Archive for October, 2011

Trial by water

The art deco Asheville City Building (1928), Asheville, N.C., drowses in autumn afternoon sunshine. Recent testing revealed the beautiful though octogenarian building fabric to be surprisingly leaky. photo courtesy of the City of Asheville.

The eye-catching art-deco Asheville City Building in Asheville, N.C., is an iconic landmark for the town of about 83,000, nestled on the western edge of the Great Smokey Mountains.

The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Unfortunately, it leaks.

It leaks so badly, the 7th and 8th floors are now unoccupied. That’s no reflection on the building. The Asheville City Building (1928) is 83 years old, and at that age, without a little specialized attention now and then, is entitled to leak.

The city, to its credit, is giving this splendid old building that attention now. Consulting engineers Sutton-Kennerly & Associates, with offices in Greensboro, Charlotte, Asheville and Wilmington, N.C., and Birmingham, Ala., is heading up the effort.

The project is still in the planning stages, according to Zeb Wells PE, an engineer at the firm’s Asheville Office. Part of that planning is a systematic analysis of the building’s troubles, including learning how and how much the masonry, terra cotta and marble fabric admits water.

To get an idea of what they were up against, Mr. Wells said, the company called on specialty facade restoration contractor Masonry Preservation Services (MPS), Bloomsburg, Pa., in July to run ASTM C1601 Standard Test Method for Field Determination of Water Penetration of Masonry Wall Surfaces.

The testing is part of an overall pilot phase MPS is conducting to prove effectiveness of planned repairs and establish standards of quality, said Erik Valentino, architectural engineer and building envelope specialist in charge of field testing at MPS.

The non-destructive test method involves attaching a 12 square-foot pressurized test chamber to the masonry and cycling .68 gallons of water per minute from a top-mounted spray bar through it, with air pressure of 10 pounds per square foot. This keeps a running “sheet” of water on the wall throughout the test. The difference in the volume of water at the test’s beginning and end indicates how much water penetrated the wall.

The test simulates a storm dumping 5.5 inches of rain per hour on the wall with 62.5 mph winds.

The ASTM C1601 test apparatus prepares to drench the test panel. photo courtesy Erik Valentino, Masonry Preservation Serivces Inc.

The wall, as Sutton-Kennerly and MPS found it, allowed a staggering 7.48 gallons of water per hour to penetrate the surface.

"We knew it was leaky, but we didn't expect that much," said Mr. Wells. That volume of water soaking into the wall is easily enough to make its way to the interior, causing mold and stains — exactly the problems the Asheville City Building is experiencing.

MPS then repointed the test panel. They used a Type N mortar and followed Secretary of the Interior standards for preservation of registered landmarks. While the pointing mortar used for the test area was made using a commercially available sand, the same originally-specified coarse-grained sand from the nearby French Broad River use was located and will be used for all future pointing on the building.

MPS let the new mortar cure, then reattached the test apparatus for another round.

The repaired wall withstood the simulated storm much better, at only 2.93 gallons per hour — well within an “expected” range for masonry of this type, and an improvement, by the numbers, of 60.9 percent.

“At the suggestion of Jeff Erdly, CEO pf MPS, we decided to take it one step further,” Mr. Wells said. “We wanted to see if we could reduce the water penetration even more by limiting the brick absorption.”

MPS recommended and roller-applied PROSOCO’s masonry water-repellent Sure Klean Weather Seal Siloxane WB Concentrate. The “WB” stands for “water-based,” which, along with “no odor,” was a Sutton-Kennerly specification.

The penetrating treatment soaks into microscopic masonry pores where it chemically bonds, lining the masonry pores with water-repellent molecules. Liquid water won’t enter the pores. However, water that’s already in the masonry can still evaporate out — a characteristic known as “breathability.”

The protective treatment isn’t an alternative to repair — any small gap in the masonry or mortar joints will still admit water — but the normal porosity of masonry is taken out of the game.

A third round of ASTM C1601 confirmed it. Water penetraton decreased again from 2.93 gallons per hour to .76 gallons — a virtually negligible amount of water penetration, and an 89.9 percent improvement over the original unrepaired wall.

“The testing helped us judge the effectiveness of the repointing and water repellent procedures,” Mr. Wells said. “Now that we know how much benefit they bring to the building, our next step will be to include them as we evaluate our recommendations to the building owner.”

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Colorful terra cotta crowns the eight-story, 83-year-old Asheville City Building, Asheville, N.C., now being prepped for restoration. photo courtesy of Erik Valentino, Masonry Preservation Services.

