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Archive for April, 2011

Brick and Block, Masonry Detectives. Brick's the one who looks like a young Robert Mitchum.


A bad bug bit my computer Tuesday, so in the 36 hours I was offline while our IT master Parker Byron wiped and restored, I cleaned up my office.

Came upon a script I wrote for a podcast almost five years ago. It attempts to impart air barrier basics in a film-noir meets “Fantastic Voyage,” with a touch of “Airplane” spoof format.

It never got produced, but reading it over yesterday, I thought the script was at least worth posting. And I’m going to take it up with John Young, our Media Specialist, a position we didn’t even have back when I wrote the script.

Ok, here it is — enjoy — Rick Brick and Bonnie Block, Masonry Detectives in Little Holes, Big Problems

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The historic masonry exterior of Dalton Apartments, Gary, Ind., gets a good cleaning with PROSOCO products, supplied by Glenrock Company, Elmhurst, Ill., as part of a restoration and rehab slated for completion by September, or sooner. photo courtesy Midwest Pressure Washing

I love working on stories like this one. It’s about a stately, historic building from the 1920s, left vacant since 1991, and brought back from the edge of ruin.

Dalton Apartments, Gary, Ind., is actually two buildings joined by a common wall — the seven-story “Tower” (1928) and the three-story “Modern” (1926).

Developer Harrington Properties, Gary (beautiful name for a town), planned to revive Dalton Apartments for 1999 occupancy, but those plans never made it to reality.

Next up, in 2003, Illinois developer Shawn Loyden, Gary Progress Development, saw the potential in the building’s downtown location, near a commuter railway station and other public transport, as well as the city’s new baseball stadium.

But the ins and outs of business alternately green-lit and red-lit the project. The recent recession didn’t help either, Shawn said. And despite being old, dirty and abandoned, Dalton Apartments is entered in the National Historic Register, which meant all the people, products and procedures involved had to be approved.

“We hung in there,” he said, and in 2010, was rewarded with some light at the end of the tunnel as general contractor Sterling Construction Corporation, Mishawaka, Ind., got to work. They tapped Midwest Pressure Washing & Restoration, Griffith, Ind., also experienced with historic buildings, to clean the grimey exterior.

The Midwest crew encountered moderate to severe carbon staining on the building’s red brick, from 70 – 80 years exposure to smoke from Gary’s once-prolific steel mills, said Tom Skertich, Midwest’s project manager for the job.

The mortar joints needed tuckpointing. The limestone trim crawled with light-to-heavy concentrations of biological growth. Cracks and stains defaced the elegant terra cotta ornamentation, at least where chunks hadn’t already fallen away.

Tattered terra cotta was just one of the challenges Midwest Pressure Washing & Restoration faced in restoring the true, intended beauty of historic Dalton Apartments. photo courtesy Midwest Pressure Washing & Restoration

Midwest went to work on Dalton Apartments in September. Their first task — an overall restoration cleaning. Though the building needed tuckpointing and terra cotta repairs — it had to be cleaned first, so the contaminants wouldn’t interfere with the repairs.

At least that was the case on the North, East and West elevations, which only needed limited work. The South elevation was in such dire need that the 100 percent tuckpointing effort had to be first priority, grimy walls or not.

Midwest Pressure Washing & Restoration began with the North wall, where a decades-old combination of carbon soiling and biological growth had blackened the masonry more profoundly than any of the other elevations.

Windows on Dalton Apartments North elevation show what skilled restoration cleaning can achieve. Much of the embedded soiling and staining shown here began before the people who removed it were born. photo courtesy Midwest Pressure Washing & Restoration

“From the looks of it, I doubt the North wall ever saw the sun," Tom said.

The restoration techs wiped the venerable brick free of carbon soiling with Sure Klean Heavy Duty Restoration Cleaner. The powerful product is made specifically to do battle with the accumulated layers of black carbon that often shroud the historic buildings of the urban industrial Midwest and Northeast.

Their procedure was simple, Tom said.

Working in 10 by 30 foot drops, the techs soaked down the wall with fresh water. They low-pressure sprayed the wall with Heavy Duty Restoration Cleaner, and gave it a few minutes to debond the black mantle. Soft scrubbing with soft-bristle brushes helped hasten the the unwelcome coating's exit, as gentle pressure-washing rinsed it away for capture, treatment and disposal.

The building’s limestone trim got washed with the Sure Klean 766 Prewash and Afterwash system, made specifically for cleaning sensitive limestone, marble and travertine.

