Government Case Study: Hilltop Heritage - Facility Executive Magazine - Creating Intelligent Buildings

The Virginia State Capitol Building was repaired and updated while its 200+ year history was preserved.
The Virginia State Capitol Building was repaired and updated while its 200+ year history was preserved.

Government Case Study: Hilltop Heritage

Government Case Study: Hilltop Heritage - Facility Executive Magazine - Creating Intelligent Buildings

By Anne Cosgrove
Published in the April 2010 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

government facility management historic renovation constructionCompleted in 1788, the Virginia State Capitol Building in the city of Richmond is home to the oldest state legislative assembly in the western hemisphere. The building, currently on the nomination list to be a World Heritage site, was designed by Thomas Jefferson and is a source of pride to Virginians.

In 2003, members of the Virginia legislature approved $86 million in funding for the restoration and renovation of the Capitol, as well as to build an extension to house a Visitor’s Center. The Capitol was in serious need of a renovation, since the 90,000 square foot facility had not undergone a major alteration since 1906 (when two wings were added on either side of the original structure). Beyond that, the structures that connected each wing to the building were expanded in 1964, and a mechanical system was upgraded. (The 2004 photo below shows the Capitol before the renovation was begun; the Visitor’s Center now occupies the hillside shown here.)government facility management historic renovation construction

Both function and historic preservation were leading motivators in the decision to fund the renovation. As Richard Sliwoski, P.E., director of the Virginia Department of General Services (DGS), explains, “Cosmetically, the building was in perfect shape, but behind the scenes, we were having trouble.”

He cites several examples: “The problems we faced included electrical boxes manufactured by a company long out of business (which made repair parts very expensive); plumbing pipes breaking on a regular basis; and five different HVAC systems throughout the building, but still no cooling on the third floor (we had to use window units for air conditioning). And in some places in the building, there were no light switches; we’d have to turn off an entire circuit to turn off a light.”

Another major issue was water infiltration. The Capitol’s original design played a part—an antiquated drainage system did not move stormwater away quickly enough—and this enabled water to penetrate the brick foundation and inner walls. Additionally, during the 1980s, an unsuitable stucco product was applied. Sliwoski explains, “They put the wrong type of stucco on the building—a Portland cement based material as opposed to a lime based product. To make it last, they applied a tenemic coating. The building couldn’t breathe, and when water got inside, it stayed there.”

The result in the ensuing years was mold growth, along with plaster popping off the walls due to the excess moisture.

Setting The Stage

In order to create unfettered access for contractors to the Capitol, members and staff of the legislature moved to the Patrick Henry Building, formerly the Library of Virginia and located nearby within the Capitol Complex (a 12 acre area containing public grounds and buildings). The library had been renovated in anticipation of the Capitol project, and members of the legislature moved in April 2005.government facility management historic renovation construction

“The library contains huge reading rooms,” says Sliwoski. “So we moved the legislature into each one of the reading rooms for two of their sessions.”

Exterior work began even before the legislature moved out. Metal roofing was applied to areas requiring a historic appearance, and EPDM was applied to other portions. Along with major changes to the gutter system, this addressed the facility’s water penetration issues.

Commenting on project management, Sliwoski says, “We formed an oversight committee that included the Clerk of the House, the Clerk of the Senate, the Secretary of Administration, and myself. We met weekly with the architect and contractor to discuss upcoming issues and identify any unforeseen conditions. We needed to ensure we maintained the schedule.”

The project was slated to be complete by April 2007 in time for two important events—the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown Settlement and a visit from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in May.

Sliwoski’s in-house team leaders also included several DGS division of engineering and buildings employees: Bert Jones, director; Anthony Griffin, deputy of maintenance and operations; and Trev Crider, project manager.

Capitol Improvements

From the facility management standpoint, improvements involved replacement of all major building systems. These included mechanical, plumbing, HVAC, fire, lighting, and stormwater equipment. And while the Capitol had been operating with an automated building management system, the team took the opportunity to begin upgrading to a Web based system. government facility management historic renovation construction

Uniting old and new created some challenges. HVAC ductwork for horizontal distribution could not be placed overhead (removing ceilings would mar the building’s history). Ultimately, raised access flooring was used to sit atop the HVAC equipment, and existing floors were excavated 4′ down to achieve this.

For vertical distribution, the team capitalized on existing assets. Sliwoski explains, “The issue then became, ‘How do you go through 8′ to 12′ of brick [the wall thickness] for vertical distribution?’ We looked at old pictures and found 12 chimneys we could use as the bases for vertical chases throughout the building.”

Best Face Forward

government facility management historic renovation constructionAnother project piece was a 27,000 square foot underground extension. This space houses a new Visitor’s Center with exhibits and a gift shop. It also contains two meeting rooms for the legislature; a tunnel to house some HVAC equipment; and a press room and cafeteria.

