Plans for Oregon state Capitol renovation call for floating seismic upgrade

Plans being worked up in Salem call for Oregon's state Capitol to float if an earthquake occurs.

The hope is that after workers place dozens of "base isolators" underneath the main building, it will move up to 4 feet with an earthquake rather than be torn apart.

Base-isolation technology is sometimes described as shock absorbers for buildings. An architect on the team planning a renovation of the Capitol, Hussain Mirza, uses a nautical analogy.

"It's like a boat in the water," he said. "When the waves move, the whole boat moves."

The seismic work is part of a nearly $300 million proposed renovation that would include mechanical improvements such as low-flush toilets and better accessibility for people with physical disabilities.

The project team is proposing new staircases, a new location for the Capitol Cafe, additional hearing rooms and ramps up to two new doors off the front entrance.

The Legislature is expected to consider an appropriation next year for the renovation. Minority Republicans have expressed skepticism, saying schools across the state are in dire need of earthquake upgrades.

"If not now, when?" asked project manager Tary Carlson. "This is Oregon's third Capitol. We don't need to build a fourth."

Fires in 1855 and 1935 destroyed Oregon's previous Capitols.

The project team is putting its plans on public display at a meeting at the Capitol from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday in hearing room A.


Information from: Statesman Journal,