The alkaline 766 Prewash restored the limestone's pristine appearance. A follow-up cleaning with Sure Klean Limestone Afterwash added a further cleaning effect to the trim, while neutralizing any leftover alkalinity from the Prewash.

Though the alkaline 766 system won’t hurt sensitive calcareous stone, it’s death on carbon staining. In the few areas of ultra-heavy, hardened carbon crusted brick where even the restoration cleaners struggled, Tom and crew succeeded with 766 Prewash and Afterwash.

With the North wall cleaned, the crew began tuckpointing operations on selected areas. They also attacked the dirty East and West elevations. But since they weren't as heavily soiled as the North wall, the techs used the milder, though still tough Sure Klean Restoration Cleaner, using similar procedures as on the North wall.

Following the tuckpointing, they removed excess mortar and clarified the mortar joints with Sure Klean 600. The classic new-construction masonry cleaner also dissolved excess mortar that had been left on the building from a previous tuckpointing attempt in 2008, that hadn't panned out, Tom said. They cleaned the old-fashioned way, he said, with buckets and bushes.

The cleaned, though still cracked and broken terra cotta got some attention too, in the form of repairs with Jahn M100 Restoration Mortar. Damaged limestone sills got some attention with Jahn M70 Restoration Mortar.

Technicians replaced terra cotta lost or beyond repair with GFRC pieces replicating the original pieces, and provided by Building Blocks, Inc., Chicago, Tom said.


Midwest Pressure Washing & Restoration repaired this terra cotta ornament as part of their restoration of the Dalton Apartment masonry exterior. photo courtesy Midwest Pressure Washing

Midwest wrapped up their work on the building in December as good weather days became ever scarcer. They’d cleaned and repaired three sides but had to wait for Spring to tackle the South elevation.

With the first hint of improving weather in March, the technicians were back on the job. The new-construction cleaning crew followed the masons on the south elevation, removing excess mortar both new and old. The restoration cleaners followed them.

In two weeks, they had finished cleaning and repairs. Over the course of the project, the Midwest crew had turned back the hands of time on about 60,000 square feet of historic masonry, including roughly 10,000 square feet of tuckpointing and repair.

Midwest also treated the development with Sure Klean Weatherseal Siloxane PD (Predilute), a penetrating water repellent. Siloxane PD keeps water from soaking in and creating the very problems Midwest just spent months reversing.

Dalton Apartments also got graffiti protection with Sure Klean Weatherseal Blok Guard & Graffiti Control II, a water-based, environmentally responsible anti-graffiti shield.

Meanwhile work continues inside. The finished property will boast 57 newly remodeled apartments and about 7,547 square feet of commercial space and off-street parking. Amenities include wiring for high-speed internet access, energy-efficient windows and doors, community center, exercise center and meeting center.

The development, which Shawn said is set for a grand opening in September or sooner, will offer both affordable housing and some market-rate units.

With the restoration and rehab, the octogenarian Dalton Apartments have gotten a new lease on life. How long is that lease good for?

“No one ever really knows the answer to that question,” Tom said. “With proper care and maintenance, I’d say indefinitely.”

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On-site testing of these windows verified water leakage. But where and how was it getting in? photo courtesy Tatley-Grund

Some version of this sad-but-true story happens all the time. It’s happening somewhere, no doubt, right now.

This one began in Seattle, in a 4-year-old, six-story, two-building apartment complex – about 70 units in each building, in 2007. A few residents reported tell-tale signs of water ingress around the windows.

Stains appeared on the interior walls. Paint peeled. Wood liners around the windows decayed.

The owner of the complex – a developer who owns about 30 similar buildings throughout the city – called Tatley-Grund, Seattle, a company specializing in investigation and repair of buildings with water-intrusion problems.

“We initially identified four or five places water was getting in,” said Stacey Grund, a principal and founder of the firm in 1991. “We performed both non-destructive and destructive tests to find the sources of the leaks.”

As testing progressed, the investigators found many more problem areas.

One interesting test involved hanging a calibrated rack of nozzles on the building, to shoot water at the windows. Inside, a pressure chamber with blower and digital manometer was mounted over the window to create a lower pressure than outside, and measure at what pressure window-failure occurred.

