‘Hidden defects’: Leaky ceilings at State Capitol lead to $30M in repairs

After years of leaky ceilings at the state capital, repairs are finally underway on the 54-year-old building.
Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 10:14 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 27, 2023 at 1:42 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After years of leaky ceilings at the state capital, repairs are finally underway on the 54-year-old building.

There are catchments set up around the basement floor, tarps on the ceiling with a hose connected to drain water into makeshift trash bins.

House Speaker Scott Saiki said it’s been a while since he visited the legislative library.

Last week, he needed a book from the basement when he noticed the catchments in the hallway and the library.

Tarps covered the shelves to keep water from damaging the books. “It was just unfortunate that it had gotten to this point where it did not, you know, we now have to pay for major repairs,” said Saiki.

The parking lot on the Senate side also has leaky issues. It’s right below the reflecting pools that surround the capital.

Comptroller Keith Regan of the State’s Dept. of Accounting and General Services said the water treatment problem within the pools was first identified in 2005.

“As time progresses, and as the waterproof membrane, which is really what keeps the water out right from going beneath the pool, has started to degrade,” said Regan. “Water continued, obviously seeping through and eating away at the material that’s beneath the waterproof membrane.”

The lights are out in the parking lot because of water seeping through the electrical lines.

Although the pools have been drained for at least two years, Saiki said there are still leaks when it rains.

“There’s concerns about more leakage and the impact that it has not just on staff but also on our operations,” said Saiki. “Because, you know, about a year ago, the water leaked into our IT room and shut down the internet system here, the computer system, so it’s yes, it’s serious.”

“It also impacts the elevators at times; there’s a lot of problems.” Air filters attached to fans are also up.

There is staining along the walls and ceilings from leaks over the years and mildew from the moisture.

About $37 million has been allocated for repairs.

“Sometimes it’s hard to fund repairs because the defects are not always apparent to people, so they’re hidden defects, so they don’t seem as urgent or as critical,” said Saiki. “But in fact, they are, and that’s exactly why we’re in this situation today.”

But is the funding enough?

“It’s going to be dependent on what we find as we pull back those layers and look and see how much damage has actually been done to sort of the actual roofing material, the concrete that’s in there,” said Regan.

Repairs are expected to be complete by January 2026.