The Art and Science of Renovating and Restoring Historic Structures

Entrusted with the Nation’s Heritage: The Great Dome Projects
Engineering takes on a new level of complexity in the extraordinary dome buildings that symbolize our government and continue to function as operational workspaces. Bringing these structures up to today’s life safety, comfort, technology, and redundancy standards while working within their historic context is a difficult balancing act, according to Loring Senior Vice President and “curious historian” J. Michael Galway. Collaborating with a national design team, Galway is the Principal Mechanical Engineer on the comprehensive rehabilitation of the Wyoming State Capitol, a 90,000-square foot National Historic Landmark built and completed between 1888 and 1917. The $220- million project also comprises renovation and expansion of an adjacent 250,000-square foot office building, a new underground capitol extension and a new central utility plant.

In many historic structures there is very limited, if any, interstitial space between the ceiling and the floor above, making horizontal distribution unviable. “Finding or creating spaces to fit the mechanical and electrical equipment and system distribution necessary for modern code enhancements and 21st century performance is among the greatest challenges,” says Galway. The MEP, fire protection, and IT systems need to be designed room-by-room in close coordination with the architect, structural engineer, and other consultants, taking into consideration the materials and finishes throughout the building. For the Wyoming State Capitol and other historic restoration projects, notes Galway, Building Information Modeling is being utilized to breathe new life into these revered buildings.

Other domed projects in Loring’s portfolio include the 300,000-square foot New Jersey State House Capitol Complex, which underwent a significant modernization, expansion and restoration in the 1990s; and the magnificent, five-storied Essex County Courthouse, designed by Cass Gilbert featuring vaulted ceilings, massive murals, and ornamental finishes. Recently, Loring was engaged to serve as Prime Consultant for an Existing Conditions Assessment and Engineering Systems Recommendations for Elijah E. Myer’s Michigan State Capitol, dedicated in 1879.

Restoring America’s Treasures
Beyond domes, Loring has provided MEP modernization services to some of the most recognizable structures in America, including the Thomas Jefferson-designed Virginia State Capitol and Cass Gilbert’s 400,000-square foot U.S. Supreme Court Building, which remained operational for the Justices throughout renovation. Loring’s work in this arena also includes engineering for other National Historic Sites such as Lincoln’s Cottage and Clara Barton’s Washington, DC apartment, where she administered to the Civil War-wounded, as well as significant sites such as Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Park.

Modernizing Lady Liberty
In a category of its own, Loring was part of the design team called on by the National Park Service to engineer new systems for America’s most iconic structure—the Statue of Liberty National Monument, a UNESCO World Heritage Site—bringing HVAC, life safety, and visitor access and egress up to current standards and capable of meeting the demands of the visiting public.