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Feb. 3, 2012

Groundbreaking Ceremony for the UH Information Technology Center

Event coverage in UH News

Aloha kakou.

This is a day we’ve all been looking forward to for quite some time. The only moment I can imagine that would surpass today’s excitement is when we’re all back here for the grand opening celebration of what will be an amazing facility.

I was not here in October 2004 when unprecedented rainfall and a flash flood topped the banks of the Manoa Stream and flood waters tore across the Manoa campus. It left an unbelievable disaster in its wake and caused millions of dollars in damage all over campus. Though I wasn’t here, I have seen the images of the heartbreaking destruction of priceless historical documents and computers with years of research data. Then UH President David McClain called it “a scene of complete devastation.” It was fortunate that half the campus still had power to support the recovery efforts.

Just over 7 years has passed since the infamous Halloween eve flood, and it’s hard to imagine that scene of complete devastation when you look today at buildings like Hamilton Library. The lessons learned from that experience, however, have stayed with us and will continue to serve the university well into the future.

It’s those lessons and our goals to provide a 21st-century learning and research environment for our students, faculty and staff that have inspired the building that will be constructed on this site—the University of Hawai‘i Information Technology Center.

I’m sure not too many people outside of those of us here today are aware that the University of Hawai‘i currently houses the data center that provides internet access not only for all UH campuses statewide, but also for our Hawai‘i state government, including State Civil Defense.

With our computing center located on the ground floor, mud from the 2004 flood approached to within just yards of the university’s primary technology infrastructure and the main data center was without power. The impact on the State of Hawai‘i could’ve been tremendous had flooding forced that mud any further.

With this new Information Technology Center, we will have much less to worry about. Mission critical system and network connections will be above ground level with full generator backup in a dedicated state-of-the-art and energy-efficient data center. The center will also feature the university’s first emergency situation room, providing space with available power and communications suitable for UH administrators and emergency personnel to manage disasters and other crisis situations.

Our Hawai‘i Graduation Initiative focuses on access, affordability and student success. We are well on our way to reaching our goal of increasing the number of college graduates by 25 percent by the year 2015. Our distance learning programs and online course offerings are an important part of this initiative, and this new center will provide the services to support this modern teaching effort. We will have facilities to support our faculty and staff in producing engaging digital media for education and research.

The center will also provide access to advanced teleconferencing and collaboration environments for members of the UH community to work with colleagues and peers statewide, as well as across the country and around the world. Our researchers collaborate every day with team members around the world on groundbreaking projects and experiments. Enhanced connections will support our efforts to inspire innovation and build the university’s research enterprise to become a key economic engine for the state.

Sustainability is and will be a large theme of our efforts moving forward, and this facility will support our efforts. By consolidating our IT systems which are currently scattered throughout various buildings on campus, into one facility specifically designed to support these systems in an efficient manner, we will achieve substantial gains in energy efficiency for IT, which is a growing source of demand for power as we do more and more with technology. And the building has been designed to support LEED certification, rare for a building with a data center.

So, as you can see, we have big plans for this building. It will be much more than just an IT center. Yes, it will provide our IT staff with a new home that includes daylighting, air conditioniong that works and collaborative workspaces. And yes, it will house our computers, equipment and servers securely and efficiently. But the point of this all is to ensure a sound foundation for our mission-focused efforts and move us a giant step forward in our quest to exemplify a 21st-century university with excellent facilities.

We are extremely grateful to everyone who has supported this effort and helped us get to today. The Manoa flood taught us a hard lesson in vulnerability and preparedness. But, we also learned that the University of Hawai‘i is very resilient. We’ve imagined a building like this for our university for many years, and with the support of many UH administrators, Regents and legislators over many years, today we’re seeing that resiliency pay off.