White House Getting New Air Conditioning

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Last updated: 
April 8, 2011

The White House complex comprises the Executive Residences, the East and West Wings, and the Old Executive Office Building.  The White House was designed in 1792 and was first occupied in 1800.  It serves many functions;  it is a home for the President and his family, an office complex, and a setting for special functions such as dinners and ceremonies.

President Clinton began what he called the Greening of the White House Project.  In the Residence he had a new 400, 000 kWh HVAC system installed that used HF134 rather than CFC 's saving us tax payers $32,000 per year in utility costs to operate.  He also upgraded several of the older window units, the chiller system, pipe insulation, and the steam radiators.

The white house is old folks.  That is why so much of what is having to be done now is an upgrade to the utilities.

White House Upgrade Project being called the   'big dig'

1600 Avenue where you would expect to see the familiar:  North Portico ...  manicured lawn ... big white fountain ...  television camera positions ...

In recent weeks you see and hear heavy construction equipment.

The General Services Administration is still in the early stages of a $376 million project to replace utility lines within the White House complex, requiring what The Associated Press calls a "big dig" that is restricting access -- and sight lines -- to the famed West Wing.

The project began in 2010, but is expected to last until 2014 -- and steches from the West Wing around to the Eisenhower Exective Office Building.

A Mysterious Tunnel

Of course, there are also rumors of new secret tunnels and bunkers beneath the White House. Crews have poured high pylons, erected retaining walls and brought in truckloads of steel I beams.  The work has fueled speculation of a secretunderground lair.  But GSA officials insist it is a project devoted just to utilities, including new lines for water, sewer, electricity and heating and air conditioning.

The White House

CAPTION  By Charles Dharapak, AP In the meantime, as AP's Mark Smith reports, "West Wing officials, especially those with offices nearest the construction, have endured painful spells of drilling and banging. Holding meetings and doing routine business amid the din has become a major challenge."

The AP also reports:

Visitors to the West Wing now must navigate a temporary walkway that curves behind Pebble Beach -- as the zone where TV reporters do stand-ups is called -- and arches over the digging before swinging out of view behind the construction fence.

Foreign leaders arriving by motorcade often have to use another entrance. Beyond the main West Wing driveway, the construction has shut down one entrance leading to the White House residence quarters that's used for deliveries of flowers, produce and other supplies.

This may be only the beginning. We're told that, eventually, workers will have to replace utility lines within the White House itself.

That means some president and his family will have to move across the street to Blair House, just as Harry Truman did from 1948-52, the last major overhaul of the presidential residence.

Photo courtsy of Google Images.

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