Dec 01 2017

Minnesota Builds Out State Capitol with Refreshed Tech

Infrastructure upgrades balance historic grounds with digital government realities.

After 112 years, the Minnesota state Capitol building was due for a makeover. So, state legislators launched a massive restoration project in 2013 that aimed to restore the historic look of the building, as well as introduce 21st century tech into the structure.

This fall, after four years and $310 million in renovations, the state’s government hub is back up and running with tech upgrades that aim to make the building and the government itself more accessible to the state’s residents.

“When chunks of the building were falling off … it just became plain that we had to do something,” Minnesota Rep. Dean Urdahl, one of the project’s most outspoken supporters, told the Pioneer Press. “If we can’t maintain the people’s house, how can we rightfully do anything else?”

After being closed to the public since June 2015, people will surely notice the new murals and more than 20,000 repairs made to building’s marble exterior, but many of the key renovations will be behind the scenes in the building’s new digital infrastructure.

“It will function better. It’s going to be state-of-the-art, even though it still has a historic appearance,” Brian Pease, manager of the Capitol historic site for the Minnesota Historical Society, told the Pioneer Press.

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Minnesota IT Services Facilitates a 21st Century Upgrade

Minnesota IT Services worked with the state’s Department of Administration to design and install new IT systems that ensure the Capitol will remain relevant to the public in the digital age.

“Minnesota IT Services staff was instrumental in this process,” said Wayne Waslaski, senior director of real estate and construction services at the Department of Administration, in a press release unveiling the tech upgrades.

Most upgrades aim to create a place where Minnesotans can participate in today’s government landscape, much of which is digital. For this reason, IT services added IT infrastructure that facilitates free Wi-Fi in public spaces.

“As legislators, lobbyists, constituents and advocates gather at the Capitol to lay the groundwork for the future of our state, they can keep up with each other and work to advance legislation in real time online,” the press release states.

IT services also helped coordinate a fiber broadband installation throughout the building, which connected all agencies in the building to the new network. The Capitol has also been outfitted with two wiring closets for network connections.

“Having two closets allows us to have increased capacity for our network and resiliency. If one closet has issues or stops working, the whole system will not go offline,” said Minnesota IT Services’ Systems Supervisor Bruce Zimmerman in the press release.

Other upgrades include:

All new audio-visual systems, a distributed antenna system to increase communication during public safety and security incidents, new security cameras, new TVs in all of the public spaces for the public to watch hearings and legislative session, and improved broadcasting capabilities from hearing rooms and the House and Senate Chambers.

And while restorations to the Capitol are sure to continue — next legislators are targeting security upgrades to the grounds — this one is sure to have a lasting impression.

“I think people’s jaws will hit the ground,” Rep. Matt Dean, a professional architect who serves on the Capitol Preservation Commission, told the Pioneer Press. “I knew it was going to look really good when it was completed, but it exceeded my expectations.”

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