Capitol Visitor Center:

Update on Status of Project's Schedule and Cost As of November 15, 2006

GAO-07-129T: Published: Nov 15, 2006. Publicly Released: Nov 15, 2006.

Additional Materials:


Terrell G. Dorn
(202) 512-3000


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

We are pleased to assist the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch in monitoring progress on the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) project. Our remarks will focus on (1) the Architect of the Capitol's (AOC) construction progress and problems since the Subcommittee's September 21, 2006, hearing and their impact on the project's schedule; and (2) the project's expected cost at completion and funding situation. As part of this discussion, we will address a number of key challenges and risks that continue to face the project as well as actions AOC has recently taken, and plans or needs to take, to meet its currently scheduled completion date.

Since the Subcommittee's September 21 CVC hearing, the CVC team has continued to move the project's construction forward, but the project's scheduled completion date has slipped by 6 weeks, to October 26, 2007,3 and further delays are possible. The 6-week delay was attributable to problems with the project's most critical activity--the fire protection system. Under the current schedule, the construction of the House and Senate expansions spaces will be completed before the CVC's construction, but both the CVC and the expansion spaces will be available for occupancy at the same time because final acceptance testing of both is slated to be done concurrently. During the past month, the CVC team has made progress on the project's heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, interior floor stone and ceiling installation, and other interior and exterior construction work. In addition, AOC sent Congress an action plan for improving its execution of the project and the project's schedule, as the Subcommittee requested and we had recommended, and this plan is responsive to our recommendations. AOC is also considering other action not discussed in this plan. Despite this progress, problems have occurred in many important activities besides the CVC's fire protection system, according to AOC's construction management contractor. Although these delays did not add time to the project's schedule this month, additional delays could do so in the future. Recently identified issues associated with the CVC's HVAC system, fire protection system, and security system--including issues associated with their coordination and testing--also pose risks to the project's scheduled completion date. In addition, concerns have arisen about AOC's ability to achieve a high-quality, complete, and usable facility within the current estimated time frame and cost now that the contractual date for completing sequence 2 construction work--September 15, 2006--has passed. In particular, there is a risk that, without negative consequences, the resolve of some major stakeholders to complete the project in a timely and efficient manner could be adversely affected. Finally, all the indicators of progress that we have been tracking for the Subcommittee, together with other risks and uncertainties, suggest that the project is likely to finish later than October 2007. It is too early to tell whether the actions identified in AOC's November 2006 action plan will be effective in curtailing additional schedule slippages. Furthermore, the concerns identified since the Subcommittee's last CVC hearing, particularly those related to the CVC's HVAC system, if not quickly addressed, could adversely affect the project's schedule. Thus, until it is clear that AOC's actions are effective in curtailing additional schedule slippages, we believe that the facility is more likely to be completed in early 2008 than in the fall of 2007.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AOC has focused on the HVAC system through their weekly mechanical, electrical and plumbing meetings; bi-weekly commissioning meetings; and weekly schedule meetings. The HVAC commissioning meetings have started and they are close to their proposed schedule. AOC has addressed the need for adequate resources in these various meetings.

    Recommendation: To minimize the risks associated with the CVC's HVAC system and the government's ability to get the CVC completed within the current schedule and cost estimates and to give Congress and us greater confidence in the CVC team's project schedules from this point forward, the Architect of the Capitol should work with the rest of the CVC team to ensure that the schedule for completing and commissioning the HVAC system is realistic, that all the work necessary for the proper and safe functioning of the HVAC system--including work in the spaces the air handling units are to serve--is completed in a timely, well-coordinated manner, and that sufficient resources will be available to meet the schedule without creating a trade-stacking problem.

    Agency Affected: Architect of the Capitol

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AOC has established a substantial completion date for the CVC and House and Senate expansion spaces of November 15, 2007. This date was agreed to by the contractor and a modification to the contract was signed by both parties in August 2007. The completion date does not include the final fire alarm test. AOC plans to complete the fire alarm testing by June 27, 2008.

    Recommendation: To minimize the risks associated with the CVC's HVAC system and the government's ability to get the CVC completed within the current schedule and cost estimates and to give Congress and us greater confidence in the CVC team's project schedules from this point forward, the Architect of the Capitol should carefully consider the contractual remedies available to AOC to complete all tasks that must precede the start and completion of final acceptance testing of the CVC's fire protection and life safety systems within the time necessary to meet the estimated fall 2007 project completion time frame.

    Agency Affected: Architect of the Capitol


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