Discussing the placement and design of the extension, Sliwoski explains, “We looked on all sides of the Capitol. Our architect told us, ‘Let the building speak to you.’ The extension had to be sympathetic to the grounds and the Capitol, and we went back to Greek architecture and the Parthenon. [Thomas] Jefferson described [the Capitol] as a ‘temple to liberty on the hill.’ So the outdoor entrance of the extension mimics a minor temple at the base of the hill.”

A Chat With Richard F. Sliwoski, P.E., director, Virginia Department of General Services

Richard F. Sliwoski, P.E., director, Virginia Department of General Services

What are your responsibilities at the Virginia Department of General Services? With about 670 people and a budget of $213 million, the DGS provides a wide range of services. Among my responsibilities, I manage all real estate for the state. I am the building code official for all facilities built on state property. We oversee the construction procurement contracts in the law for that. I’m in charge of all purchasing, for which we use eVA, an electronic procurement system.

How long have you been in the buildings and construction profession? For 20 years. I was appointed to my current position in 2006 by [then] Governor Kaine.

What challenges do you encounter in your work? One of the challenges in the public sector is if you’re not in higher education, you’re viewed as a building for bureaucrats. Getting money can be difficult. So you’ve got to build a solid business case for the need to invest into your buildings.

What are you working on now? We have about $90 million to build new buildings or purchase and renovate. We’ve found it’s cheaper in this market to purchase and renovate. This allows us to move people out of leased space. Our rule of thumb is if you’re going to be around for more than 12 years, it makes more sense to be in owned, rather than leased space.

In excavating the hill under which the extension would be built, great care was taken so the Capitol building would not be disturbed. Vibration sensors were installed in the worksite, and these were monitored to ensure any shifting remained within acceptable parameters.

The extension also provided space to site some mechanical equipment. And it was built to meet ADA compliance. Addressing stormwater, the excavation created the opportunity to install a 132,000 gallon tank underground that captures water and slowly releases it to the municipal stormwater system.

The extension also improved security by creating a central entry point for visitors. Prior to 9/11, Capitol doors were open, but afterwards, these were locked and access was very limited. Meanwhile, a camera system was added, and the doors were equipped with card reader access.

House Of The People

The project was completed on schedule in April 2007, in time for the 400th anniversary celebration of the Jamestown settlement and the Queen’s visit. And while those high profile events were in the team’s sights throughout, Sliwoski observes the project brought many parties together with a common goal. “It created a bond between the House, the Senate, and the DGS,” he explains. “Everyone focused on what was best for the building, because it is one of the treasures of Virginia.”

He continues, “The best part was when the Queen visited. The Governor provided me the two largest rooms in the building to invite whomever we wanted. We filled those rooms with the tradespeople who had worked on the project, and they were able to see the Queen. It was great to acknowledge their hard work.”

This article was based on an interview with Sliwoski, along with Crider, Griffin, and Jones. To take a virtual tour, visit

To share your new construction or renovation project, e-mail [email protected]. Past Case Study articles can be found here.


Project Information:


Name Of Facility: Virginia State Capitol Building. Location: Richmond, VA. Function of Facility: Government. Type of Project: Renovation and new construction. Facility Owner: Commonwealth of Virginia. In-House Facility Management: Richard F. Sliwoski, P.E., director, VA Department of General Services (DGS); Anthony Griffin, deputy of maintenance & operation services, DGS; Trev Crider, project manager, DGS; Bert Jones, director, division of engineering and buildings, DGS. Construction Timetable: May 2005 through April 2007. Square Footage: 89,978 (renovation); 27,120 (new construction). Construction Budget: $86,179,000. Cost per square foot: $735.95. Architect: The Hillier Group. General Contractor/Construction Manager: Gilbane Christman Company. Electrical/Mechanical Engineer: Joseph R. Loring & Associates Inc. Structural Engineer: Robert Silman Associates, PLLC. Interior Designer: LCA Associates. Lighting Designer: Gary Steffy Lighting Design, Inc. Other Consultants: BCWH; Chewning and Wilmer; Draper Aden Associates; GB Geotechnics Limited; Louis Berger Group; Schirmer Engineering Corporation; The Whitlock Group; URS Corporation; Waveguide Consulting Inc.; Welsh Color and Conservation, Inc.; Woodburn & Associates.


Product Information:


Carpet: Desso; Durkan; Lees; Shaw. Ceilings: Armstrong; Fellert Ecoustic USA; USG. Acoustics/Sound Masking: Fellert Ecoustic USA. Movable Walls: DIRTT Environmental Solutions. Building Management System: Siemens; Tridium. Security System Components: Johnson Controls. Fire Alarm Components: Concealite; Croker; Kennedy Valve; Nibco; SimplexGrinnell; System Sensor; Tyco; VESDA; Victaulic; Viking; Wheelock. Lighting Products: Lutron (controls system); Crenshaw Lighting (historic light fixtures). HVAC Equipment: Ajax Boiler, Inc.; Bell & Gossett; Carrier; Greenheck; Innovent; Neptronic; Trane. Power Supply Equipment: Square D by Schneider Electric. Roofing: Follansbee; Henry; Laurenco Systems, Inc. Elevators/Escalators: ThyssenKrupp Elevator.

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