The repair project would take almost three years and require an expert project
team that could plan carefully, adjust to changes and work productively with an
On 23 August 2011, the U.S. state of Virginia suffered a 5.8-magnitude earthquake—the largest to hit the U.S. East Coast in almost 70 years. It produced
tremors in a third of the country and damaged buildings close to its epicenter.
Among those buildings was the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.
At a height of 555 feet (169 meters), the obelisk commemorating the first U.S.
president is the world’s tallest freestanding stone structure.
The U.S. National Park Service, which manages the monument, had to
assemble a team that could masterfully and safely repair the structure while
handling the detailed, procedural nature of government projects—all as the
“Our goal and our mantra every day was that safety was everyone’s number-one priority. We were committed to providing skilled workers who would
deliver the highest-quality final product. The fact that this was the Washington
Monument made our focus even more pronounced,” says Robert Collie, project
manager for Perini Management Services Inc., Framingham, Massachusetts,
USA, which oversaw the repair phase of the project.
HOW BAD IS IT?
After an inspection team found cracks in the marble at the top of the monument, the National Park Service closed the structure indefinitely. The agency
needed to assess just how much damage the earthquake had caused.
A month after the quake, the park service brought in a “
difficult-access team”—trained to inspect locations that aren’t accessible by
conventional means—from Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc., a U.S.
firm specializing in structural repairs. Over 10 days, the team used rappelling ropes to slowly work its way down the four sides of the monument, conducting an assessment of the damage. Using iPads equipped
with information from the 1999-2000 restoration of the Washington
Monument, the team differentiated between existing cracks and new
ones caused by the quake.
“They rappelled down, made a visual assessment of the damage and
recorded that damage area,” Mr. Collie says. “That information was
transferred to a set of drawings that indicated the type, magnitude,
condition and extent of the repairs that we were later contracted to do.”
While the damage was almost all cosmetic rather than structural, the difficult-access team documented over 150 cracks on the monument’s exterior,
LASTED A FEW