St. Louis — McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. has completed an innovative seismic renovation of the Robert A. Young Federal Building—one of downtown St. Louis’ largest office buildings—to improve the historic structure’s seismic performance.
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which owns and manages the 20-story, 1-million-sq.-ft. the building, undertook the $75 million design-build project to provide additional shelter-in-place opportunities and safe exiting for the building’s 3,000 occupants in the event of an earthquake. Originally constructed in the early 1930s, the Art Deco brick, and terracotta building faces potential seismic hazards because of its location within the New Madrid fault zone.
The project represented the first use of seismic dampers in a St. Louis building retrofit and the GSA’s first time using this alternative approach compared to more traditional seismic renovation methods. This novel strategy eliminated the need for 90 percent of the concrete shear walls traditionally required, streamlining the project schedule.
The design-build team’s innovative solution combined viscous dampers, steel braces, and steel sheer walls, enabling all work to be completed while the building was 100 percent occupied by employees from 48 separate government agencies. Additional project elements included seismic bracing of non-structural components such as ceilings; partitions; and mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems.
“Our McCarthy team worked closely with the designers and trade partners to identify and implement the most flexible, efficient design alternatives and to ensure that all construction work was well-coordinated with office moves,” said McCarthy Vice President Ryan Molen.
To complete the project on time and with minimal disruption to government organizations and their employees, construction progressed 21 hours a day—from 6 a.m. to 3 a.m.—with much of the work completed from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. McCarthy scheduled and managed customized moves for each tenant. These included either relocating entire offices or temporarily consolidating office workspaces into more compressed areas. After four to six weeks, employees returned to offices that looked exactly like the space they left—from the original location of electric outlets to the exact positioning of each desk.
During the project, water and electric service for tenants were never disrupted, and all work was completed with close attention to environmental considerations, including controlling negative airflow, avoiding potential contamination, noise reduction, odor management, and other best practices.
In recognition of the team’s overall commitment to safety, the AGC of Missouri recognized McCarthy with a Construction Project Safety Award for completing the project without a recordable incident.
The McCarthy-led design-build team includes Gensler (lead designer and architect of record), Etegra (associate architect) and Thornton Tomasetti (structural engineer). Other project team members included William Tao & Associates, Integrated Facility Services, Aschinger Electric and Wilson’s Structural Steel.
- A $75-million design-build seismic renovation of the historic 20-story-tall, 1-million-sq.-ft. Robert A. Young Federal Building, one of St. Louis’ largest office buildings, which is listed as a historic building. The building is owned and managed by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA)
- The risk of an earthquake in St. Louis is real. With the New Madrid Fault extending under St. Louis. GSA undertook the project to improve seismic performance, provide shelter-in-place opportunities and safer exiting for the 3,000 daily occupants of the RAY Federal Building in the event of a seismic event
- The innovative approach to retrofit a building with seismic dampers while fully occupied was a first of its kind for GSA
- The design-built project was awarded to McCarthy Building Companies in September 2015, construction activities began in October 2016, and the final phase was completed in May 2019, approximately 30-days ahead of schedule
Special Considerations for Fully Occupied Building
- To complete the project on-time and with minimal disruption to government organizations and their employees, the construction schedule was 21 hours a day, from 6 am until 3 am daily, with much of the work being done from 6 pm until 3 am. Construction crews were restricted to specific areas as work rotated floor-by-floor or section-by-section
- McCarthy scheduled and managed customized moves for each tenant. These included either relocating entire offices space-by-space and floor-by-floor or temporarily consolidating office work spaces into more tightly compressed sections. After four- to six-weeks, employees returned to offices that looked exactly like the office they left, including everything from the original location of electric outlets to how their desk was positioned
- Healthcare considerations included controlling negative air flow, avoiding potential contamination, noise reduction, odor management and other “best practices”
- Water and electric service for tenants was never disrupted
- Seismic bracing of non-structural components such as ceilings, partitions, and mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems
- Installing a combination of viscous dampers, steel braces, and steel shear walls throughout the building to stabilize it for life-safety in the event of an earthquake
- McCarthy was responsible for self-performing concrete work, rough and finish carpentry, demolition and hydro-excavation with assistance from sister company, Castle Contracting, LLC
Unusual Facts and Stats
- All work was completed while the building was 100 percent occupied by roughly 48 government agencies with more than 3,000 employees, as well as a child daycare facility, fitness center, convenience store and credit union
- Project required:
- 394 dampers
- 192 tons of rebar installed
- 1,331 tons rebar, steel and dampers – all placed by hand with manual tools
- 10,120 light fixtures replaced
- 1,700 sprinkler heads
- 990 tons of structural steel hand carried and installed
- 394 seismic dampers using 1-inch to 1-1/4 inch steel and anchors up to 1-1/4 inch, all of which are considerably thicker than usual due to the unique seismic needs
- 1,950 cubic yards of self-consolidating concrete (SCC)
- 5,280 tons of weight added to building including rebar, steel, dampers, and concrete
- Because building was fully occupied, Castle Contracting LLC, a McCarthy sister company, used potholing equipment to excavate in the basement of the building
- Zero Lost Time Safety Incidents
- McCarthy Building Companies was recognized by Associated General Contractors of St. Louis (AGC) as the winner of a Construction Project Safety Award (CPSA) based on hours worked without a Recordable Incident
Combination of Local and National Expertise
- The seismic renovation, led by St. Louis-based McCarthy Building Companies, involved innovative design solutions to maximize GSA’s budget, minimize construction impact, and meet building’s safety needs
- McCarthy has extensive national experience in seismic renovation in seismic zones like Missouri and California
- Gensler was lead design firm and architect of record, Etegra was associate architect, Thornton Tomasetti was structural engineer
- Team also included William Tao & Associates, Integrated Facility Services, Aschinger Electric and Wilson’s Structural Steel
About the Robert A. Young Building
- Built in 1931-1933, the art deco brick and terracotta building was designed by prominent St. Louis architect Preston J. Bradshaw.
- The building originally functioned as the St. Louis Mart and Terminal Warehouse with a merchandise machinery showroom, as well as restaurants, lounges and a solarium.