Flexibility is focus of Senate building upgrade

Building occupants rotate to a temporary facility in the courtyard as the $54 million project continues

February 01, 2001 |

There are obvious differences between the operation of public-sector and private-sector organizations, but the need to efficiently reconfigure interior space is a requirement common to both. The enhancement of operational flexibility is an important feature of the $54 million renovation of the Dirksen Senate Office Building-the first major remodeling since its completion in 1954.

Senators' offices can be configured in several ways, ranging from two or three individual offices within a suite to four workstations in a single room. A typical layout consists of two individual offices and one open area.

New electrical and communications outlets every 6 feet along outside walls are a key feature of the project, according to Frank Tiscione, assistant superintendent of Senate Office Buildings with the Office of the Architect of the Capitol. New controls will allow convector units between the two windows of each senator's office to deliver conditioned air to a single work space or to individual spaces separated by modular partitions.

Tiscione estimates that the improved utility distribution, in conjunction with the use of modular partitions, will cut the time required for future office reconfigurations by 80 percent. This is especially important following an election, when new legislators replace those who were defeated or have retired. A senator's seniority also can trigger office relocation.

Overflow space needed

Tiscione says the 800,000-sq.-ft. Dirksen Building does not have enough room to accommodate persons displaced while their space is being renovated. As a result, a temporary facility was constructed in the building's courtyard. Construction of a modular building in a parking lot was ruled out because it would have squeezed space that is already in short supply.

Tiscione emphasizes that the 10,000-sq.-ft. interim quarters is no bare-bones structure, likening it to "a big home." It consists of stick construction and has heavy floors capable of supporting filing cabinets. Groups of about 100 people are moved into the interim location, which accommodates offices of two senators and a committee meeting room. In 10 weeks, they return to their renovated offices. Scheduling considerations include the need to separate the staffs of majority and minority parties.

The construction of adjacent temporary space may become a model for how the Office of the Architect of the Capitol accommodates tenants when significant construction is performed on other facilities under its jurisdiction, Tiscione says.

Infrastructure work began in late 1998 with the installation of telecommunications risers in the north, south and center areas of the building. Roof-level mechanical systems work will continue through mid-2002. Fire-safety upgrades are also planned. The building previously had sprinklers only in mechanical areas, so fire-protection systems will be upgraded.

James Posey & Associates of Washington is architect for the project. Construction supervision is by Architect of the Capitol employees.

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