Washington Monument Earthquake Repair

Washington, DC
U.S. National Park Service
Hilll International/Louis Berger Group JV
$11.3 million

The Washington Monument is a 555-foot marble and granite obelisk tower constructed in 1884 to honor Revolutionary War hero and first U.S. president George Washington.  At the time of its construction, the Monument was the tallest building in the world.  It reportedly remains the tallest unreinforced, load-bearing masonry structure in the world.  It is topped by a 300-ton marble pyramidion that contains a public observation deck and museum.  Visited by more than 600,000 people each year, the Monument has become an iconic symbol of the United States and its government, and a visual and representational centerpiece of the District of Columbia.

In August 2011, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake centered 90 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. shook the city and its historic buildings, including the Monument, causing minor injuries and falling debris.  Inspectors who rappelled from the building shortly after the earthquake found that the landmark had sustained significant damage, including cracks, spalls and displacements of stones and joints throughout the building. Exterior and interior repair work took more than two and a half years to complete and included stone patching with “Dutchmen” of like material or mortar patches, crack repair using epoxy injection, repointing of mortar joints, updating the interior emergency lighting system, and re-establishing tie-ins with interior components.  Hill International provided construction management services in conjunction with joint venture partner Louis Berger Group.  The project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget.

The Monument’s sheer height posed the most obvious and pervasive challenge.  And, since most of the damage had occurred at or near its top—at 490 feet or above--inspections and repairs required both skill and fearlessness.  The project also was highly visible, both literally and figuratively, as the Monument is a towering centerpiece of the District of Columbia and an iconic symbol of the nation and its democratic ideals. The project’s highly visible nature demanded that work proceed quickly and safely, that required scaffolding be as aesthetic as possible, and that the site be highly secure.  Work had to be scheduled around public, political and presidential events, including the 2013 Inauguration.  Also, repair and stabilization work had to be completed within a tight schedule and budget, and to the highest standards of quality, preserving the Monument’s historic integrity as well as its standing as the world’s largest unreinforced, load-bearing masonry structure.  In addition, the project was overseen by multiple stakeholders--the National Park Service, the local park, National Mall and Memorial Parks, the Trust for the National Mall, the United States Park Police, and the U.S. Secret Service--requiring clear, consistent communication and coordination among them.


The project’s challenges demanded that the Berger/Hill CM team provide continuous, on-site, real-time coordination among the designer, contractor, and myriad stakeholders.  Such coordination was vital during time-consuming materials delivery, which required advanced notice and security preparations and painstaking K-9 inspections.  Also, the CM team’s 24/7, hands-on presence facilitated the removal of restrictive security measures, such as site evacuations during presidential motorcades, which threatened progress.  The CM and its own stonework expert also provided “on-scaffold” quality assurance, inspecting work as it was done and requesting immediate work stoppages and reparations when expectations weren’t met. 

When the 2013 Presidential Inauguration and unrelated delays pushed stonework back, the CM team doubled its effort to quickly review and inspect work, which saved precious time, streamlined subsequent final inspections and allowed for crucial movement of swing stages to other parts of the Monument.  The Berger-Hill team also prioritized work on upper-level public areas, allowing Parks teams to finish new interpretive displays before the reopening.  In addition, the Berger-Hill team collaboratively enforced safety measures, helping to ensure that work proceeded efficiently, safely and—despite the precarious work—without injury.  Such proactive, hands-on management resulted in the project’s re-opening eight days ahead of schedule.

The National Parks Service is prohibited from giving direct testimonials.  However, the Berger-Hill team expects a positive rating via the U.S. General Services Administration’s central Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS).  This rating is pending.

U.S. National Parks Service