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Can you identify this project, which was cleaned, inside and out with PROSOCO products? More than 50 readers of last issue's PROSOCO News got it right in that edition's installment of the "Can You Identify This Project" contest.

It’s Union Station, Kansas City, Mo.

You probably already knew that.

We run the “Can You Identify This Project” contest in each edition of our flagship newsletter the “PROSOCO News.” Sometimes I put easy ones in there like — well, like Union Station, or Frank Lloyd Wright buildings (love that Prairie Style). Other times they’re more obscure, like the national headquarters of some big corporation or other.

PROSOCO News -- This cover story won an "honorable mention" for writing in a Publications Management newsletter contest in 2005, but I just like the design. Click on the image to go our archive of PROSOCO News newsletters.

One thing all the mystery projects have in common — contractors used PROSOCO products, natch, to clean, protect and/or maintain the buildings in some way.

When our readers, who are the elite of the construction industry, imho, equalled only in brilliance by the readers of this blog, e-mail, fax or call me with the correct answer, I publish their names and companies in the “Can You Identify This Project” winner’s column in the very next issue.

I ask permission first of course. In all the years I’ve been running the contest, only one person asked me to not put his name into print.

Winners also get some sort of fabulous prize — usually a PROSOCO ball cap. Even better, they get the “You sure know your stuff” certificate.

The "You sure know your stuff" certificate, awarded to winners of the "Can You Identify This Project" contest constitutes absolute documented proof that the holder knows his or her stuff.

This valuable certificate can come in pretty handy. Let’s say you’re in an argument with some rude person who declares “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” You just whip out the certificate, which clearly states that you sure know your stuff. Argument over.

The certificate template was created by our graphic designer Stephen Falls, and each winner’s award is filled out by Systems Support & Training Specialist Candy Monroe. Candy really did correctly identify the Medtronics HQ as stated in the certificate; it’s not just done for example’s sake.

The only drawback to the Can You Identify This Project contest is that sometimes I get more correct responses than I have room to print in the PROSOCO News. The last time it happened was for a Frank Lloyd Wright building near Chicago. I think the entire state of Illinois responded to that one.

So we printed as many winners as we could in the newsletter, alphabetically by first name, and published the full list on a special webpage. That was in the days before blogs. Now that we’re in the days OF blogs, I can publish the full list of last issue’s winners right here, since there’s far too many to put in the print edition of PROSOCO News.

And truly it’s an honor to have the names of these architecturally aware and constructionally knowledgeable building professionals gracing this blog. Here they are for last issue’s “Can You Identify This Project” — Union Station, KCMO. I wouldn’t be surprised if you spot someone you know in their ranks.

Andy Vohs
Chamberlin Contracting
Kansas City, MO

Angela Myler
Univar USA
Kansas City, MO

Bill Morris, AIA
Augusta, KS

Bill Neville
Chamberlin Contracting
Kansas City, MO

Billy Vicic Jr., RLA
Newman, Jackson, Bieberstein
Dallas, TX

Brian Pape
Historic Preservation & Green Architect
New York, NY

Chelsie Booker
RIM Architects
Anchorage, AK

Ching-Ya Yeh
Historic Preservation & Green Architect
New York, NY

Connie Watkins
Scott Rice Office Works
Lawrence, KS

Daryl Carter
Kansas City, MO

Doug Kouba
Kouba + Knoop Associates
St. Louis, MO

Elliott E. Dudnik
Elliott Dudnik + Associates
Evanston, Ill.

Frank Halsey
Mid-Continental Restoration
Fort Scott, KS

Gary Becker
Hesston, KS

Gerald Morgan
University of Missouri
Mexico, MO

Gerard Alba
Studio 804
Lawrence, KS

Gerri Kielhofner
Butler Rosenbury & Partners
Springfield, MO

Howard Langner
Texas Historical Commission
Austin, TX

Jack O’Roark
BAC Local #15 MO/KS
Overland Park, KS

James W. Rhodes, FAIA
Croton-on-Hudson, NY

James Warren
New York State Historic Preservation Office
Waterford, NY

Jessica Gates
Sherwin Williams
Independence, MO

Jim O’Neill
Contractors Supply
East Providence, RI

John E. Heckman, AIA
Heckman & Associates, P.A. Architects
Independence, KS

Jonas Packer
Chicago, IL

Jonathan Brooks
PBA Architects, P.A.
Wichita, KS

Joseph Le Pique
New York City Department of Design + Construction
Long Island City, NY

