Idaho State Capitol Restoration Complete

The Idaho State Capitol, originally constructed in 1920 and modeled after our nation’s capitol building in Washington D.C., has stood as a symbol of justice and pride for the lawmakers and residents of Idaho for 80 years. But, by the late 90s, time had taken its toll on the 1920s-era building. In 2006 the Idaho Legislature authorized the Capitol Commission and Department of Administration to enter into agreements with the Idaho State Building Authority (ISBA) to finance the $85 million restoration and the underground wings addition to the Capitol building.

Hunt Construction Group along with our joint venture partner Jacobsen Construction (the joint venture team who recently completed the Utah State Capitol Restoration) began construction on the capitol project in the summer of 2007. The scope of the project included upgrades to the 257,000 -square-foot Idaho State Capitol building, including new MEP systems, as well as tenant improvements to the 50,000 -square-foot Garden Wings that were added to the east and west sides of the building.

Completed ahead of schedule and under budget, the Jacobsen-Hunt team upgraded every major function of the building including its strength, stability, climate-control, and life-safety systems. Some of the most significant upgrades in the building are hidden behind the walls, ceilings, and floors. However, visitors will be most impressed with the stately and grand appearance of the updated public areas.

The comprehensive floor-by-floor restoration brings the Idaho Capitol into the modern era as a functional building yet retains the charm and distinction that Idaho’s governmental landmark conveyed upon its original completion in 1920. The 50,000 -square -foot underground Garden-Level expansion of the Capitol adds ten modern committee hearing rooms that seat between 80 and 200.

The expansion extends the Capitol’s underground footprint to occupy its entire two-city-block parcel while carefully preserving the original Table Rock sandstone façade and the century-old Capitol profile against the backdrop of the Boise Foothills.

Some unique elements incorporated into the project include a Geothermal Heating Water System. The entire Capitol Mall Complex obtains its heat source from the abundant amount of geothermal hot water that runs beneath the Capitol City and throughout the state up to Yellowstone National Park. In combination with a central plant chiller to provide resources for the warm summer months, the geothermal system provides the heat source for the fan coil units through the long cold winters in Idaho.

Additionally, the entire building has been retrofitted with fan coil units beneath the windows. They provide for individually adjustable temperatures throughout the building. The project design eliminated years of retrofitting with suspended ceilings to hide new technologies as they became available and were installed which eventually resulted in hiding the grandness of the architecture above.

Relationships were excellent for a project of this magnitude and complexity. The full entire team realized early on that constant communication was the only way to maintain the project schedule.  In addition to the weekly O/A/C meetings, the owner, architect, and on-site staff spent time daily meeting in the field to resolve issues raised by the historic restoration nature of the project.

As stated by Jan Frew, Architect and Capitol Restoration Executive Manager, “The leadership and experience of the construction management team was critical to this success. Indeed, the Jacobsen-Hunt Joint Venture has delivered on the promises made at the beginning of this three year project. Historical restoration projects are typically very intricate, messy and unpredictable. This one was all of those. Throughout the project Jacobsen-Hunt maintained good communication and working relationships with the design team and the owner’s team.””

With the cooperation of the owner and design team, allowances and contingency were judicially spent to address the daily issues that arose and maintain the project budget.  In the end almost $2.5 million was returned to the owner in unused allowances, contingencies and general conditions.  This was made possible by the constant communication amongst the team and the prompt attention to issues that arose daily.

The Jacobsen-Hunt team also worked with the owner early in the project to evaluate opportunities to accelerate subcontractors on the critical path and avoid delays to the project.  This allowed our team to accelerate key components of the project without spending a large percentage of the budget on overtime costs from the subcontractors.  Despite the unforeseen “Distemper Paint” and thousands of field conditions encountered the project remained on schedule and was actually turned over ahead of schedule to the state for FF&E installations.

“This project was a huge undertaking, but it was a phenomenal project from start to finish,” said Construction Manager Dennis Sexauer. Unsuitable soils, distemper paint, numerous scope issues and extremely harsh winter conditions were among the challenges faced by the team… but according to Dennis, the challenges were overcome successfully through proper planning and communication. “Planning was really the heart of the project,” Dennis explained. “From weather protection to material procurement to MEP coordination, we carefully coordinated all our activities in advance to cover our bases and ensure that the project stayed on schedule.” Communication was the other key to the project’s success,”  .  “Field and office personnel collaborated regularly and resolved issues as a team. Our weekly subcontractors’ meeting brought all trades together to review the project, which enabled us to make any necessary adjustments with each trade easily and effectively.”

The House and Senate began their first sessions in the new state house on January 11, 2010 as scheduled over three years earlier.