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Government Goes Full Throttle

Mechanical rehabs, restorations and new construction supply much-needed jobs

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More than $1.1 billion worth of construction is under way on federal government buildings in the Midwest. The figure includes regularly scheduled projects as well as renovations funded by the federal Recovery Act.

  Returning to its original location, a half-ton panel of granite is moved precisely into place by workers at Chicago’s Federal Plaza.
Photo Courtesy Of GSA
Returning to its original location, a half-ton panel of granite is moved precisely into place by workers at Chicago’s Federal Plaza.
  After installing a new waterproofing underlayment, workers prepare to replace 950-lb. granite pavers as part of a total restoration of Chicago’s Federal Plaza.
Photo Courtesy Of GSA
After installing a new waterproofing underlayment, workers prepare to replace 950-lb. granite pavers as part of a total restoration of Chicago’s Federal Plaza.
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Through July, the General Services Administration had obligated more than $981 million for 120 stimulus projects in 51 cities throughout 10 Midwest states. About 70 of the projects are small-scale, often targeted to a specific part of a building’s HVAC system or to gathering data for reducing energy consumption. About 16 of the projects exceed $10 million, and a few surpass $100 million.

Kluczynski Federal Building

About 2,500 employees of 20 government agencies are scooting over to make way for the $93.4-million overhaul of all mechanical systems at the Kluczynski Federal Building. The demand for space is so great in Chicago that there’s no alternative swing space, according to J. David Hood, commissioner of GSA’s Public Buildings Service.

For the next year and a half, each of the 18 floors will be divided into six zones. One zone will be under construction while workers compress into the other five zones of the floor. Construction work will run 16 hours a day and move around to each zone in a clockwise fashion, shuffling tenants along the way.

“That effort requires intense coordination and detailed planning,” Hood says. “Our relationship with the building occupants is to keep them 100% operational.

“It’s the first time in the life of the 40-year-old building that we’ve had a chance to go in and modernize all the mechanical systems. Previously, due to a shortage of capital, we’ve done partial improvements.”

More than 4,000 fan coils in the heating and cooling units around the perimeter of the building will be replaced, as will 26 air-handling units. The project team includes Chicago-based firms OWP/P Canon Design and Pepper Construction.

Federal Plaza Restoration Downtown workers crisscross the vast granite plaza in front of the federal buildings at Adams and Dearborn streets in Chicago daily, and the plaza isn’t just a hardscape on ground. “There’s an enormous amount of space underneath,” Hood says.

A $25-million rehab of the 40-year-old plaza began in early summer and is slated to finish in February 2012.

“Mies van der Rohe designed the federal complex at a key point in his career, and it looks contemporary,” Hood says. “But there are aspects of it, in comparison to the technology we use today, that are primitive.

“The plaza is about the size of two football fields of dead flat construction. Throughout the decades, we’ve never had any slope to drain. Water sits and ultimately breaks through any type of barrier membrane systems.”

The result was a deterioration of the slab and damage to equipment systems underneath. Now, all 6,600 granite pavers, ranging in weight from 1,000 to 5,000 lbs, are being removed. A highly insulated, tapered waterproofing and drainage system is being installed, and “every paver is indexed, identified, numbered and set back in exactly the same place and orientation,” Hood adds.

“About 90% of the pavers are reusable, and we’re working with the original granite quarry in Cold Spring, Minn., to extract stones of similar color for any replacement stones.”

The insulation will have a 21 R-value, which is a 376% improvement. An electronic leak detection system under the plaza will also detect leaks for future maintenance.

To accelerate the project, the general contractor, Chicago-based Bergland Construction, is keeping three shifts per day at work. Chicago-based Ghafari Associates is the architect.

Dirksen Federal Courthouse

Although not a Recovery Act project, a $148-million renovation of the Mies van der Rohe-designed Everett M. Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago is focused on improving building performance in three ways – replacing a 50-year-old HVAC system, modernizing DDC monitoring and controls and installing an advanced lighting-control system.

Built in 1964, this 384-ft-tall skyscraper is one of the nation’s largest federal court buildings with 57 courtrooms. The project began in 2009 and is slated to be complete in October 2012. The architect/engineer is Chicago-based Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and Chicago-based Turner Construction Co. is the general contractor.


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