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Water leaks in state-owned buildings


The Department of Enterprise Services is responsible for the stewardship, preservation, operation and maintenance of the state Capitol Campus in Olympia. It is a top agency priority to investigate and fix water leaks to prevent water damage to the structure, finishes or contents of the buildings.

Maintenance needs

As buildings on the Capitol Campus age, their maintenance requirements increase – including the need to address potential water leaks.

A building's exterior shell – the roof, windows, insulation, and exterior walls and doors – is designed to keep the structure water-tight and maintain a comfortable temperature for people working or visiting the facility.

For historic buildings, this building envelope can be extremely complex. On the Capitol Campus, our historic buildings have numerous architectural features that interconnect with each other. Issues with leaks are often due to breaches that occur where different types of building materials overlap.

Roofing and other building envelope elements have an effective lifespan. Once exceeded, Enterprise Services must either replace major portions of a building's system or make temporary repairs.

Fall 2017 water leaks

A series of storms in late October 2017 known as "The Big Dark" revealed new water leaks in some Capitol Campus buildings. Previously, a series of severe storms in late 2016 and the first quarter of 2017 activated or intensified numerous water leaks in state-owned buildings.

The partial capital budget that was re-appropriated in June 2017 included $290,000 in funding to address leaks on the Capitol Campus and other properties managed throughout the state by Enterprise Services.

October 2017 leak repairs

Legislative building: The Enterprise Services Building and Grounds crew covered a rooftop skylight with plastic after discovering water leaking into the building's the northeast entrance vestibule, near the Mother Joseph's Statue. Further inspection by a contractor and Enterprise Services staff revealed several of the glass panels in the skylight are damaged and may be potential sources of the water leaks. The panels are made from wire reinforced glazing that is no longer permitted by code or available for replacement. Enterprise Services is working with the contractor to estimate the replacement cost.

Funding for skylight replacement is included in the Legislative Building cleaning and masonry repair project that has been submitted as part of the supplemental capital budget request.

Enterprise Services also is investigating another possible source of water leaks near the skylight -- a set of roof drains in the masonry near the small mini-domes at the northeast and northwest corners of the building's main dome. Water from this area has worked its way into a restroom on the 4th floor and may also be associated with the leak that appeared below the skylight. Worker access to these locations on the building's exterior is potentially hazardous as well as costly even during the dry season, so Enterprise Services is investigating the possibility of addressing the drains from within the building.


Employment Security Building: The Enterprise Services Building and Grounds crew has contained water that was leaking into the building through a heavily worn roof hatch on the eastside stairwell of the building. Enterprise Services is working with a contractor to gain a cost estimate for a new roof hatch.

Cherberg: A previously identified leak above the ceiling at the fourth floor reception area persists. In the spring of 2017, Enterprise Services made repairs on a badly weathered wall of a roof-level mechanical equipment room and also corrected some issues with the building's roof membrane. Enterprise Services will continue to investigate the sources contributing to the leak.

Enterprise Services also is working with a contractor to correct a leaking conduit at the basement level mechanical room. The work will involve some excavation near the south entry to the building.

Previous leak repairs

In late 2016 and early 2017, about 24 leak sites were identified on the Capitol Campus, many of which are in five historic Capitol Campus buildings – the John A. Cherberg, Insurance, Legislative, Irving R. Newhouse and John L. O'Brien buildings. Some buildings have more than one leak site.

Another 10 leak sites were spread among state-owned facilities in Kelso, Sedro-Woolley, Tacoma, Tumwater and Yakima.

Enterprise Services remedied the majority of Capitol Campus leak sites identified in late 2016 and early 2017, including the most severe and high priority Capitol Campus leaks:

  • Long-term repairs were completed in two Capitol Campus leak sites with a new roof at the Natural Resources Building and extensive masonry repair at the Temple of Justice. Long term repairs are system replacements that are expected to last 20 to 30 years.
  • Partial long-term repairs were made to four Capitol Campus leak sites. These repairs fix only a portion of a building system.
  • Temporary repairs were made at 12 other leak sites on the campus.

