Capitol architect seeks funding boost to fix earthquake damage, aging buildings

The Architect of the Capitol is requesting a $100 million increase in funding for next year, citing last year's earthquake and aging buildings around the Capitol.

The AoC’s budget request of $668 million is a big jump from the $567 million it was allotted for 2012, and comes as lawmakers continue to search for areas of potential savings in the federal budget.

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On Thursday, Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers testified before the House Appropriations Legislative Branch subcommittee to explain why the boost is needed for fiscal year 2013.

According to Ayers, aging buildings around the Capitol campus and unexpected events, including last year’s 5.8-magnitude earthquake, will require more money.

The Cannon and Rayburn House office buildings, as well as the Hart and Russell Senate office buildings, are in need of repairs, all ranging from fair to poor condition.

Cannon alone has had visible signs of deterioration in the previous year, with chunks of plaster falling from the ceiling and plumbing leaks causing water damage in members’ offices.

“The longer Capitol renewal projects are delayed, the conditions in these facilities will continue to deteriorate,” Ayers testified. “Deficiencies will grow more and more serious, and ultimately more costly to repair.”

“Additional consequences of not addressing looming Capitol renewal projects are the continued crumbling of facilities’ infrastructure, a loss of historic artwork and architectural features, continued system and building failures and security threats,” he added.

The AoC’s ongoing Capitol dome restoration project, as well as the agency’s recent expanded jurisdiction over Union Square — an 11-acre area including the Capitol Reflecting Pool and the Grant Memorial — will also require additional funding in the future, Ayers contended.

The AoC is attempting to tighten its belt, though. It has reduced personnel overtime, implemented hiring freezes and increasingly focused on sustainable water and energy initiatives, including using a waste-to-energy system, which burns waste to generate heat and electricity.

“We are effectively managing our resources, including personnel, to respond to these fiscally challenging times,” Ayers testified. “In developing our fiscal year 2013 budget request, we worked to prioritize our efforts to ensure that every resource goes toward the most needed and most important work, realizing that we must balance our stewardship responsibilities with fiscal responsibility.”