Award of Merit: Historic Category
Lee County Courthouse Foundation Stabilization and Structural Repairs
Submitted by Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.
Wiss, Janney, Elstner
LLC (Civil Eng.)
Lee County Courthouse, located in Giddings, TX, was designed in the Romanesque Revival style and constructed in 1899. It was officially adopted as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1968. The Courthouse is constructed of load-bearing masonry with reinforced concrete floor slabs and steel attic and roof framing.
Throughout its history, the Courthouse has experienced numerous and ongoing problems related to differential foundation movement and associated distress cracking. In 1911, partial underpinning of the south and west foundations was implemented. Further repairs were completed in 1979 and from 2001 to 2004.
In 2008, cracks were noted in the plastered walls and load-bearing masonry. A geotechnical investigation confirmed that the majority of the distress was likely caused by the interaction of the underlying expansive clay soils that support the foundation. When the perimeter of the Courthouse was inundated with surface water due to poor drainage, the soil at the foundation edge heaved, whereas the central core remained stable. Stress cracking at the arched and perpendicular connecting masonry walls was a result of the movement and subsurface soil conditions.
To stabilize the perimeter foundation, a continuously reinforced, concrete, shallow spread footing was installed below the existing foundation. The existing storm-water drainage around the perimeter of the Courthouse was revised to provide a slope of 2% away from the building. A perimeter trench was installed to capture surface water runoff and connect the roof downspouts. A French drain system was installed at the bottom of the existing footing; continuous around the perimeter of the Courthouse; and included new drain lines, filter fabric, gravel fill, and cleanouts. Furthermore, the subgrade waterproofing barrier was removed and replaced at the masonry walls below grade.