Continuing its aggressive push in the realization of the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Plan (SIOP), Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) cut the ribbon on its renovated Building M-32 August 22.
The building, which dates back to 1905, has undergone a $30 million makeover which includes all new heating, ventilation and air conditioning, plumbing, electrical and fire suppression systems. It will also improve employee quality of life, with showers, a nursing mother’s room, kitchens and eating areas.
The building will house approximately 200 employees from multiple divisions in NNSY’s Nuclear Engineering and Planning Department and the Production Facility and Equipment Management Division.
“Improved facilities like this enable us to optimize the opportunities for our workforce to learn, to improve, to innovate, and to teach consistently, better positioning us to achieve excellence in repair and modernization of our nation’s ships and submarines,” said Shipyard Commander Captain Kai Torkelson at the ribboncutting. “Along with improved workplace functionality, we have a number of life safety and quality of life improvements for our high performing teams residing within this historic facility.”
The drive for renovation goes back to September 2014, when Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), Public Works Department Portsmouth was fielding multiple requests for Building M-32 repairs. After assessing the situation, the most sensible option was designating M-32 as a special project for a complete building renovation. Construction began in early 2017.
Reflecting on the renovation challenges, NAVFAC Construction Manager Dan Bischof said, “the biggest thing was working within the limits of the existing building—predetermined ceiling heights, structures and things like that. It took a lot of investigating the facility and coordinating with the occupants.”
Not only did the renovation need to meet the needs of the new occupants, it also had to adhere to the guidelines of the State Historic Preservation Office. Among the shipyard’s more unique structures, featuring rounded arches and two square towers, this four-story building provided home to Marines stationed at the shipyard for its first 70-plus years.
For all the modern improvements, Building M-32 also honors its history with a miniature museum of sorts displaying items uncovered during the building’s renovation. These include letters, magazines and Marine hygiene products such as razors and toothbrushes. “We even found a bullet from 1880,” said Bischof. “We then found a picture from the 1800s with the Marines with the gun in their hands that would fire that round. These items are displayed inside the building now, helping to tell the history of the facility.”
The building exterior is more aesthetically pleasing with fresh sod and newly planted trees, and even more importantly has what Bischof described as “environmentally friendly drainage” with a dry swale that filters rainwater prior to it entering the storm sewers.
Bill Dezern, M-32 Project Manager from NNSY’s Facilities Support Branch (Code 985), said, "This building is special to me because I worked in it before renovation, I am the project manager, and now I will be one of the lucky ones who can say I am now working in the finished product. To me, I feel like I am a part of its history. I am looking forward to going back into M-32 and seeing the changes, improved quality of life, and what it offers the shipyard in the near and far future.”
Another beneficiary of the renovation is NNSY’s Civilian Morale, Welfare and Recreation (CMWR). Later this year, CMWR will return to Building M-32 with a food service facility. Formerly known as The Brig, it will now feature a new menu, new layout and even a new name—The Gosport Café. The café will feature self-serving stations for breakfasts and lunches, such as omelet and panini stations, and an expanded menu with freshly baked breads, fruit, salads and possibly even sushi. “Having new equipment will allow us to provide offerings that younger workers like, while still providing the favorite foods like meatloaf and fried chicken that longtime shipyarders have come to expect,” said Cris Sigler, CMWR Business Operations Manager. “My vision is for the Gosport Café to look like a food court with improved ambience and lighting. It’s a new place with a whole new look.”
The Building M-32 ribboncutting caps off a summer of SIOP initiatives at the shipyard. In June, NNSY dedicated its new $9.9 million waterfront submarine maintenance facility, and in July broke ground or a new $64.7 million production training facility, which will consolidate training currently spread across 26 different locations at NNSY.