Surrounded by scaffolding, a calibrated spray rack hangs over a window, in preparation for testing in accordance with ASTM E 1105 and AAMA 502. photo courtesy Tatley-Grund

Inside, a pressure chamber with digital manometer (left side of window) is mounted over the window so investigators can determine at what water-column pressure water-intrusion occurs. photo courtesy of Tatley-Grund

This test meets the requirements of ASTM E 1105 and AAMA 502 to simulate wind driven rain. Other investigative procedures included stripping off stucco cladding and interior drywall to expose the water’s path.

They found the vinyl windows were the culprits.

To make a 6-foot-tall by 4-foot-wide window, the manufacturer took two perfectly sound 3-foot-tall by 4-foot-wide windows and molded them together, one on top of the other.

A tiny gap in the molding of the H-bar that connected the two windows let in water. Once in, it ran horizontally down the H-bar. Absence of end dams let the water drain in to the rough opening, where it did its destructive work in the building’s walls.

Tatley-Grund tested five windows on the building, using the spray rack apparatus. All five failed, in precisely the same way.

The implication was clear. With about 275 windows, all with the same defect, the building was a ticking time bomb of mold and decay. Unchecked and given time, the water ingress could eventually make the building uninhabitable.

The developer filed suit against the window manufacturer.

The manufacturer brought in his own consultant. The consultant concurred with Tatley-Grund’s findings, calling them “indisputable.”

The manufacturer had no choice but to accept full liability – a repair tab that rolled in at $3.2 million.

That was the price to strip away the cladding, pull out all 275 or so windows, replace the faulty H-bar with a stainless steel version, and re-set the repaired windows in rough openings sealed with a waterproof, yet breathable fluid-applied flashing.

Then reclad the wall.

One of about 275 repaired windows with new stainless steel "H" bars was mocked up and Design Verification Tested before ever being installed, so the repair contractors could be sure their work wouldn't suffer the same fate as the original. photo courtesy Tatley-Grund.

The modified windows were proven not to leak, but if they did, the flashing would ensure water drained to the exterior and stayed out of the walls.

“We knew for a fact the windows would work that way,” Stacey said, “because we tested them.”

Using the exact products and procedures they planned to use in repairs, Tatley-Grund built a full-size mock-up window assembly and tested it in a large design verification test chamber.

The chamber is similar to the calibrated spray rack used to test windows already in buildings, except that the spray nozzles are inside the chamber. The exterior side of the window assembly being tested is also inside the chamber, facing the nozzles. The living-space side of the window assembly makes up one outside section of the test chamber.

The air-tight chamber can be pressurized to simulate wind conditions from a mild Spring day to a Category 5 Hurricane. With the pressure cranked up and the water at full blast, the chamber creates a virtual “hurricane in a box” to test both air-tight and water-tight integrity of any window or wall assembly.

The Design Verification Test Chamber offers builders a way to find and correct flaws in window and wall assemblies before construction. Dealing with them after construction can be pricey.

Had that kind of design verification testing been done before construction started, Stacey said, this sad story would never have happened.

The leaky windows could have been detected and replaced before the first window was ever installed.

That’s why the story is sad; because the damage was so easily preventable, he said.

Meantime, the developer’s attorney contacted Tatley-Grund about another case he was working on. A newer property owned by another client had the same windows, and showed similar problems.

The good news was that because it was newer, the leaks and damage weren’t as far advanced. In this case Tatley-Grund simply removed the defective H-bars, replacing them with the same leak-proof stainless steel connector they’d used on the previous project.

That repair bill ended up being a relatively economical $700,000, since no strip and reclad was involved, Stacey said.

Other costly design failures Tatley-Grund sees include water penetration through mis-lapped building papers and discontinuous or improper sealants in interfaces between building components such as decks and walls, or wall penetrations from lights or sliding glass doors.

They are failures that cause major, expensive headaches. They are all problems easily catchable and preventable by design verification testing.

Despite the example of the defective window, this isn’t a knock on manufacturers, Stacey said. Some very good products go into making buildings.

But those products don’t always work well with each other, especially under stressful conditions like high-wind and heavy rain.

And there is no way to laboratory- or factory-test each product with every other product it could possibly come in contact with.

That testing has to be done on a project-by-project basis. And the testing must approximate the conditions the project will face over the course of its life.

“I sometimes use the analogy of the building envelope being like a sandwich,” Stacey said.

There are some tasty ingredients out there that make for great sandwiches. But just like construction materials, they don’t always play well together.

