Currently Reading

Robert F. Kennedy Main Justice Building

Robert F. Kennedy Main Justice Building

Barbara Horwitz-Bennett Washington, D.C.

By Staff | August 11, 2010
This article first appeared in the 200610 issue of BD+C.

The Robert F. Kennedy Main Justice Building houses the U.S. Attorney General's office, the Justice Department headquarters, and the largest historic art collection of any GSA-built facility, so its renovation had to be performed with the utmost care.

Robert F. Kennedy Main Justice Building
The building’s art collection required the services of a full-time art conservator and a special “art protection package” for subcontractor bidding.

Offices housing hundreds of lawyers and staff had to remain operational during the construction of a brand new $3.1 million conference center and data room, the restoration of the main library and executive suites, and the installation of a new M/E/P system. All this had to be done while maintaining the highest levels of security and dealing with hazardous materials.

BD+C Reconstruction Awards judge Walker C. Johnson, FAIA, Johnson Lasky Architects, Chicago, assessed the restoration job as “a very difficult project, well executed.”

To best preserve the building's extensive art collection, protective shields were placed around the murals, sculptures, and plaster reliefs. Temperature, humidity, and dust controls were also installed, making the collection much better equipped to stand the test of time.

Due to the highly sensitive nature of the facility itself, extra security measures were employed throughout the project. Construction personnel were classified into three tiers and were permitted access to specific building areas based on these three levels of security clearance.

An extensive asbestos abatement effort was conducted, along with the removal of lead paint and careful handling of mercury vapor lamps containing PCBs. The construction manager, Gilbane Building Company, established a stop-work rule that brought construction to a halt the moment any hazardous material was uncovered.

Conservation efforts throughout the construction process ultimately returned close to $1 million to the GSA's purse.

For instance, instead of completely demolishing the existing courtyard plaza and garage structures, the design consultants determined that it was possible to renovate these features, thereby utilizing 95% of existing building materials. The courtyard's cobblestone blocks were removed, cleaned, refurbished, and reinstalled. The foundation of the courtyard's original fountain was preserved, while its pipes and pumps were replaced. And only the concrete with questionable integrity around the facility's garage beams was removed and repaired, rather than replacing all the concrete.

As for the facility's plaza deck, the Building Team tested the concrete structure's integrity to determine which sections could be repaired instead of being entirely rebuilt. Consequently, 14,520 tons of waste material were diverted from landfill.

The original foundation and structure of the building's entrance was preserved, saving another 110 tons of waste materials and decreasing the risk of penetrating a sensitive waterproofing membrane system.

Gilbane scored additional savings by utilizing a mechanism called early buyout. Taking advantage of the purchasing power of the entire four-phase construction job, Gilbane was able to secure prices early on in the project that otherwise would have been spent covering the escalating costs of building materials.

In sum, the project came in $4.2 million under budget, enabling the GSA to pursue additional work, including restoration and re-pointing of the limestone exterior, roof repair and replacement, ornate painting and plaster restoration, additional hazardous materials abatement, and fire code upgrades.

Related Stories

Justice Facilities | Sep 24, 2021

More than justice for all

Public safety buildings are paying greater attention to occupant well-being.

Giants 400 | Aug 30, 2021

2021 Giants 400 Report: Ranking the largest architecture, engineering, and construction firms in the U.S.

The 2021 Giants 400 Report includes more than 130 rankings across 25 building sectors and specialty categories.

Resiliency | Aug 19, 2021

White paper outlines cost-effective flood protection approaches for building owners

A new white paper from Walter P Moore offers an in-depth review of the flood protection process and proven approaches.

Resiliency | Jun 24, 2021

Oceanographer John Englander talks resiliency and buildings [new on HorizonTV]

New on HorizonTV, oceanographer John Englander discusses his latest book, which warns that, regardless of resilience efforts, sea levels will rise by meters in the coming decades. Adaptation, he says, is the key to future building design and construction.

Justice Facilities | Jun 15, 2021

A Philadelphia suburb sees its future in a municipal campus with an expanded courthouse

Versions of this civic project have been in the works since at least 2015.

AEC Tech | May 24, 2021

Digital twin’s value propositions for the built environment, explained

Ernst & Young’s white paper makes its cases for the technology’s myriad benefits.

Market Data | Feb 24, 2021

2021 won’t be a growth year for construction spending, says latest JLL forecast

Predicts second-half improvement toward normalization next year.

Giants 400 | Dec 16, 2020

Download a PDF of all 2020 Giants 400 Rankings

This 70-page PDF features AEC firm rankings across 51 building sectors, disciplines, and specialty services.

Government Buildings | Nov 13, 2020

Tax shortfalls nip government projects in the bud

Federal contracts are proceeding, but states and cities are delaying, deferring, and looking for private investment.

Giants 400 | Aug 28, 2020

2020 Giants 400 Report: Ranking the nation's largest architecture, engineering, and construction firms

The 2020 Giants 400 Report features more than 130 rankings across 25 building sectors and specialty categories.

More In Category

Magazine Subscription

Get our Newsletters

Each day, our editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.


Follow BD+C: