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TMT seeking architectural concepts for headquarters

Gary Sanders, TMT project manager, details the world's largest telescope at the supplier's conference Monday in Hilo. (Hawaii247 photo by Karin Stanton)

Gary Sanders, TMT project manager, details the world's largest telescope at the supplier's conference Monday in Hilo. (Hawaii247 photo by Karin Stanton)

Karin Stanton/Hawaii247 Contributing Editor

The world’s largest telescope is going to need some support facilities and TMT Observatory Corp planners are committed to using local knowledge and labor.

Although the final Environmental Impact Statement on the thirty meter telescope is not expected to be finalized until Dec. 28, TMT is getting a headstart on a number of support buildings and community benefit projects.

On Monday in Hilo, the project management team hosted a supplier conference to review requirements for architectural concept studies for its headquarters and several other buildings. Representatives of more than 30 companies, consultants and suppliers attended the day-long meeting.

RFP online Friday

The Request for Proposal will be posted on the TMT Web site Friday, Oct. 2, with submissions due Friday, Oct. 16 and contracts expected by the end of November.

TMT project leaders stressed that they are seeking professionals who with familiarity and experience in delivering locally appropriate design and architectural solutions for a Hilo setting and who will work with sub-contractors.

“We’re moving toward site specific designs,” said Gary Sanders, TMT project manager. “We’re beginning to make choices.”

Although the final site for the Hilo headquarters and the summit access road still must be settled, the board and project management team are reviewing the budget and determining the scope of each component within the budget.

Construction is expected to begin in 2011 and be complete in 2018. The bulk of the support facility construction likely will scheduled between 2012 and 2015.

Multiple studies may be funded at this time, TMT project planners said. They are not necessarily looking for the low bid, but the best value for TMT. 

But first …

Currently, TMT’s is seeking concept studies that may include some or all of the following work:

* Architectural and engineering services that initiate design studies that ultimately may lead to the preparation of construction documents, assistance in the bidding and awarding of a construction contract, and construction administration of an approximately 30,000-square-foot headquarters building within the University of Hawaii’s technology park in Hilo. Four sites currently are under review.

The headquarters building will include offices for 120 staff, electronics, optics laboratories, mechanical laboratories, telescope control room and computer & IT spaces.

Construction is slated to begin in 2014.

* Conceptual design and cost estimate for dormitory, kitchen, dining and recreation facilities located at Hale Pohaku on Mauna Kea to house approximately 50 people during the construction phase.

This building then will be turned over to UH for future use.

* Conceptual design and cost estimate for an expansion of the Visitor Information Station.

The plan includes adding outdoor concrete slabs and indoor storage space for small telescopes; expanding the educational display area, gift shop and parking. Also in the plans are a theater and additional parking.

Hale Pohaku

The final element on the immediate agenda is conceptual design and cost estimate for the renovation of historical stone buildings at Hale Pohaku as a cultural interpretive center.

Hale Pohaku’s stone buildings originally housed workers for a federal fence-building project in the 1940s, said Ron Koehler, of the Mauna Kea Support Services.

The cabins later were turned over to the state, which used them Boy Scout outings and camping trips, and eventually came under UH control in the mid-1960s.

They have been used for storage – or not used at all – for more than two decades.

Koehler said the stone walls are in good shape, but the roofing and wooden supports need work.

TMT’s plan is to keep the same footprint and restore the stone cabins to their original condition.


The core technology of TMT will be a 30-meter primary mirror composed of 492 segments. This will give TMT nine times the collecting area of today’s largest optical telescopes.

The actual telescope dome will be 46 meters high and 66 meters across. Plans include a reflective paint or coating, which will have the least visual impact and is similar to existing telescopes atop Mauna Kea.

Sanders said TMT is developing the mirror and associated technologies, studying various glass types and learning the best way to polish the surface.

Before construction can begin on Mauna Kea, the TMT must submit and have approved an application for a Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) to the Hawaiian Department of Land and Natural Resources. This will be done through the community-based Office of Mauna Kea Management, which oversees the Mauna Kea summit as part of the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

In response to possible lawsuits opposing the project, Sanders said he welcomes the opportunity to ensure to hammer out any concerns or issues.

“That’s part of the process. We welcome public participation,” he said. “We live in a democracy and that’s just part of it.”

The TMT project has completed its $77 million design development phase with primary financial support of $50 million from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and $22 million from Canada. The project has now entered the early construction phase thanks to an additional $200 million pledge from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. 

Caltech and the University of California have agreed to raise matching funds of $50 million to bring the construction total to $300 million, and the Canadian partners propose to supply the enclosure, the telescope structure, and the first light adaptive optics.

TMT also is fielding interest from such countries as Japan, China and India.

— Find out more:

TMT Observatory Corp.:

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Oct 20, 2017 / 5:15 pm