Case Studies

The Connecticut General Assembly

Greening and restoring Connecticut's state capitol

The Connecticut General Assembly (CGA), as the state legislature for the state of Connecticut, is composed of the 187 members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Based in Hartford, the CGA has been at the forefront of projects to restore and green the state’s capitol.

Jay Drew, facilities’ project manager, initially spent 22 years working in the field of nuclear construction before joining the CGA in 2007. At the CGA, Drew works with two others to manage the capitol building, as well as all of the buildings around the main facility.

The CGA works with a facilities services contractor who employs approximately 50 employees, plus numerous subcontractors. All of the CGA’s partnerships are bid, from HVAC controls to security equipment maintenance, even to lawn care. While the current general contractor has been with the CGA for over nine years, the contract ends every five years, and the contractor must rebid for the position once again.

When it comes to projects, the CGA is very selective about which subcontractors receive the job. Focusing not on the lowest bid, but the most qualified lowest bid, has helped the CGA greatly in gaining quality workmanship. “We look for subs that have done jobs of similar size and scope,” explains Drew. “It’s a very competitive bidding process.”

Restoring the old

In 2008, the CGA acquired a 99-year lease with the city of Hartford for the city’s Old State House. Built in the 1790s, the Old State House sat unused from 1915 until 1961 when it was named a National Historic Landmark. Maintained by the Connecticut Historical Society for many years, the transfer of power to the CGA has triggered a major restoration project for the historic building.

The Old State House currently operates as a museum and function center. The CGA wants to restore the Old State House to its former glory. While 2013 was spent renovating its cupola and copper dome, plans were being made for the restoration of the Old State House’s entire brownstone and brick exterior. The project is expected to be completed in 2016. After the external structure has been fully refurbished, the CGA plans to restore the interior, as well.

Greening the capitol

In 2010, Connecticut was one of the few states that vied for a chance to be selected for the EPA’s Green Capitols Project, a program developed to help state capitols create environmentally friendly, innovative neighborhoods. Selected as one of five capitols, Connecticut was provided with both financing for the project and a team of designers to help arrange the project plans.

The state chose to demonstrate low impact development techniques on the capitol grounds, focusing on storm water management, rainwater collection, green roofing and the installation of pervious pavements. Drew and the CGA spearheaded the campaign for storm water management. “Storm water management techniques are slow to be picked up,” Drew explains, “because there’s a significant initial investment.”

Creating urban rain gardens and rainwater harvesting systems allowed for a new system of garden irrigation. A green roof was installed on sections of the capitol building. It not only providing insulation, but also retains water to limit drainage into the sewers. Similarly, the pervious pavements allow rainwater and melting snow to sink below the concrete and asphalt, rather than flow into storm drains.

Lighting the way

While the CGA has worked with contractors to utilize innovative green solutions outside of buildings, the company found a simple solution to a major lighting problem.

With over 400,000 square feet of space, the capitol offices are constantly lit. “We had lights running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” says Drew. “It was not very efficient.” The CGA discovered it would cost over $500,000 to have a company come in and replace all of the lighting in the parking garage alone.

Frustrated by the expenditure, the company decided to fix the problem in-house. “We used in-house labor and made some smart decisions,” Drew explains. The move saved CGA over $370,000 from what was quoted. In the long run, the switch to efficient bulbs saves the company enormous amounts each month, as well.

Taking pride

As the facilities project manager, Drew is a member of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA). Providing him with ample opportunities and networking in the field, IFMA has asked Drew to assist with numerous initiatives. As one of the first people to complete the Sustainability Facility Professional (SFP) program, Drew now serves as the Connecticut liaison to the IFMA Sustainability Committee.

In the coming years, Drew expects the CGA will continue to become more efficient with energy and the use of natural resources. “We’ve already made great strides,” says Drew, “but we want to do a lot more.”

With plans to get the capitol building Energy Star-certified, Drew sees certification as just one step closer to a more eco-friendly, sustainable capital. “It’s important to set the bar high,” he laughs. The Connecticut General Assembly will continue greening and restoring Connecticut’s state capitol.

Published on: May 14, 2015

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