If your cutting-edge sandwich design specifies adhering the tomatoes to the salami with peanut butter, topping it with caramelized onions and sandwiching it all between double-layered buttered rye-crisps, you might want to test it first before serving it at your next dinner party.
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Stacey Grund, co-founder Tatley-Grund, Construction Repair Specialist, Seattle.

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The president of our company, David W. Boyer, has penned this unvarnished look at the role of product manufacturers — including PROSOCO — in the journey toward ever-more sustainable design and construction.

It seems an appropriate post to commemorate today’s one-year anniversary of the “Green Journey” blog.

Thanks for visiting!

The role of manufacturers in sustainable design and construction
by David W. Boyer

David W. Boyer

Today most successful people involved in construction are mindful of how their work-product impacts the environment and resources that future generations will rely upon. That is true whether you are a design professional; a sealant, waterproofing or restoration contractor; a product manufacturer; or a building owner.

Anyone who reads an industry magazine or visits a construction trade show these days is easily overwhelmed by the green wave of marketing messages. Advertisements that proclaim the sustainability of virtually any product-type consumed in new construction and building repairs are no longer the exception – they are the norm.

Manufacturers supplying construction products to contractors for use in buildings may embrace the concept of sustainability for any number of reasons, including market appeal, cost-savings, competition, and product performance.

Market appeal
Over the past several years many construction product manufacturers have sought to differentiate themselves by proclaiming their products to be “greener,” more “environmentally friendly” than those offered by competitors. Absent a common understanding of just what constitutes a “green” or “environmentally friendly” product, such claims are easily lost in a sea of similar marketing messages.

Environmentally conscious consumers and construction professionals on the receiving end of such marketing messages often succumb to the belief that use of “green” products when constructing new (or repairing existing) buildings will result in structures which are more environmentally friendly and “sustainable.”

Unfortunately the message which many manufacturers adopt places more emphasis on the environmental friendliness of how their product was harvested, produced or packaged, than on how well and how long it will perform in complex building assemblies.

As a result, many “green” products are shorter-lived when added to a building assembly than more traditional materials they are intended to replace.

Construction professionals seeking to differentiate themselves by embracing environmental design initiatives often play into the manufacturer’s hand. Many initiatives place more emphasis on amassing design points or energy credits than on studying the real-world performance of the completed building.

Construction site in Vail, Colo., which instituted new “Green” building codes several years ago.

Such a superficial approach to “sustainability” places more emphasis on christening newly built or retrofitted structures with an environmental status plaque than on erecting truly high-performing, durable structures.

Most American cities now promote the growing number of buildings that incorporate vegetative roofs, solar panels, porous paving, air and vapor barriers or other “green” technologies as proof of their civic commitment to “sustainability.” Unfortunately, many such buildings underperform or require elaborate and expensive repairs soon after they are occupied.

Truly sustainable buildings should survive their intended service life with nothing more than routine maintenance. The overall construction industry bears responsibility for the growing inventory of “sustainable” buildings that fail prematurely. Industry-sanctioned performance standards and computer-aided design programs test or model building components in ways that fail to consider a building component’s performance as part of a larger assembly.

Those that do evaluate assemblies often test to arbitrarily low exposure conditions – conditions that do not simulate the moderate to severe weathering influences that the building will be subjected to once completed.

Until emphasis on durability increases, and performance expectations reflect more realistic weathering conditions, truly “sustainable” buildings will be difficult to achieve.

Systematic recycling programs save money and instill an environmental consciousness in the manufacturing workforce.

Cost Savings
Beyond the “green” appeal they seek to impart to a product offering, there are several measures that construction product manufacturers may take to improve the sustainability of their own operations. The greatest long-term impact is derived from practices that reduce costs and improve operating efficiencies of the manufacturing process itself.

Whether dealing with process water, raw material packaging or other waste products generated by the manufacturing process, systematic recycling programs save money and instill an environmental consciousness in the manufacturing workforce.

Many believe the positive impact created by a corporate culture that embraces sustainable practices extends beyond the workplace into the home life of every employee.

Competing in a Sea of Green
Efforts to improve market appeal by incorporating more environmentally responsible ingredients or packaging must be taken seriously. Personnel charged with product development and quality control are constantly challenged by overreaching “green” claims made by their own raw material suppliers.

In complex formulations or assemblies, it’s common for “performance equal,” “environmentally responsible” replacement components to alter the handling and performance characteristics of a finished product. This presents a challenge to sales and marketing personnel tasked with communicating such changes to a customer base resistant to change.

