Hundreds of Cracks in Oklahoma Capitol Dome Veneer

December 29, 2014

A 5 million-pound dome placed atop the Oklahoma Capitol 12 years ago is already exhibiting cracking in its exterior cast stone panels, although building officials say there are no structural problems or evidence of weakness in the dome’s supports.

“Cracks exist at a total of 172 units, or approximately 10 percent of all cast stone units on the dome. Most of the cracks occur at the base of the dome,” stated a report by Wiss, Janner, Elstner Associates, or WJE, a Chicago company that did a detailed examination of the building’s exterior as a prelude to repair work.

A core was drilled through one of the panels, and a crack was found to run through the full thickness of the man-made rock.

John Estus, a spokesman for the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services, told The Oklahoman Tuesday the discovery was a surprise. The reason for the cracks in the relatively new structure and what should be done about them are yet to be determined.

But Capitol Architect Duane Mass stressed there’s no evidence of weakness in the dome’s supports.

“On the dome, it is a veneer issue, there are no VISUAL indicators on the dome structure (the beams and columns behind the veneer) that any connection, column surrounds, supporting base, cladding on the columns, etc. are showing strain or distress,” Mass said in an email to the newspaper. “That makes it a veneer issue, not necessarily a structural one, but one of the ‘skin.”‘

The Oklahoma Legislature approved a bill this year authorizing a $120 million bond issue to fix the building, which also has problems with leaky plumbing and outdated electrical components.

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