There are few construction jobs with more pressure than those related to OLV National Shrine & Basilica.  Three of the individuals who are up to all of the challenges involved with the upcoming dome project are Hank Balling III of Guard Construction and Contracting Corp., and Jake Schneider, AIA, and Thomas R. Kujawa, AIA, of Schneider Architectural Services, PC.

Here’s what they had to say about the job before them…

Why is work on the dome necessary? 

HB: The dome has suffered unabated lake-effect winds, rain, snow, and ice for 100 years.  As such, critical copper-to-copper joints have failed, and the pre-existing copper is so worn that it can no longer be patched as new patches can no longer be soldered together with pre-existing copper.

TK&JS: The members of our restoration committee, in conjunction with our team of designers and roofing consultants, have determined that the most appropriate way ahead is to replace the copper dome with a new copper roof to match. 


Why now? 

HB: Failed joints allow water infiltration to deteriorate the underlying decking and, from there, put at risk the underlying structural steel framing.  By addressing these issues now, we eliminate the possibility of frame degradation and potential structural instability.

TK&JS: The dome's copper roof is original to the 1926 completed building. After 100 years, it has seen more than its full life and needs to be replaced.

Can you explain the project in 25 words or less?

HB: We are charged with the removal and replacement of all the copper dome roofing elements and the top-of-dome ornate cupola copper cladding.  I did it in 24!

TK&JS: First, we will erect scaffolding on all sides of the Basilica to access the dome roof. The existing copper roofing and wood-batten framing will be removed down to the existing concrete tile deck. A new state-of-the art copper roofing will be installed to match the existing roofing and details. New copper vent portals and a new copper cupola will be installed. Finally, the existing cross will be cleaned and reinstalled on top of the cupola.


Is this project going to be difficult? 

TK&JS: The project's biggest challenge is access. To the top of the cross, the Basilica is about 167 feet tall. It's going to be a challenge to get men and materials up to the work areas. We’ll need scaffolding and construction elevators and then the time to erect all these temporary structures and then remove them at the completion of the work.


Why are you excited about the project?

HB: In and of itself, the privilege to simply touch this iconic structure is reason to get up and smile every morning.  Then, to passionately accept our role as caretaker. It’s not only exciting, but a once-in-a-lifetime event!

TK: I am excited about two things: for the Basilica to have a new gleaming copper roof that will keep it water tight for the next 100 years and I can't wait to climb to the top to view the work!