Rushing “green” products to the marketplace without investing sufficient time in developing and testing that product’s relative performance, AND communicating any differences in how that product can be expected to perform, may significantly compromise market appeal.

Performance
Finally, in the supply chain that links “green” products to the sustainable building industry, few players are in a better position to judge the realistic, long term performance of products being consumed than the building-product manufacturer.

Manufacturers must recognize and acknowledge the shortcomings of many industry sanctioned installation practices, or performance standards required in building codes and construction documents. While compliance with such benchmarks may be the “table stakes” needed to sell construction products in a competitive marketplace, such test data is not enough.

A window and wall assembly mock-up are subjected to the rigors of a Design Verification Test Chamber to see how well they resist air and water leakage in simulations of the actual weather conditions the design will be expected to face. This kind of "real-world" testing is crucial for truly sustainable design and construction.

Test data that recites performance numbers for a building component must be complemented by data that reflects performance of that component in the finished structure. Realistic installation instructions must be provided to ensure that design details can be replicated on all job sites. Just because a detail can be committed to paper does not mean it is practical to build in the real world.

The completed assemblies must then be subjected to exposure conditions that accurately replicate conditions that the actual structure will be exposed to when erected on its building site.

For many manufacturers, such measures are above and beyond what is required to profit in a highly competitive industry. Those measures, however, are necessary if we are ever to achieve the goal of truly “sustainable” construction.

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Participants in the Concrete Polishing Association of America’s Craftsman Accreditation Course begin grinding the mezzanine-level floor at “Rocketown,” a non-profit youth facility in Nashville, Tenn. photo courtesy Concrete Polishing Association of America.


Just a few blocks from the Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville’s non-profit “Rocketown” offers young people a drug- and alcohol-free venue that includes a concert hall, indoor skateboard park, and some really old concrete floors.

The facility got pro bono help with the floors March 14-17, as two Craftsman -level accreditation courses taught by the Concrete Polishing Association of America swept through, in conjunction with the Concrete Decor Show.

CPAA instructors Brad Burns, First American Floor Co., Grapevine, Texas; Roy Bowman, and George Gooch, Concrete Visions Inc., Tulsa, Okla.; and Derek Mackenzie, Floor Lab, Toronto, Calif., taught the back-to-back two-day courses. Reps from CPAA member companies supported the training with donated equipment and supplies, including PROSOCO’s Joe Reardon and 25 gallons of Consolideck® LS® (Lithium-Silicate) Hardener/Densifier.

Along with Rocketown’s aged concrete floors, two classes of concrete professionals — mostly flatwork and polishing contractors, Brad said — were the beneficiaries of the training. Along with hours of hands-on training on real-world floors, participants got classroom training in “The Polishing Process,” “The Science of Polished Concrete,” “Estimating Polished Concrete and more.

George Gooch (L) and Derek Mackenzie spray and spread Consolideck® LS® on a concrete floor in Rocketown. Joe Reardon Photo.

The Monday-Tuesday class took on the abused and deteriorating 2500 square-foot concrete floor in Rocketown’s first-floor coffee bar.

Pre-polishing repair work to the floor included treatment with Consolideck® LS® (Lithium-Silicate) Hardener-Densifier, following grinding with 80-grit metals. Husqvarna GM300 grout went down to further improve the surface for polishing after grinding with 150-grit metals. The two treatments did the trick, and the formerly soft surface ended with a hard, shiny 1500 resin finish.

The Wednesday-Thursday class faced its own challenge, Brad said. They had to lift some heavy-duty machines — the STI Prepmaster 2417 and the HTC 650HDX — with a Skytrack crane to the 2nd-floor mezzanine overlooking the skateboard area.

The 1,000 square feet of mezzanine concrete was in much better shape than the coffee bar, Brad said. Other than location, and a thin gray surface coating which ground off easily, it presented no obstacles.

Along with the class participants, Brad said, the crew at Rocketown and the Concrete Decor Show were great to work with and helped tremendously.

“Everyone put in long hours and worked extremely hard to advance the education, benefits and aesthetics of polished concrete,” Brad said.

For more information about the Concrete Polishing Association’s schedule of classes and registration procedure, visit the Education page on the group’s website.

The Coffee Bar floor at Rocketown gleams after treatment with Consolideck LS (Lithium-Silicate) Hardener/Densifier, Husqvarna GM 300 Grouting System, and getting polished to a 1500 resin finish. photo courtesy Concrete Polishing Association of America.

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