Every single step, it seems, presented a challenge when it came to reroofing the California State Capitol building in Sacramento — scheduling, security, and maybe the most maddening challenge of all, surprises.
“Everything that you do there is a challenge,” says Marilyn Nelson, project manager with the state’s department of general services. “Every day, it was something new. Every time we tore something off, it was new and exciting. I can’t begin to tell you all the things. We would pull off a roof, and the way it was framed below there, you couldn’t put a new roof over. We’d have to bring in structural steel and rebuild things. It was a daily challenge to make sure we were doing everything correctly.”
Throw in the chaos created by the building’s 3,000 occupants — including a state legislature and its committees in and out of meetings — as well as 750,000 visitors annually, and the entire process might even seem overwhelming.
For all its challenges and surprises, one main goal of the reroofing project on the California state capitol building focused on a problem every maintenance and engineering manager knows all too well — leaks.
“It was leaking profusely,” says John Manning, the building’s chief engineer, referring to the 98,000-square-foot surface that included several types of roofing systems and nearly 30 different sections — some sloped, others flat.
“There are actually two buildings that comprise the current state capitol,” Manning says. “The first completed construction in 1869. Then in the late 1940s, a second building was built directly next to it, so it becomes one building. That finished construction in 1951.”
“The roof had been on the capitol for more than 20 years, and there were leakage problems, and it was at the end of its life, ”Nelson says. “When we replaced it, there were several roofing systems down below it, and we had some hazmat issues. We had to do all the demolition at night, and we reroofed it during the day. Because it is such a large roof, we had to do it in sections and phases.”
The new roof is a PVC system with 10-foot-wide panels.
“We chose it because it was long-lasting and durable,” Nelson says. “As you can imagine, you don’t want to reroof this capitol very often. It also had a decent solar-reflective index. And it has fewer seams because of the 10-foot-wide panels.”
The specification of the new roof, as well as setting the project’s timetable, came after many discussions with a range of interested parties.
“We worked with the Senate and House representatives on what type of roof they wanted to see,” Nelson says. “We then took that back through our architectural company and consultant, and the chief engineer was involved as we were going through this. We worked with the Joint Rules Committee, and they have a representative from both the House and the Senate. They each have their own concerns.
“When you’re reroofing a building such as the capitol, the occupants are of the utmost importance. For example, if you had a legislative hearing going on, we’d have to stop work on a moment’s notice, then pick it up again later. We also were working both day and night.”
The capitol’s activities became a recurring hurdle to managers and crews working on the project.
“Every time there was a legislative meeting on a floor right below us, we would be called to cease and desist,” Nelson says. “So we’d have to stop immediately and pick it up whenever the meeting was over. That could be two hours later or the next day.” Because the capitol is a historic building, the project also needed the blessing of the state’s office of historic preservation.
“We had to present any changes that we wanted to make to the structure and get approval,” Manning says.
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