State of Wisconsin
Office Building
Historical Renovation

The State of Wisconsin Office Building located at 1 West Wilson Street in Madison needed a major renovation. A concrete and steel building with three towers — the tallest 11 stories high — is a framed structure with a mass masonry wall system consisting of clay tile and brick backup clad primarily in Wisconsin granite and banded with scroll work.

The masonry had deteriorated and discolored significantly since the building was first put up in the 1930s. Multiple minor restorations had been conducted over the years with varying degrees of success. By 2012 the facade had deteriorated to the point that water and air were penetrating the interior surfaces of the building. Interior plaster and paint had become a continuous maintenance issue.

The project consisted primarily of exterior surface area restoration and cleaning — 208,800 square feet of it. It required comprehensive repair to all the building’s masonry joints including pointing of the granite, terracotta and brick, and complete sealant replacement. We also repaired many of the building’s ornamental steel window frames, spandrel panels, window sills, embedded steel supports, flashing and parapets.

A key challenge on the project was to execute the renovation while the building was occupied. Initial plans called for up to 100 of the building’s 1,200 occupants to be relocated at any given time. However once the work started more significant damage to the interior of the building was uncovered. Most of the marble window sills had cracked and deteriorated due to water infiltration. Also the inside of the building had been painted with a coating system that didn’t let moisture out of the walls — and that masked significant deterioration of interior wall plaster. All the extra interior work meant more inconvenience for the people who worked there.

Significant structural issues were also uncovered almost as soon as work began, especially on the higher elevations of the building. Decades of water infiltration had degraded the steel supporting the granite over the larger windows. It needed to be replaced, but large pieces of granite needed to be removed in the process. Complicating matters further, the work had to be completed before the core project began.

Next, the window closure plan that was originally envisioned — though excellent — required a significant amount of space within the office environment. In the end it was determined that it would involve too much relocating of furnishings and personnel. A new system needed to be designed.

Close collaboration with the owners and the users of a building is the key to any project’s success. Over the life of the project we were able to work closely with the owners and tenants to find innovative ways of responding to unexpected developments and remain on schedule through late shift work and close scheduling.

To tackle the interior and structural issues, additional crews were mobilized. Special teams were tasked with uncovering any issues that necessitated examination by structural engineers.  Where needed, additional scaffolding systems were installed to accommodate additional off-shift crews. Innovative and custom shoring, rigging, and hoisting equipment was custom-designed and installed to expedite the work and minimize cost.

Also to save cost, a survey and documentation process was created to determine which lintels needed to be replaced. Using tablets, photography and real-time video to speed investigation and communication, the team was able to assess the condition of each lintel, and save the ones that were still in good shape.

For the window closures, the owner and tenants worked with the contractors to devise new methods of enclosing the window openings during the refurbishments. To address the lead paint abatement issue, the architect, owner and contractors worked together to develop a new process that utilized a needle gun to remove the debris.

Overall the facade was returned to its former glory, and once again exhibits the bright appearance on the landscape that it once did, especially as you approach the State Capitol from the south on John Nolen Drive.

"Throughout my 30 year career in managing projects for the State of Wisconsin, the 1 W. Wilson restoration project has been the best job I have had the opportunity to work on. JP Cullen has been prepared and knowledgeable throughout the entire project."

Owen Landsverk
Project Manager , 
Wisconsin Department of Administration