The post-earthquake recovery of the 160-year-old Sherman Building is a model for transforming devastation into an opportunity for preservation, innovation, and stewardship.

Using pioneering techniques and state-of-the-art technologies to quickly mobilize and survey the damage, the collaborative design–build team was able to assess conditions and formulate strategies for the rehabilitation design and execution. Through a fast-track delivery, the heavily damaged tower was partially disassembled and reconstructed with new steel reinforcement sensitively integrated and concealed into the historic fabric. Today, this iconic structure has been brought back to life and beautifully preserved. 


  • Repaired earthquake damage to landmark
  • Design-build, fast-track delivery
  • Used innovative 3-D laser scanning and technology to survey damage
  • Listed on National Register of Historic Places
  • 107,110 sf monumental building
  • Built in 1850 and designed by Baron Stone Alexander


  • 2014 Merit Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation, AIA | Virginia Society
  • 2014 Special Citation in Historic Preservation, AIA | Northern Virginia
  • 2014 State Historic Preservation Officer's Award, DC Preservation League and DC Office of Planning
  • 2014 Award of Merit in Historic Resources, AIA | DC

Innovative Preservation Process

Work on the Sherman Building required ingenuity to assess the full extent of earthquake damage and quickly rehabilitate the building. The team worked closely to develop design and construction methods progressively as conditions were revealed through survey. This fluid approach required commitment to creativity, communication and collaboration from each member of the design-build team – from consultants to contractors. QEA used a number of custom graphic tools for the accelerated reconstruction. This included a comprehensive 3-D laser scanning to provide base documentation of the post-earthquake conditions. The “point cloud” was also used to evaluate out-of-plane wall movement and inform the repair. The use of tablets allowed the design team to complete a comprehensive conditions assessment of the masonry and inventory. This documentation was used to transpose elevations into masonry course maps and track stones to their staging locations, enabling the reconstruction to begin the day after deconstruction ended and resulting in the accurate construction of over 3,000 stones.  

© Dustin Johnson

“Pressure from AFRH was not necessary to drive this team forward and preserve this building the right way. Instead they took action where needed; showed restraint when necessary; and demonstrated vision when possible to safeguard this National Treasure.”

Justin Seffen, Corporate Facilities Manager, Armed Forces Retirement Home