Case Study: Scaffolding to Repair the Women’s Museum in Downtown Washington, D.C.

Posted on April 18, 2022 in Case Studies, Scaffolding

The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington D.C. champions the work of women artists through exhibits, online content, programs, and collections. NMWA has been located in the same building since it first opened in 1983.

As time went by, the 112-year-old iconic building was starting to show signs of its age—exterior cornices and designs were crumbling, and the original windows were cracked. Because of this, the Board decided it was time to raise the money needed for a restoration and re-imagination.

In August of 2021, the museum closed its doors, and construction work began on a multi-year total renovation of the interior and exterior of the building. Grunley Construction Company won the contracting bid and hired Scaffolding Solutions to provide the necessary scaffolding for the project. 

An Intricate and Heavy Challenge

The building itself was constructed in 1908 in the Classical Revival style, and it features an intricate terracotta design, cornices, and other complex architectural elements. Construction workers would need to remove each of the 1,200lb exterior stones and very carefully place them onto the scaffolding. 

This project had several unique challenges, such as the delicate exterior, shoring under the north and south vaults to support scaffolding, and a uniquely-engineered trolley system. Compression ties into the windows were also required, including in-house testing and an engineering report.

Grunley had very specific access needs that made this a highly complex job. They needed to 

get within 8 inches of access all over the building. The drawings also required Scaffolding Solutions to match and reflect the layout, while the scaffolding had to be strong enough to support the weight of the 1,200lb stones.

The Solution

Scaffolding Solutions immediately got to work and provided the following:

  • The scaffolding compression tied on the lower half and anchored into brick above the limestone
  • Scaffolding above the hoist operations on the 5th floor
  • Shoring beneath the North and West elevation vaults- including shoring for the construction and scaffolding loads
  • Netting on scaffolding including the decorative netting on the west side – seen in the image to the right. The netting is a mural by the notable artist MISS CHELOVE.
  • Interior needle beam shoring (Needle shoring to support party wall for the new door)
  • Custom designed dual-direction trolley beam connections

After Scaffolding Solutions set up the scaffolding, construction workers realized that the stones were three times larger than initially anticipated. 

Scaffolding Solutions immediately got to work strengthening the scaffolding to support the massive weight of the stones. Despite this unforeseen issue, they kept the project on time.

Result

Grunley Construction Company and the subcontractors are happy with the scaffolding work and Scaffolding Solution’s strict adherence to the specific contract duration to meet all timelines. The project is currently ongoing as of the writing of this case study, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts is scheduled to re-open to the public in Fall 2023. 

The Exhibition Coordinator of the museum was thrilled with the progress and sent a personalized note addressed to Scaffolding Solutions and Grunley Construction, praising their work on the custom netting that was made by a local muralist of note:

“Please pass my praise along to everyone with Grunley and Scaffolding Solutions who worked on this – especially the crew that was up on the scaffolding making all the many little adjustments! This has certainly been a collective and collaborative effort, and I’m so appreciative of all involved.”

~ Hannah Shambroom, Exhibition Coordinator
National Museum of Women in the Arts

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