Aerial view of downtown St. Louis and the Robert A. Young Federal Building.

Robert A. Young Federal Building Seismic Upgrades

Optimizing structural plans and retrofit schemes to preserve a historic building.

Project Facts

Location St. Louis, Missouri
Owner U.S. General Services Administration
Size 1,000,000 SF
Cost $62 million
Status Completed 2019


Located within 150 miles of two seismic zones—Wabash Valley and New Madrid—the Robert A Young (RAY) Federal Building houses 3,000 federal workers and 500–800 visitors per day. That’s why Walter P Moore’s structural engineering role was of critical importance for public safety.

About the project

The Robert A Young (RAY) Federal Building was originally built in 1933 as a railroad terminal merchandise mart and warehouse. The US Army became the property owners in the 1940’s, added 3 floors to the L-shaped portion of the building and converted it to office space in 1957. In 1961, the General Services Administration (GSA) became the property manager and in 1988 renamed the building in honor of former Missouri politician Robert A. Young. From 1987 to 1990 the building underwent a complete interior renovation, which left the historic grand lobby intact. Located within 150 miles of two seismic zones, Wabash Valley and New Madrid, the Robert A Young (RAY) Federal Building houses 3,000 federal workers and 500-800 visitors per day. Therefore, Walter P Moore’s role of structural engineer is of critical importance for public safety. Structural failure would not only cause catastrophic loss of life for those in and around the building but would also impede the ability of first responders to carry out their mission.

The Robert A. Young Federal Building Seismic Upgrades were a task order of an IDIQ contract for the GSA’s Region 6, under which we were a sub-consultant. We assisted GSA in developing a seismic retrofit program for the building. Our services for this $62 million, design-build project included evaluating previous seismic investigations, conducting on-site investigations of existing structural members, developing an optimized retrofit scheme based on the current requirements, and preparing bridging documents for a design-build contractor.

Our team assisted the General Services Administration (GSA) with preparing the documents as well as vetting the proposals and overlooking construction administration activities of the selected design-build team. Walter P Moore performed planning and phasing studies, requirements analysis, and participated in charrettes prior to this work order which informed the feasibility and cost of the seismic upgrades. Our bridging documents identified a potential scheme and resulting performance criteria for a code-compliant lateral force resisting system; these bridging documents addressed project planning and phasing of the scheme presented. Walter P Moore’s bridging documents also presented the design criteria for the seismic retrofit scheme as well as design criteria for the design-builder.

We utilized Building Information Modeling (BIM), specifically Revit Structure for all drawing deliverables. The team helped the owner save money as well as an historic building asset, with a retrofit scheme that allows for construction to occur within an occupied building. Our team provided oversight of the proposed phasing and swing space activities, while the design-build team that worked with the GSA to schedule and facilitate moves as the project progressed. We were involved in the project development beginning in 2011 through the implementation of the final scheme March of 2019.