(U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo.) — The U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) Chapel restoration project has reached a milestone, the Academy said, and will move from the demolition phase to the restoration phase on Thursday, March 30.

USAFA said in a press release that the final piece of the iconic aluminum exterior, the 1,008th piece, would be removed on Thursday, which marks the transition of the project from demolition to restoration.

“As the last exterior aluminum panel is removed from the Cadet Chapel, it marks the end of the preparation process and the beginning of putting the Chapel back together, to include adding the interior water barrier that was left out of the original project,” said Duane Boyle, USAFA Architect. “Although we still have a long way to go before reopening to the public, we’re committed to getting this right, from solving the water intrusion issue, to ensuring that the building is brought back to its original design intent for the Academy, the region, and the nation to enjoy.”

While work on the chapel is far from complete, the Academy provided some facts that reveal the sheer scale of the project, and the amount of work that has gone into it so far:

  • The total volume of the abatement spaces was over 1.1 million cubic feet and was completed in thirds, making each containment one of the largest individual containments in the history of the state.
  • A total of 147 dumpsters (5,880 cubic yards) of material containing asbestos was removed from the chapel.
  • More than 750,000 lbs. of dry ice was used to clean the abatement containment.
  • More than 2 million square feet of plastic sheeting and 330 miles of specialized duct tape was used in asbestos abatement work.
  • More than 37,500 protective Tyvek suits have been used for asbestos abatement work.
  • More than 400,000 man-hours have supported combined on-site efforts and off-site administrative/logistics roles off-site.
  • More than 720 people have worked directly on-site supporting restoration.

USAFA said the Cadet Chapel faced water intrusion issues almost immediately after its completion date in 1962. A planned interior water barrier behind the exterior aluminum was engineered out of the project as a cost-savings effort and replaced with 32 miles of asbestos caulking that did not work. Efforts to mitigate the problem over the years concealed some architectural features from public view and did not stop continued water damage to the chapel interior, USAFA said.

The restoration project was started in 2019, with the goal of permanently solving the leakage problem, repair related damage, and restore the chapel. Currently, the chapel renovation is slated to be completed in late 2026, with reopening to the public expected in 2027.