Work done between October 2016 and June 30, 2017

Cherberg Building:

An emergency repair with a construction cost of $65,000 was conducted to fix a water leak that resulted in moderately-high volumes of water entering the basement of the historic Cherberg Building, where members of the Washington State Senate and their staff work. Enterprise Services found that the leak was the result of a collapsed underground roof drain leader backing up into the building as well as an aging concrete basement wall. In the course of this partial system repair it became evident that the soils around the Cherberg Building have very poor drainage. While this repair addresses the issues in the immediate area, the building will ultimately need extensive repairs to correct drainage issues near its basement walls.

In March 2017, Enterprise Services also made a temporary repair to a new and chronic leak that materialized during wet weather in March when a roof drain seal began to fail.

In June 2017 Enterprise Services made repairs to additional leak locations, most of which originate on the building's roof or its roof-level mechanical equipment room. This included masonry repairs to the west wall of the penthouse, weatherization improvements at an air vent, and repairing various wall to roof transitions. Additionally, two repair locations were in the basement and required work in interior spaces as well as excavation work along the south side of the building. The cost of the penthouse and basement level repairs was $60,000. This cost also included minor repairs at the O'Brien building listed below.

Legislative Building:

Enterprise Services believes it has found and repaired the source of the most critical leaks in the Legislative Building – the capitol building for the state of Washington. The investigation, diagnosis and repair for one location in the southwest corner of the building was fairly complex and included electronic field vector mapping to identify possible breaches in the roof membrane that allow water through as well as partial flood testing of the roof membrane and drains. Ultimately, it was determined that there were multiple leak locations in the building's parapet walls and caps. The construction cost for these temporary repairs was $37,000.

Enterprise Services also installed a new metal roof above the State Reception Room where there was an active leak as part of the West Campus Exteriors project. Until 2017, the only cover over this portion of the building was exposed sandstone. The new roof was bid as part of a larger West Campus Exteriors project, with a $59,000 construction cost for the roof portion of the project.

DES completed an emergency repair in January 2017, to fix multiple leak locations in the building's southwest corner parapet walls and caps. In February 2017, new and chronic water leaks in the mini-dome features materialized that have caused damage to components of the building's heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment. DES hired a consultant to investigate and scope the leak repairs. In May 2017 DES utilized an unmanned aircraft to investigate the cause of this issue, and the consultant provided their report and recommendations on June 30, 2017. Enterprise Services is examining the report and working to pursue options.

Insurance Building:

Enterprise Services fixed a leak originating in the roof by repairing failed junctions between the roof's membrane and an aging metal roof system as well as a roof drain. The temporary repair cost $10,000. Without a full roof replacement, more temporary repairs will be needed. Work is dependent on funding.

John L. O'Brien Building:

Enterprise Services has hired a consultant to investigate and design repairs to fix leaks in this building, where members of the Washington State House of Representatives and their staff work. Repairs to numerous leak locations, most of which originate on the roof or the building's roof-level mechanical equipment room, were completed between May and June 2017.

Temple of Justice Building:

Work included in the West Campus Exterior Buildings Project that started in February 2017 is focused on maintenance of the stone exterior on the Washington State Supreme Court building. Cleaning on the Temple of Justice building was completed in April, 2017. Masonry repair work and cleaning was completed June 2017. These long-term masonry repairs primarily focused on the building's parapet walls, which have been a historic source of water leaks.

Irving R. Newhouse Building:

Leaks that recently appeared in this building appear to be related masonry issues. Enterprise Services incorporated the repairs into the contracted masonry repairs at the Temple of Justice and completed the work in May for a cost of $4,500.

Prior work

Natural Resources Building:

As part of a planned project that was finished in 2015, a $4.6 million project was completed to replace the building's roof and also make repairs to stop leaks in the building's multi-purpose room.

Department of Transportation Building:

One of several recommended roof repairs was completed in 2015, at a construction cost of $45,000.

Employment Security Building:

A new roof costing $50,000 was installed as part of a $300,000 elevator repair project that was completed in 2015.

Construction costs

The construction costs described above reflect only the amount Enterprise Services paid to a contractor for their scope of work for each project. For most projects, construction costs represent only about 60 to 70 percent of the total costs – and don't include associated expenditures such as:

  • Taxes
  • Permitting, design and consultant fees
  • Project management and continuous maintenance support

Leak prioritization

Leak repairs are prioritized based on a number of factors:

  • Severity and frequency of the leak.
  • Potential impact to business operations or public spaces.
  • Historic nature of the building and or materials that could be affected/damaged.