James R. (JR) Baron Jr., RA, CSI
Norcross, GA

Karen MacCannell
The McIntosh Group
Tulsa, OK

Kathleen Alberding, AIA, CSI, LEED AP
Heller & Metzger, PC
Washington, DC

Keith Anderson
WRA Architects, Inc.
Dallas, TX

Ken Kaiser
Ken Kaiser Restoration
Des Moines, IA

Kevin L. Jarman, AIA
Johnson Cartwright Jarman Architects, P.A.
Tampa, FL

Kimball L. Hales, AIA, LEED AP
Hufft Projects
Kansas City, MO

Kirk Delzer, AIA
Integrated Design Solutions
Troy, MI

Larry Lisbona
Lisbona Architects, Inc.
Shawnee, KS

Lurita Blank
Walter P Moore
Kansas City, MO

Mark Critchfield
Columbia,MO 65203

Mary Beth Oberlin, AIA, LEED AP
Bond Wolfe Architects
St. Louis, MO

Michael Morley
Sipsmart Building Systems
Lawrence, KS

Milton Grenfell
Milton Grenfell Architecture
Washington, DC

Norman Sneed
Allen & Hoshall
Memphis, TN

Paul J. Sanders, Associate AIA, Project Designer, LEED AP
Burns & McDonnell
Kansas City, MO

Phillip Schuler, AIA, CDT, LEED AP
Cannon Design
Boston, MA

Rebecca Davis
RBS Design Group Architecture
Owensboro, KY

Rich McGuire, PE
Structural Engineering Associates
Kansas City, MO

Richard J. Schuetz, AIA
Arlington, VA

Robert Dye, FSCI
Overland Park, KS

Scott Slimp
Intrepid Enterprises, Inc.
Harvey, LA

Shannon Pollard
hollis & miller architects
Lee’s Summit, MO

Terri Heitzman
Station Nineteen Architects, Inc.
Minneapolis, MN

Thomas McKenzie
Agile Pursuits Franchising, Inc.
Olathe, KS

Timothy G. Carlson
HGA Architects & Engineers
Minneapolis, MN

William J. Richardson, AIA
Dallas, TX

If you would like to receive the PROSOCO News and participate in the “Can You Identify This Project” contest, just shoot me an e-mail and I’ll get you signed up.


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Here's the concrete floor Bill Fansler and crew started with in the newly constructed Donald V. Fites Engineering Innovation Center at Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Ind. photo courtesy Smock Fansler

This is what they did with it. photo courtesy Design Organization

The transformation of the concrete floor from steel-troweled to polished in the newly built Donald V. Fites Engineering Innovation Center at Valparaiso University in some ways resembles the mission of the College of Engineering, of transforming high school students into engineering professionals.

In both cases, there’s some grinding and polishing.

“We decided early that we wanted sustainable flooring for laboratories and public spaces,” said Project Architect Victor Ritter, LEED AP and Principal of Chicago and Valparaiso, Indiana-based Design Organization. Tile, vinyl and other flooring choices were considered before deciding on polished concrete.

“It has several advantages no other flooring has,” he said.

In addition to its durability, one of the main advantages for the project was the fact that no other flooring material needed to be bought — and transported — to be put on top of the concrete. “Using concrete saved resources, and also eliminated the use of adhesives, which can have a negative effect on indoor environmental quality,” said Mr. Ritter, who indicated the goal for the project is LEED Gold certification.

The building also boasts low-VOC paints and sealants; a highly insulated, reflective roof; lots of day-lighting, and exterior hardscaping of reflective concrete rather than heat-absorbing asphalt. Also, construction manager Turner Construction, number-one in Engineering News Record’s top 100 green contractors, instituted an aggressive recycling program throughout the construction period, Mr. Ritter said.

The $6.9 million project is actually an addition connected to the south side of Gellersen Center, which houses the College of Engineering and Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. It creates a second “front door” for the College.

A little over half of the building’s 13,600 square feet is polished concrete, according to polishing contractor Bill Fansler, a vice president, estimator and project manager at Smock Fansler Corporation, Indianapolis.

Mr. Fansler and crew got the nod to go to work in January, about a month after the slab was poured and the building shell was up. Following the procedure they developed on their test panel, they flattened and “opened” the concrete with 650-pound grinders equipped with 40-grit metal-bond abrasive diamond pads, and moved up to 80- and 150-grit.

“Bond” refers to the matrix that holds the diamonds on the pad. For grinding, it takes metal to hold the diamond “teeth” solidly and immovably to the pad. Polishing pads hold their diamonds to the pad with resins. That more flexible bond keeps the diamonds from gouging the concrete as deeply as a metal bond.

