As part of an $83.1 million renovation, Follansbee TCS II terne-coated stainless steel was installed on the roof of the Virginia Capitol to preserve its historic look. Pictures courtesy of the Virginia Department of General Services.


Not too many contractors still in business can say they worked on a project that was designed by founding father Thomas Jefferson. But that’s what W.A. Lynch Roofing Co. Inc. can boast after contributing to renovations on the Virginia State Capitol.

This registered National Historic Landmark in Richmond, Va., was designed by Jefferson, and in 2004, exterior and interior renovations took place to bring the building back to its former glory. One of those renovations included a new 22,000-square-foot metal roof.

The Capitol building waits for the installation of its new roof while the restoration project gets under way.

Breaking ground

Virginia, one of the 13 original Colonies that declared independence from Britain in 1776, opened its state Capitol in 1788, still under construction. Over the past 221 years, the building has had only two major renovations: Two new wings were added between 1904 and 1906, and new steps were put on the south portico.

In 2003, $83.1 million was approved by the state’s General Assembly to restore and expand the building. With only two major renovations over the past 200 years, there was a lot of work to be done to keep the building functional.

Not only did the roof get a facelift, but the plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems were all upgraded. The storm-water drainage and distribution systems were also completely replaced. One of the largest portions of the project was a new 25,000-square-foot underground wing to provide a visitor’s entrance, office spaces and meeting rooms.

The project was so large and intensive that the Virginia Department of General Services needed to extend the construction deadline. Renovations were to be completed by late 2006, but were rescheduled for an April 2007 finish.

“We had an aggressive renovation and building schedule to begin with,” Richard F. Sliwoski, P.E., director of the state Department of General Services, said when the delay was announced. “Quality is paramount. There are many variables that have contributed to extending our renovation schedule and we won’t rush this historic project, sacrificing quality to make a date.”

The challenge was to modernize the Capitol without destroying its historical look. Besides the addition of the two wings in the early 1900s, the building looks almost the same as when Jefferson designed it.

One example can be found on the roof. W.A. Lynch Roofing of Charlottesville, Va., was hired to install a new metal roof. This metal roof was meant to provide a sustainable building product while also providing a look that would replicate the original roof that topped the Capitol in the late 1700s.

Construction crews begin working on the Capitol's new underground wing.

Respecting designs

“For this particular restoration, it was imperative that the entire design and construction team respect the original architectural order while incorporating materials that would equal or exceed the long-term architectural requirements of the Jeffersonian design,” said Thomas McGraw, the project’s roofing installer and executive vice president of W.A. Lynch.

To accomplish this, W.A. Lynch chose to use a TCS II terne-coated stainless steel from Follansbee. The 22,000 square feet of TCS II was installed as a custom batten-seam roof with built-in gutters. The steel is also coated in zinc-tin alloy, which Follansbee representatives say, helps it to sustain corrosion due to harsh weather or environmental conditions. The alloy will also weather naturally, slowly turning to a gray patina.

McGraw said that Follansbee not only provided the steel roofing, but also played a role in making sure the project went smoothly.

“Follansbee was an active part of our team and collaborated with both our firm, the project architects and the construction manager to insure that the finished product was one that we can all be proud of,” he said.

Washington, D.C.-based RMJM was project architect, while Gilbane of Laurel, Md., was the construction manager.

It took W.A. Lynch approximately 18 months to complete its portion of the detail-heavy job.

McGraw and his company are no strangers to metal-roof installations. W.A. Lynch has had its hands in several other projects around the state of Virginia, including the Louisa County Courthouse in Louisa, Va. That project required almost 10,000 square feet of copper roofing.

But the Virginia Capitol, with its historic detailing, posed a whole other challenge for the company. McGraw said that while the roofing process for the Capitol was no different than any other roofing project, the W.A. Lynch team had to stay within the confines of Jefferson’s original 18th century design.

Renovations on the Capitol were finished in June 2007. Additions included a new roof, mechanical systems, and a facelift to the exterior walls.

A new ‘old' look

“As a historical restoration, we all recognized our parts as stewards of this architectural masterpiece,” said McGraw.

The Capitol’s new look was unveiled in 2007, and with it came the opportunity to celebrate the finished product. Cable TV’s History Channel filmed a documentary on the renovation for its series “Save Our History.”

And Jan. 9, 2008, Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine praised the project during an address to the joint assembly.

“This Capitol is entering its 220th year of service, as home to the oldest continuous legislature in the New World,” he said. “The careful restoration of this historic place is a tangible tribute to the men and women who have served here and the people they have served. The more substantial tribute to our predecessors is not the building we work in, but the work we do, and the way that we do it.”

For more information and for videos on the renovation project, visitwww.VirginiaCaptiol.gov.

For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail devriesj@bnp media.com.

The ‘house' that Jefferson built

The Virginia State Capitol is considered one of the first Neo-Classical buildings in the United States.

Thomas Jefferson not only designed the building, but he was also an early project manager of sorts.

While serving as trade minister to France, Jefferson made sure that the building was constructed to his specifications by commissioning a scale model to go along with his drawings. At the time, creating such models for a building project was costly, but Jefferson wanted to make sure that the builders would be successful in constructing what amounted to the recreation of a Roman temple.

Jefferson’s design was based on the Maison Carrée, a temple built in France for an emperor during the Roman Empire. According to the Library of Virginia, the idea behind Jefferson’s design may have been to create a “temple” to liberty and justice.

The foundation of the Capitol was laid in 1785, and construction was finished 13 years later in 1798. Over the next 200 years, the Capitol would be the backdrop for some of history’s defining moments.

In 1807, former vice president and Congressman Aaron Burr was tried for treason in the building after he was accused of trying to start a war with Spain. And during the Civil War, the building served as the Capitol for the Congress of the Confederate States.