Editor’s Note: We recently asked Trait Thompson, State Capitol Project Manager to provide an update on the Capitol’s renovation process. His update and relevant links can be found below.
Oklahoma Capitol Restoration: Addressing the Building’s Exterior
Before the interior of the Capitol is repaired and restored, the leaking, crumbling exterior has to be addressed. Without properly repairing the exterior, the state risks setting itself up for failure on the interior. Recognizing this fact, exterior trial repairs are now underway and are a major priority of the Capitol Restoration Project.
Within the past few weeks, the people of Oklahoma have been able to see tangible evidence of progress on the Capitol exterior. At the end of May, construction workers began building elaborate scaffolding structures at three key areas on the south façade of the building. The scaffolding will allow architects, engineers, and specialists access to previously unreachable areas of the building and enable them to engage the exterior in trial repairs.
The reason for the trial repairs is simple: we want to test various methods for dealing with the problems on the exterior of the building such as bond line failure at the mortar joints, cracked and damaged stone, rusted mild steel stone anchors, excessive staining, and degraded windows. In the past, the state’s sporadic efforts to address some of these recurring issues have briefly alleviated the problem, only to have detrimental long-term effects. By utilizing the trial repair process, we will be able to gauge the effectiveness of each repair method and study how the building reacts to it. The ultimate goal is to shore up the exterior façade and reverse the damage caused by years of moisture infiltration.
During the trial repair process, the exterior construction team will also be performing additional exploration and discovery work on other key elements of the building. One of the biggest surprises resulting from investigative work performed last fall was the inadequate anchoring of the walls at the top perimeter of the building, known as the parapet. The team expected to find steel anchors consistently through the parapet, but inspection openings and metal detectors revealed otherwise. Over the next few months, our design-build partner, JE Dunn Construction, will work to determine the best way to properly anchor the parapet to the building.
The light well walls present challenges as well. The report fromWJE Associates recommended they be torn out and rebuilt due to their poor condition. Light wells are architectural features designed to allow light into the basement windows. In some cases, the light wells may be reconfigured for integration with other aspects of the building’s master plan. Other state capitol restoration projects have utilized creative approaches to dealing with light wells such as the addition of skylights. Ongoing design work will ultimately lend itself to a thoughtful solution.
The exterior repair of the Capitol is critical to its long-term viability. Great care will be taken to ensure the safety of visitors to the People’s House for years to come. Each member of the project team recognizes the importance of this critical project and relishes the opportunity to be a part of this historic endeavor.
Learn more about the Capitol Restoration Project: