West Virginia State Capitol
Designed by Cass Gilbert, architect of the U.S. Supreme Court building, the West Virginia State Capitol Building was constructed in 1932 to replace a prior building destroyed by a fire. The historic Capitol Building is a steel-framed structure with brick masonry infill and limestone cladding capped with a 292-foot tall dome gilded with gold leafing. Since its completion, the dome had numerous water infiltration issues, which have resulted in significant damage to interior finishes that are difficult to access. In 2015, the State of West Virginia General Services Division issued an RFP seeking professional services to identify and investigate the source of moisture intrusion leading to damage within the upper rotunda of the dome and to recommend repairs. After competitive interviews, WDP was selected.
During the summer of 2016, WDP conducted a systematic three-week investigation of the dome and Capitol building utilizing visual observations, exploratory openings, and diagnostic water testing to ascertain the construction of the building envelope and to identify the path of infiltrating water. The most challenging aspect of this investigation was that the damage was occurring over 100 feet above the first floor level. WDP worked with Pullman, a restoration contractor with expertise in unique access requirements, to gain access to this location by installing a suspended scaffold system through the interior of the dome.
The main source of the water infiltration was found to be a result of improper flashing installation and deteriorated limestone mortar joints, along with failures in the internal water management systems, that allowed bulk water to penetrate through a mass masonry assembly to the interior. Many of these issues had been documented to date back to the time of original construction. WDP developed a comprehensive report summarizing the findings and recommended a tiered approach to address the issues that were found. This allowed the General Services Division to evaluate increasingly more comprehensive repairs and their associated costs to determine the scope of work that would provide the most value to the project. After coordination with the General Services Division, the State Historic Preservation Office, and the Capitol Building Commission, construction documents were developed that generally included the removal of limestone cladding elements to install through wall flashing and waterproofing systems, selective repointing of limestone mortar joints, replacement of internal plumbing and drainage elements to include portions of roofing elements, and restoration or replacement of interior ornamental and flat plaster finishes to include matching existing decorative paint. Through the investigation, WDP also identified structural failures that required retensioning of the cast plaster inner dome and replacement of interior walls with grouted and reinforced structural clay tile. WDP is currently providing Construction Administration services during the execution of the repairs.