Writers often have trouble figuring out how to start a story. They think about how to grab attention before the reader checks how many pages the story is and decides, instead, to spend those minutes sorting through email or watching videos online.

Stories are often about the deeds done by others and sometimes those deeds are not that interesting — think about baseball sportswriters that must find something to interest readers about the home team, even at game 137 of the season when all the stars have been traded and the Single-A players called up can't get past first base. Finding a hook can be hard and writers rarely know how many people actually read the words they painstakingly put together to hit their word count minimum.

At the Architect of the Capitol (AOC), a writer has the opposite experience. The AOC's team is stacked with all stars that always make the playoffs. The amount of talent needed for all the projects around the Capitol campus is high, and fortunately the AOC boasts a deep bench of employees that can get you up on your feet while the starting lineup is announced.

Russell Exterior Envelope Project By The Numbers

For this article our leadoff hitter is Jennifer Rheaume, the Senior Project Manager responsible for the Russell Exterior Envelope Project. This project is in its third and final sequence, which has encompassed five phases of work. The scope includes restoration of more than 545 modillions, 973 balusters and 625 windows (some of which are more than 100 years old); mitigation of life-safety hazards; and improvements to the building's energy efficiency.  

"Paramount challenges we overcame on this project were to understand the construction technology behind the historic windows, the limited technical know-how of today's craftsman, and the associated restoration time line while balancing a fully functional and operational building and staff," says Rheaume. "Our focus has always been on how to reduce our impact on the important day-to-day activities at the Senate."

The original concept was to build miniature partition walls in the offices to screen off the window restoration work, but the time line and spatial impact was less than desirable for stakeholders. The solution was to install temporary Plexiglas sashes while restoration of the historic sashes was performed off-site. This concept resulted in the significant mitigation of construction impact on the suite  occupants and the Senate community.

One of the 625 fully restored historic window sashes and frames for the Russell Exterior Envelope Project.
One of the 625 fully restored historic window sashes and frames for the Russell Exterior Envelope Project.

The actual window restoration was another challenge as many of them were no longer fully operational or had missing hardware and needed weather sealing. Many of the windows were missing glazing, had rotten wood sills and major deterioration of the frames and muntins (the supporting strips between adjacent panes of glass) from the weather and impacts of time. 

Fortunately, COVID-19 impacts have been minimal to date due to the spacing of work shifts, adherence to social distancing and groups of workers "podded" when close contact work was unavoidable. 

As the project nears completion it is safe to say the Russell Building squad propelled the AOC team to a game lead, but even when you're ahead, you still need a full bullpen to win.

AOC employees lead the agency to
a championship year after year. 

Fortunately for the AOC, our relievers come in the form of employees in charge of our energy savings performance contracts (ESPC), which are responsible for saving energy across the Capitol campus.

ESPCs, which the AOC previously implemented for the House and Senate office buildings and the U.S. Capitol, are innovative financial mechanisms allowing government agencies to contract for energy efficiency and water improvements. The contractor is reimbursed based on measured and verified energy savings  from the capital improvements and  energy upgrades during the contracted performance period. 

The AOC's latest ESPC was implemented for the Library of Congress (LOC), which is responsible for protecting and maintaining 168 million items, including more than 38 million books, 4 million audio recordings and other rare items and collections in its buildings. It is imperative that all the items’ recommended environmental conditions are met. This ESPC will implement energy savings control strategies based on these requirements, to properly preserve every item.

Library Buildings and Grounds Energy Savings By The Numbers
The ESPC included retrofitting 208 fixtures containing antiquated mercury vapor lamps with a custom LED kit that preserves the aesthetic of the original fixture while providing improved color rendering, color temperature and energy efficiency.

The AOC and LOC are working on improving energy usage across the six LOC facilities (John Adams Building, Thomas Jefferson Building, James Madison Memorial Building, St. Cecilia's, the Fort Meade Book Storage Modules and the Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation). Most of the lighting work — a major element for all buildings — is almost complete, with only the Jefferson Building needing the lighting upgrades. Additional remaining work in the LOC buildings includes installation of new transformers and thermostats, upgrades to the building automation controls, as well as final commissioning.

After completion of the project, which is expected in the summer of 2022, the ESPC will provide significant energy  savings (about 22.4 percent reduction) and water savings (about 25 percent reduction), increased equipment efficiency and reliability, and reduction in gas emissions. 

That will be a lot "saves" for one team. But as most professionals say in post-game interviews — winning is a team effort. 

There are many more projects across the Capitol campus and the team members on those efforts work just as hard to deliver wins for the AOC. It is the teamwork of all the employees that get the hits, wins and saves that ultimately bring about a successful year. Even if the writer fails to entice people to read the story, the team still went out there and won.


I recognize those ceiling lights! I worked beneath them every day for about five years. Thank you AOC, for making the them less green (color rendering and color temperature) and more green (energy efficient) at the same time.

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