` Erie Federal Courthouse Complex | WDP & Associates

Erie Federal Courthouse Complex

As part of our A/E Services and Historic Building Envelope Repair Design, WDP performed a comprehensive on-site survey and investigation at the GSA Federal Complex in Erie, Pennsylvania, to document relevant dimensions for the development of repair drawings and to assess existing conditions and known façade and building enclosure issues with three of the four buildings at the complex, all of which are listed on the National Register for Historic Places. The investigation also included diagnostic water testing to identify potential sources of interior infiltration, exploratory probe openings to investigate underlying construction, materials sampling and laboratory testing, and other methods, such as infrared thermography and the installation of interstitial temperature and relative humidity dataloggers at various depths through select exterior walls.  

Due to the historic nature of the buildings, a hazardous materials assessment was conducted with the support of a subconsultant to sample suspect materials at all locations of anticipated work. Materials containing both lead and asbestos were located, and specifications were developed for the repair design programs to regulate work near hazardous materials and abatement, if required.

Based on the results of the investigation, WDP developed a scope of work and cost estimates for the repairs to address problematic conditions. Working closely with the GSA, a phasing program was developed with multiple bid packages to prioritize critical repairs without sacrificing construction efficiency. Construction bid drawings and extensive project-specific technical specifications were developed for the repair design. 

The primary goals of the various repair programs included:

  • Addressing life safety concerns associated with deflected skylight support structure and unstable masonry façade elements 
  • Reconstituting the integrity of mass masonry assemblies to limit pathways for moisture infiltration that have the potential to lead to accelerated deterioration
  • Improving energy performance and occupant comfort through window replacement with improved thermal performance
  • Developing construction phasing and temporary control requirements to maintain full occupancy of secure courthouse facilities
  • Executing repairs in accordance with historic preservation standards

Repairs to deteriorated masonry facades included selective limestone patching and crack repairs, brick crack repairs, lintel replacement, bluestone parapet coping replacement, soapstone spandrel repair, slate sill replacement, and complete repointing for limestone and brick facades. Through our extensive experience investigating and repairing building enclosures ranging from historic mass masonry to modern cavity wall construction, we are intimately familiar with the water management mechanisms of each category of construction. Repairs and alterations to mass masonry and concrete barrier systems must always account for the presence of moisture stored within the exterior portions of the material. WDP recognizes the need to respect the original water management strategies, and our staff are adept at performing building science analysis and WUFI modeling to verify a repair assembly has the potential to lead to long-term durability problems. The vapor permeability of masonry patch materials, coatings, and even repointing mortar were carefully evaluated for design to permit assemblies to continue to dry to the exterior so as not to accumulate moisture. 

A complete window replacement program was designed to upgrade existing steel window systems including iconic multi-story fenestrations with thermally broken aluminum systems and insulated glazing. Because of the historic nature of the facilities, it was necessary to replicate the intricate decorative elements of the existing windows. Typically, replication of a window system with this level of detail requires a very costly, fully-custom window system. WDP was able to work closely with the window manufacturer to save cost by identifying a stock hung window system that could be adapted with the use of custom panning, simulated muntins, and unique jamb inserts to substantially replicate the critical features of the historic windows. As an important component of the repair program, extensive prototyping and preconstruction testing were performed to verify the concept and to ensure the thermal performance of the window systems was sufficient to provide the required level of improvement for the extreme cold weather experienced in this climate zone. 

Another critical element of the repair program included a considerable amount of waterproofing. A robust, continuous waterproofing system was required to address the groundwater over-saturation of a rubble stone foundation and bulk water leakage through an improperly terminated existing waterproofing membrane at a reinforced concrete tunnel. Access for waterproofing required demolition and reconstruction of concrete toppings and masonry window wells at partially-below grade windows as well as a sloped excavation and shoring.