In some places, the concrete had unexpected densities due to variations in the way it was troweled, and the operators had to change pads to adjust, Mr. Fansler said.

A three-day winter storm Jan. 31- Feb. 2, nicknamed the “Groundhog Day Blizzard” added another complication. As snow blew in the temporary exits, or was tracked in on boots it melted on the concrete floor. The water, where it wasn’t mopped up right away, pulled salts out of the concrete, which hardened into insoluble white deposits on the surface.

“Re-grinding was the only way to get rid of them,” Mr. Fansler said.

The storm also helped, Mr. Fansler said. The deep snow marooned the polishing crew at the jobsite and at their hotel across the street — they had nowhere to go and nothing to do except work on the floor. Other trades, who were local or housed further away, weren’t able to make it to the campus through the snow, so Smock Fansler had the floor to themselves for a few days.

After getting the floor to a 150-grit metal-bond finish, they switched to softer resin-bond diamonds of 100- 200- and 400 grit.

At 400 grit resins, generally considered the line between grinding and polishing, it was time to harden and densify the floor. Consolideck LS (lithium silicate) Hardener/Densifier was specified and used. Applied with pump-up sprayers and micro-fiber applicatoers, LS hardens and densifies concrete by filling the concrete pores with rock-hard calcium silicate hydrate. That’s the same durable material that makes concrete hard to begin with.

Along with being more abrasion- and spill-resistant, the hardened concrete polishes faster and more easily.

Because the treatment penetrates easily and rapidly, there’s no scrubbing in or flushing excess, as with older potassium- and sodium-silicate hardener/densifiers, so jobs go quicker.

After hardening/densifying, the techs took the floor up to a 1500-grit finish with softer resin-bond diamonds.

They protected it with a micro-thin coating of Consolideck LSGuard. The “LS” prefix means the protective coating contains lithium-silicate, like LS, for a further hardening/densifying effect.

LSGuard heats up while being burnished on, and “melds” with the concrete, providing a protective gloss that never needs to be stripped or replaced – a huge savings over the life of a floor compared to other flooring choices.

Heavy propane burnishers running specialized Consolideck HEAT burnishing pads are the recommend application tools, but Mr. Fansler’s crew only had a light-weight electric burnisher.

“Even though we had the HEAT pads, our burnisher didn’t have enough weight. We couldn’t create the amount of friction we needed to heat up the LSGuard to the temperature needed to get the gloss level we were after,” Mr. Fansler said.

They switched back to their 650-pound grinding-polishing machines — which easly had enough weight — equipped with the 1500-grit resin bond diamonds.

“That did the trick,” Mr. Fansler said. “In some places you look down the hallway and you can’t even see the floor. All you can see are the lights and walls reflected in it.”

“We’ve done acid-stained and epoxy floors, but this was our first experience with polished concrete,” Mr. Ritter said. “We won’t hesitate to recommend polished concrete again on projects where appearance, performance and sustainability are the priorities.”
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Students file into the recently completed Donald V. Fites  Engineering Innovation at Valparaiso University. photo courtesy Design Organization
Students file into the recently completed Donald V. Fites Engineering Innovation Center at Valparaiso University. photo courtesy Design Organization

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We call it PROSOCO R-GUARD Emergency Water Stop. A prosaic name, but after all, stopping water in emergencies is what the stuff does.

Some other names I thought about:

Blue Goo
Blue Glop
Repello Jello (might have copyright issues with that one)
Leak Geek
Blue Blob
Quit Leaking!
Sir Never-Leak
Look Ma, No Leaks!
Dam Stuff
A River DOESN’T Run Through It
Blue Blockage

Anyway, check out the video — in it our Air Barrier Specialist Matt Travis explains about how the same STPE technology that makes Emergency Water Stop so effective is also used in our air and waterproof barrier FastFlash products — and how that technology makes projects faster and easier for applicators and design professionals.

I originally wrote about this demo in July, before it was a movie, in a post called Operation Rubber Duckie. In that post the demo is detailed in photos, step-by-step, using a rubber duckie, a brain and John Elway.

Well, that was a Friday — this is only Wednesday.

This video may give you an idea how our PROSOCO R-GUARD Cat 5 primary air and waterproof barrier can resist Category 5 hurricane wind-driven rain — a claim not many air barrier products besides our own can make.

“Cat 5” — now that’s kind of a cool name. Though imho it’s hard to beat “Repello Jello.”

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