'Significant' structural damage shutters NIH leased facility

Friday - 6/6/2014, 2:00pm EDT

A leased building that houses office space for the National Institutes of Health has been shuttered for the past three weeks following concerns over its structural integrity, forcing hundreds of employees to work from home or at alternative work sites.

The eight-story office building at 6100 Executive Blvd., in Rockville, Maryland, has been shuttered since May 16 after employees working there reported feeling the building tremble, according to an NIH statement provided to Federal News Radio

"No one was hurt, but NIH personnel observed cracks in the building," according to the statement. The facility was evacuated.

Sue Tucker, a spokeswoman for Montgomery County in Maryland said NIH requested last week that the county's Department of Permitting Services dispatch inspectors to take a look at the building.

County inspectors examined the building this week, observing "significant structural damage" and deemed the building unsafe, Tucker said.

Initial information provided to the county by NIH indicated a support column in the building may have collapsed.

Brad Moss, a spokesman for NIH's Office of Research Services, said he had limited information about the condition of the building since it is not owned by the agency. The building owner is S.A. Goldberg Company.

The building was constructed in 1981, according to Axent Realty Group, the building-management company. It houses office space for the The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development as well as the the NIH Clinical Center and the office of the director. NIH's Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC), which administers governmentwide IT acquisition contracts, is also headquartered in the building.

About 500 NIH employees worked out of the building.

Employees were able to safely retrieve personal items and documents from the building and are currently teleworking or working at alternative work sites, Moss said.

"As part of its planning for contingencies of this type as well as natural events such as snow and ice storms, the NIH has conducted extensive preparation in the area of telework," Moss said. "Most of the staff have been carrying out their normal duties in a telework status. Acknowledging that not all duties are telework capable, NIH has provided interim space in other locations on Executive Boulevard and in the Rockledge area."