Marine studies and tsunami safety

The OSU Marine Sciences Building is set to open in February of 2020, and it will serve as a research center, educational facility and tsunami refuge for the surrounding community. (Photo by Stephanie Blair)

New Hatfield facility to open February 2020

The Oregon State University Marine Studies Building is on the rise. Though there’s still much to be done before scientists, artists and students can start wandering the halls, the $61.7 million facility is set to be open in February of 2020.

A three-story academic and research center and a two-story wing make up the two-part structure. The 72,000-square foot building houses graduate research areas, offices, computational labs, classrooms, a community area, a coffee shop and an auditorium that will seat over 300 people — as well as artistic “creator spaces.”

“Science is becoming collaborative between disciplines,” said Mark Farley, strategic initiatives manager at Hatfield Marine Science Center, “and so an artist studio mingled in with science sounds kind of crazy, but a lot of amazing collaborative inspiration occurs when you bring different disciplines together. There is no just one way of thinking about a problem, and so we’re really exploring and committing to that kind of blended problem solving environment.”

Another way this learning center goes above and beyond: it’s a vertical evacuation site for the South Beach area. Passersby may notice that the frame and exterior walls are up, and the interior is coming together — and so is the massive ramp that leads up and over the auditorium to the tsunami evacuation area on the roof.

Atop the 47-foot structure sits a vertical evacuation site designed to serve more than 900 people. The building itself is designed to withstand a 9.0 earthquake and remain structurally sound, and repairable in the event of an L-level tsunami — both of which are predicted to happen in the instance of a Cascadia event.

The state-of-the-art technology that will keep the building standing isn’t visible to the public, however — it’s underground. Using deep-soil mixing, the building goes more than twice as deep into the ground as it does high into the air. Going 100 feet down, there are 250 panels of cement grout under the building to aid with differential settlement and seismic stability. This could save lives as it allows people to not only get out, but get up.

The rooftop area is designed to be a safe place for people to gather after an earthquake, out of the way of a possible tsunami. Though there are several horizontal paths for people to take out of the inundation zone, this vertical evacuation will allow those who cannot walk those paths to get to safety until they can be transported safely out of the inundation zone. Currently, Hatfield staff plan to take those on the roof to Oregon Coast Community College once it has been deemed safe to move out of that evacuation space.

The project’s progress can be tracked online — including by eye, with the live webcam — at


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