By Joe Rosato
Reporter, NBC Bay Area
The dark, gray Warren Hall is a shell of itself. The windows are gone. The walls have been ripped away revealing cavernous rooms. The only vestiges of its once bustling life on the Cal State East Bay campus in Hayward are the elevator shafts darkening the core of the 13-story building.
In mid-August an engineer will flip a switch setting-off a series of explosive charges. The 1971 building will likely lurch and groan, and cascade into a dusty heap. Charles Dodge plans to watch it all from his front yard on a nearby hilltop overlooking the campus.
“Saw it go up and I’ll see it go down,” Dodge said.
Dodge grew up on the hill. His mother worked as an assistant to the university’s president during the years when Warren Hall was under construction.
“She could watch her house from her office,” Dodge said. “I have some fond memories when she was there.”
Dodge has an affinity for the memories. The building, however, that’s another story. So when the US Geological Survey approached Dodge about putting a small seismograph in his yard to record the force of the implosion, he was happy to oblige.
“I have a location that is a good view of the campus,” Dodge said, staring out from his hilltop toward Warren Hall. “If you want to put a device up here you’re welcome to it.”
The implosion of the hall, which was deemed seismically unsafe, presents a rare opportunity for scientists from the USGS. Volunteers have been fanning the surrounding areas of the campus seeking out homeowners willing to host one of 600 beer can-sized seismographs which will monitor and record the force of the implosion.
“This is rather unique,” said USGS scientist Rufus Catchings.”Having this many instruments in a very tight space really gives us a chance to really look at how seismic energy moves.”
The notorious Hayward fault is expected to yield the Bay Area’s next fearsome quake, and scientists say monitoring the collapsing building is about the equivalent of a controlled study of roughly a 2.0 earthquake along the fault. They plan to use the monitors to record how different soils, rocks and elevations react to the waves of the blast and collapse.
“That’s one of the things we want to see,” said Catchings. “That tells something about how it will shake during a real earthquake here in the hills.”
The implosion is scheduled for mid-August. University students are helping canvas neighborhoods lining-up sites for the seismographs.
“Here’s a building that served the community a long time,” said CSUEB geology professor Luther Strayer. “And in its death is basically doing it again by sort of imaging the area around there.”
The school plans to build a new building to replace the hall, but at a different location on campus. The culling of the large industrial behemoth will open Dodge’s view to the bay and beyond.
Dodge said the building will bring down more than four decades worth of memories -- like the times when the elevators would break-down and his mother would have to climb 12 flights of stairs to her office.
But for now, Dodge was less worried about nostalgia, and more concerned with securing a good spot to see the building come down.
“I hope we don’t get too much traffic when it happens,” he said.