals and radiological agents used in past research, he explained. Demolition also revealed that a number of the steel framing connections had not been properly welded in the original construction, he added.

The renovation of Dobo Hall has been a huge success, said David Webster, senior associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“Hurricane Florence provided UNCW the opportunity to think big, and we did that. Rather than reverting to an obsolete building built in 1994, we worked to reinvent the building so that we can meet the demands of rapidly changing research expectations in the biological, chemical and environmental sciences,” Webster said. “Also, new buildings with exceptional resources attract great faculty.”

Dobo Hall is the new home of the Department of Environment Sciences, which was previously located in the Teaching Lab Building. Jeff Hill, chair and professor of the environmental sciences department, described the renovated building as “purpose-driven.”

“The functionality of the building is remarkable. Laboratories for environmental sciences faculty are well-designed to meet researchers’ specific needs, and the faculty offices, seminar rooms and common areas have been created for collaboration,” he said. “For the environmental sciences department, our move to Dobo Hall provides us with the opportunity to not only grow, but to better meet our commitment to teaching, scholarship and service.”

-- Venita Jenkins

Dobo Hall
Two years after Hurricane Florence battered the UNCW campus, faculty and staff are beginning to return to Dobo Hall.