Mountain View Voice

News - December 23, 2011

New Hangar One skin cheaper than demolition

by Daniel DeBolt

Congress take note: a new NASA report says that demolishing Moffett Field icon Hangar One is more costly than replacing its toxic siding.

Pleasantly surprising preservationists, the Condition Analysis and Rehabilitation Plan for Hangar One, released Dec. 16, puts the cost of demolishing Hangar One at $44.4 million, while doing the bare minimum to save the hangar, installing a new skin, would cost $40.7 million.

The report's "findings are good for the hangar's future," said Lenny Siegel, leader of the Save Hangar One Committee in an email. "Not only does demolition not make historical sense, it would actually cost more money than making the building watertight."

The 287-page report by engineering firm CH2M Hill is the most detailed description of options for restoring Hangar One ever publicly released, Siegel said.

In a Navy-led environmental cleanup, Hangar One is currently being stripped of its laminate siding, which contains PCBs and asbestos that were found running into nearby storm drains in 1998, the report says.

The report says that making certain structural and ground improvements that appear to be a priority for NASA could bring restoration costs to $45.4 million. But replacing Hangar One's 4,638 windows with fiberglass instead of corrugated and flat panel glass would save $10.3 million on the base cost, while completely removing the hangar's eight-acre concrete slab to install something thicker and stronger could add $9 million.

The report also estimates the cost of covering Hagar One with 2,350,000 watts of "thin film" solar panels at $26 million. Spending another $1.4 million adds infrared heat strips to the roof to prevent Hangar One's unique problem of condensation forming under the ceiling. Years ago the upper portion of the Hangar was painted black to combat this problem.

The report assumes that restoration plans would be made in early 2012, and construction would be complete by January 2014.

NASA headquarters commissioned the report, spurred by criticism in June from the congressional inspector general of a $32.8 million NASA budget request to re-skin the hangar. The inspector general's report said Hangar One had no proposed re-use and would put more "mission critical" projects at risk, including basic infrastructure upgrades at NASA Ames.

Since October NASA headquarters has been sitting on a proposal from Google's founders that would pay for restoration of Hangar One if they were given a long-term lease allowing them to park eight private planes there. Siegel and others suspect that the proposal faces some opposition in Washington, D.C., where some may rather see the structure demolished.

If Hangar One were to be left a bare frame, the report estimates annual maintenance costs at $265,000, while annual maintenance of Hangar One with a new shell would cost $310,000.

The report also gives the hangar a good bill of health.

"Based on the structural evaluation and site observation of the Hangar structure, it appears that Hangar One was not only very well designed but remains in sound condition after 80 years."

The entire report can be downloaded as a PDF at nasa.gov or this direct link: tinyurl.com/7l62nqj.

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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