CAO to Shine New Lights on Capitol Dome

Posted October 24, 2007 at 6:41pm

Congressional officials are looking to light the Capitol Dome in green.

Well, sort of.

House Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard has put out a solicitation request to vendors asking for design proposals that would modernize the Dome’s outdated lighting system. Officials are seeking designs that would enhance the exterior and architecture of the Capitol at night while also incorporating energy-saving lighting designs and sustainability.

The design also must take into account the historical elements of the Capitol, according to the solicitation request.

“The Dome really is known the world over as the symbol of democracy,” said Grant Scherling, executive director of the CAO’s Green the Capitol office. “We thought, ‘What a great opportunity to show leadership in the area of greening.’”

Solicitation submissions are due to the CAO’s office by Nov. 19, and officials aren’t yet sure how much the project will cost. While they hope to begin actual work sometime early next year, that depends on what happens with the legislative branch appropriations bill, Scherling said.

Changing the way the Capitol complex is lit is a key component of the Green the Capitol Initiative report, which Beard presented to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) earlier this year. About 43 percent of all carbon emissions generated from the complex come from electricity use, the report notes.

To help the House become carbon-neutral, the report recommends officials install energy-efficient lighting throughout the complex and evaluate “exterior building lighting to reduce energy use.”

The renovation of the Dome’s lighting system should meet or exceed industry energy goals and standards, the solicitation reads. Light pollution and sky glow reduction of the lighting of the exterior part of the Dome also must be evaluated.

At the same time, the lighting of the Dome must “create a distinct nighttime profile” of the Capitol that “celebrates its unique identity and elevates the ‘sense of place,’” the solicitation reads. Architectural features of the Capitol should be enhanced while minimizing wasted light, and strategies should be developed to “enliven the visual experience of all those who view the U.S. Capitol,” according to the solicitation.

Redoing the lighting system is an exciting prospect for greening officials, Scherling said. After all, the Capitol reaches higher into the sky than any other building in D.C. after the Washington Monument.

“When we look at the light scape of the city, the Dome is really important,” Scherling said.

The solicitation also lists specific guidelines for lighting the Dome, including developing specific areas of illumination to enhance the Capitol at dusk, night and dawn; defining specific color ranges and palettes; defining acceptable ranges of brightness; and describing the size and degree of light source concealment.

Vendors also should address strategies to minimize the impacts of glare on nearby buildings, energy-efficient light source technology, design innovation and standards, according to the solicitation.

The Architect of the Capitol is in charge of overseeing the preservation of the Dome and, according to the solicitation, would take part in the lighting project. An AOC spokeswoman declined to comment on Wednesday.

“We do not discuss the lighting of the Dome for security reasons,” said spokeswoman Eva Malecki.

Other lighting recommendations in the Green the Capitol report include retrofitting ceiling lamps, fixtures and controls to increase energy efficiency; installing and maintaining motion-activated lighting controls in offices, hearing rooms and other parts of the complex; replacing lamps with energy-efficient bulbs; and conducting a high-efficiency ceiling lighting pilot program.