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State of Wisconsin Office Building Historical Renovation

Project Overview

The State of Wisconsin Office building located at 1 West Wilson Street in Madison, Wisconsin 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.

The Challenges

A key challenge of the renovation 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.

The site itself was also extremely constricted, situated as it was within an inner city urban environment. Exterior work had to be performed without disrupting the flow of the occupants and visiting public.

Lastly, lead paint was a significant issue. Project specifications called for the paint on the steel window frames to be blasted away with abrasives — a key element of the re-coating process. Of course safety protocols required all the blast media had to be recovered. This wasn’t a problem from the outside; however, because of many small fissures in the masonry, the blasting process was driving the lead debris into the interior of the building.

The Solutions

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.

For the cleaning of the masonry, four different processes and chemicals were tested to ensure they wouldn’t adversely affect any of the building’s granite or brick. Specialists conducted microscopic examinations during the process and ultimately concluded that only one of them was safe for use on the granite.

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. The engineers responded promptly to any issues with resolution plans. At the same time, a rapid-response material procurement plan was put into place. 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.

Constricted site problems were solved by reconstructing the entrance and rerouting pedestrian traffic in a new route from the building. Traffic was constantly monitored as the project progressed, and continually adjusted to avoid any hazardous conditions.

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.

The Results

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. Additionally:

  • The additional structural work was completed ahead of schedule on each elevation.
  • 40% of the original lintels were saved
  • The window closure system proved to be much less invasive to the internal environment. Very few occupants or furnishings needed to be relocated, which meant significantly less effort on the part of the occupants during the project.
  • None of the occupants needed to be relocated for the interior work.
  • The project was completed without any pedestrian or worker safety incidents.
  • The new lead paint removal process made the debris 100% recoverable.
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