CVC Watch

Posted November 12, 2007 at 6:36pm

Architect of the Capitol officials for months have talked about their plans to run extensive fire- and life-safety tests at the Capitol Visitor Center, perhaps the biggest hurdle that remains before the long-awaited facility can open to the public. [IMGCAP(1)]

AOC officials now appear focused on getting those tests under way. Responses are due today to the agency’s request for proposals from qualified firms to conduct the complicated range of life-safety tests.

There is a slew of different components that must be tested, from the fire alarms to the interfacing of the building’s various safety systems. Communications, security and electric systems within the CVC also must be inspected.

The entire process is expected to take months. AOC Fire Marshal Kenneth Lauziere told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch in September that officials plan to run two shifts of tests, so that if problems are encountered, the overall process can still move ahead.

The testing process might be complicated, but it is a necessary task — the inspections must be completed before the building can be issued a certificate of occupancy, needed to officially open the facility to the public.

CVC officials hope at least to receive a temporary certificate by summer 2008, allowing crews to stock gift shops, prepare the CVC restaurant and train staff in preparation for visitors.

Nearly a dozen firms visited the CVC site during a preproposal conference last week. To be considered for the project, the firms cannot have been involved with other aspects of the CVC, according to the request for proposal.

But firms can partner together to meet the staffing requirements necessary for the project, according to the request.

Whichever firm is picked actually will be the second set of experts testing the facility, as AOC officials are running their own series of tests.

Last week, technicians continued their efforts inspecting the facility’s audio-visual systems, while other crews remained busy testing and balancing the CVC’s mechanical systems.

Meanwhile, smaller interior spaces involving millwork, wall stone, floor stone, grout lines, painted surfaces, ceiling panels, plaster work, carpeting, doors and other finish materials also are being inspected.

And in the CVC restaurant, workers spent last week preparing for inspections, washing wall stone, dusting millwork, polishing bronze and buffing floors.

Only minimal construction work remains to be completed. At the September oversight hearing, acting Architect Stephen Ayers announced he expects the CVC to be substantially completed by Nov. 15.

Among the construction efforts set to keep crews busy this week: installing ceiling framework at the Gallery level in the East Front extension of the Capitol; putting in bronze cladding around door thresholds and window frames near the CVC entrance zone; and finishing installation of bronze handrails in the House stairwell atrium.

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The House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch is expected to meet Wednesday morning to hold its monthly oversight hearing, which was canceled in October because of a scheduling conflict.

Ayers is scheduled to testify, alongside CVC Project Executive Bernie Ungar, Capitol Police Chief Phillip Morse, CEO of CVC visitor services Terrie Rouse and Terrell Dorn, the director of physical infrastructure for the Government Accountability Office.