No need to put the Statue of Liberty on a pedestal—it has been on one for 125 years. But there is a need to upgrade both the pedestal and the statue itself so that they are compliant with current life-safety codes, says the owner, the U.S. Dept. of the Interior's National Park Service. And when it comes to the Statue of Liberty, even something as mundane sounding as a life-safety upgrade is anything but ordinary.  

During the $27.3-million renovation, the mandate from the park service is to protect the historic fabric of the monument, which is located on Liberty Island in New York Harbor. The task will include the statue's copper skin, designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi; the structure itself, designed by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, and the stone pedestal, designed by Richard Morris Hunt.

The mandate complicates the work. For instance, all plans must be approved by the park service. Further, during the renovation work, "absolutely no intrusions into the historic fabric are allowed," says Hugh Duffy, project manager at the park service's Denver Service Center. That means no fastenings to the skin, structure or pedestal—not even a rope. "It's a challenge," says Duffy. "We are enforcing [the no-intrusion rules] every day," he adds.  

For example, in the hoistway, workers have placed wood members, using ropes, around the Eiffel beams to protect the beams. Workers cannot drill holes into or clamp to the beams, which contain 10 layers of historic paint. Any rubbing would damage the paint, says Duffy.

Work calls for adding two pedestal exits, widening the pedestal stairs, replacing the pedestal elevator and the statue's emergency elevator, and improving restrooms and mechanical, electrical, fire suppression and security systems. While the pedestal is not compliant with current life-safety codes, it was code-compliant after its centennial restoration, which was finished by July 4, 1986, says the park service.

The renovation's complexity pales next to the monument's $87-million centennial restoration. Still, trying to find space to fit all the elements in the confines of the 151-ft-tall figure and the 154-ft-tall pedestal is "worse than a hard sudoku puzzle," says Duffy. All new elements have to fit within defined limits, based on existing intrusions, he adds. The restrictions complicate logistics and add up to what Duffy calls "mind-boggling" complexity.  

Gary Self, senior group manager in the Denver office of Atkins North America, which is the construction manager, calls the project "schedule-critical." Contractor Joseph A. Natoli Construction Corp., Pine Brook, N.J., has only one year to finish the upgrade, following a detailed schedule worked out by Duffy.

Work began on Oct. 29, a day after the statue's 125th anniversary celebration, but crews could not immediately proceed at full speed. Before they could begin demolition of the pedestal's guts, they had to put protection in place—especially for the historic torch, which had been on display since the completion of the centennial restoration—and salvage any historic artifacts.

Work includes replacing the pedestal's existing scissor staircases with stairs that are wider and, to improve head room, have a different tread-to-riser ratio. In the statue itself, workers will install a 3-ft x 8-ft shaft for a slightly larger emergency elevator—big enough for a stretcher.

The emergency elevator installed during the centennial restoration was a hazard because it was leaking hydraulic fluid and its motor room was catching on fire, says Duffy. It also wasn't big enough to accommodate a stretcher with an attendant.