West Virginia State Capitol Dome Moisture Intrusion

West Virginia State Capitol Dome Moisture Intrusion

Originally constructed in 1932 to replace the prior building, which burned down in 1921, the West Virginia State 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 the time of its completion, the Dome has been plagued with 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 (GSD) 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, and WDP was selected after competitive interviews. WDP conducted a systematic, three-week-long 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. Due to the location of the damaged interior finishes requiring investigation, unique access was required for the investigation. A swing stage system was installed throughout the interior of the building and was used to make observations of damaged interior finishes near the top of the Dome. Due to the nature of the building, all personnel who worked on the investigation were required to go through a background check and receive badges that allowed access to areas of the Capitol that were not open to the public.

The main source of the water infiltration was found to be a result of improper flashing installation at roofing elements 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.  WDP developed a comprehensive report summarizing the findings and provided recommendations to address the issues that were found in a tiered approach for GSD consideration. This allowed the GSD 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 GSD, the State Historic Preservation Office, and the Capitol Building Commission, construction documents were developed that 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.  The building would remain fully occupied during the execution of the work, so the design included temporary interior construction barriers and evaluation of egress routes through the building to ensure building occupant safety was held paramount through the construction phase. Once access was provided to the inner dome during the construction phase, WDP identified structural failures that required retensioning of the cast plaster inner dome and replacement of interior walls with grouted and reinforced structural clay tile. This required a unique analysis of the coconut reinforced cast-plaster inner dome to develop repair strategies that structurally supported the inner dome, while following requirements for historic preservation. WDP provided construction administration services throughout the construction phase and was engaged in weekly site visits and progress meetings in order to be responsive to items uncovered on site and work through unique sequencing requirements to execute the repairs.

During the construction phase of the project, existing conditions unrelated to the Dome Moisture Intrusion were identified within the building that resulted in life-safety hazards to building occupants. Based on our previous work experience and professionalism, the GSD engaged WDP under emergency contracts to investigate, evaluate, and develop repair designs for each of these conditions.

Clay Tile Repair Project:  The interior partition walls of the Capitol building are constructed with unreinforced hollow clay tile spanning between floor levels.  The original design relies on the friction fit of the clay tile units between the floor levels to secure the walls in place.  However, moisture expansion within the clay tile caused failures at the top of the wall resulting in cracked clay tile units that compromised the security of the clay tile walls and created a fall hazard for building occupants. WDP performed a comprehensive visual survey of locations throughout the building constructed with clay tile units, identified spaces where clay tile was found to be compromised, and designed repairs to address each location.  These repairs ranged from the grouting of clay tile units, to installing partition anchors or saddle clips, to designing framing anchored to the surface of the clay tile to provide lateral support for the walls.  WDP provided bid assistance and construction administration services for the execution of this work.

  • Structural Investigation and Repair Design
  • Facade Investigation and Reapir Design
  • Historic Preservation
  • Bid Assistance
  • Construction Administration
  • Engineer of Record