AOC: House in Very Bad Shape

Posted May 5, 2009 at 6:33pm

The House of Representatives is falling apart and will continue to do so unless Congress appropriates $1.4 billion to the Architect of the Capitol to repair it, a top AOC official said Tuesday.

Acting Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers will go before the House Administration Committee today to plead the case for funding for repairs in fiscal 2010.

Necessary renovations include replacing the Cannon House Office Building’s cracked and chipped windows, which are original to the 1908 structure; repairing some of the buildings’ air conditioning units and fixing several leaks and areas of the buildings that have suffered from water damage.

William Weidemeyer, House office buildings superintendent, led a media tour Tuesday that highlighted some of the wear and tear that the historic structures have suffered.

“This is a critical situation if left untreated,— Weidemeyer said as he led a group through the East House Underground Garage, pointing out patches of floor and ceiling that have worn away.

The ceiling in the garage is corroding, and water from the Spirit of Justice Park above the garage is leaking into the space.

On rainy and snowy days, water drips off of the about 700 cars that park in the garage, causing the concrete to flake and wear away to the point that some of the metal framework is exposed.

In some cases, the holes that result from corroding have been patched up with cement. The renovation to the East House Underground Garage will take about two years once the funding is approved, Weidemeyer said.

Prior to a 2003 renovation, the Cannon garage suffered from similar damage. The concrete overlay became so bad that at one point a Member’s car got stuck in a hole in the ground.

The garage was eventually repaired, and new ventilation and lighting systems were added, as well new sprinklers and drains.

Weidemeyer said the AOC’s office would like to do a similar renovation on the East House Underground Garage.

“With proper maintenance, we believe it’ll be a 50-year life span,— Weidemeyer said of the garage renovation.

In addition to corrosion, leaks are also prevalent in the House office buildings. Many of the structure’s interior downspouts, used for drainage, are old and ineffective.

As a result, they are leaking and causing plaster in Member offices to bubble. In one such instance, the AOC had to repair the wall in the office, a project that took four weeks to complete.

“It’s really ugly construction,— Weidemeyer said, adding that it disrupts the office staff.

Ayers and Terrell Dorn, director of physical infrastructure issues at the Government Accountability Office, will testify this morning about these issues and other necessary renovations.

While $1.4 billion is a large sum, Weidemeyer said he was confident that the money will be appropriated.

“Congress has been very supportive,— he said. “Most of the feedback has been positive.—