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Archive for April, 2013

David W. Boyer, PROSOCO, views the Seattle Skyline from a top-floor conference room in the Bullitt Center during opening ceremonies for the building April 22. John Young photo

David Boyer, PROSOCO, views the Seattle Skyline from a top-floor conference room in the Bullitt Center during opening ceremonies for the building April 22. John Young photo

PROSOCO President David W. Boyer authored the following post after returning to Lawrence from opening ceremonies for Seattle’s Bullitt Center last week.

Constructed according to the Living Building Challenge 2.0, and featuring an R-GUARD FastFlash Air and Water Barrier, the Net Zero energy-efficiency Bullitt Center has been hailed as the world’s greenest commercial building.

They did it in Seattle
by David W. Boyer, President

I’ve long been skeptical of the “green” movement in construction, while at the same time I hoped it could succeed.

My skepticism was born of early attempts at “environmental friendliness” that valued appearances over quantifiable data, and “green washing” that abused the hopes of many who truly wanted proven environmentally responsible products.

But as I toured Seattle’s Bullitt Center — arguably the world’s greenest commercial building — during its grand opening April 22 — Earth Day, and not by coincidence — I realized someone finally did it. Someone finally proved you can be environmentally responsible and sustainable, by the numbers.

Seattle's Bullitt Center, opening day April 22. John Young photo

Seattle’s Bullitt Center, opening day April 22. John Young photo

I went to the grand opening because the Bullitt Center has a PROSOCO R-GUARD FastFlash air and water barrier system installed. FastFlash, as you may know, is PROSOCO’s ultra-durable, fluid-applied system for stopping air and water leaks through building envelopes.

It performs at a level that helps buildings reach Passive House, and in the Bullitt Center’s case, Net Zero levels of energy efficiency.

Net Zero energy efficiency is one of the checkpoints of the Living Building Challenge. That’s likely the world’s toughest environmental construction standard, and the one the Bullitt Center was built to meet.

The “Red List” is another checkpoint for the Challenge. It’s a list of over 300 chemical substances, many of which are found in hundreds of common building materials — substances proven harmful to people. Bullitt Center design firm Miller Hull Partnership and general contractor Schuchart Corporation designed and built the six-story 50,000 square-foot office building for developer Point 32 without Red-Listed products.

To make the cut, every product had to be environmentally sound and proven effective — not just by itself, but also in concert with other building materials. At PROSOCO, we are justifiably proud that FastFlash made the grade.

Installers from Katwall Inc roller-apply Cat 5 Primary Air & Waterproof Barrier over sheathing sealed with pink Joint & Seam Sealer and red FastFlash, for a continuous, seamless, durable, vapor-permeable barrier to air and water leakage through the building envelope at Seattle’s Bullitt Center. John Stamets photo

Installers from Katwall Inc roller-apply Cat 5 Primary Air & Waterproof Barrier over sheathing sealed and prepared with pink Joint & Seam Sealer and red FastFlash, for a continuous, seamless, durable, vapor-permeable barrier to air and water leakage through the building envelope at Seattle’s Bullitt Center. John Stamets photo

So they did it. There it stands, 1501 Madison Street, Seattle, a living building, a done deal.

It wasn’t easy. When Denis Hayes, Bullitt Foundation president — and one of the founders of Earth Day, in 1970, by the way — first envisioned a building designed from the ground up to be useful and healthy, he found local building codes prohibited much of what was needed.

That might’ve stopped some. Not Denis. He went to the mayor. He worked with the city and the state to change codes. Working together, they created a new regulatory environment — one in which buildings like the Bullitt Center could flourish.

Bullitt Foundation President Denis Hayes addresses media and guests during opening day ceremonies at Seattle's Bullitt Center April 22.

Bullitt Foundation President Denis Hayes addresses media and guests during opening day ceremonies at Seattle’s Bullitt Center April 22. John Young photo

Next step? More buildings like this, in Seattle and elsewhere. Obviously they can’t all be the same design. The Bullitt Center is made for the Seattle climate. In Phoenix, for instance, with many more sunny days, the solar array will be smaller. With fewer rainy days, the rain-collection cisterns will be bigger.

Other cities and states will also have code issues. But they did it in Seattle. They can do it in Kansas City. I believe that one day they will. We will.

On a beautiful April opening day last week, as hundreds of people flocked in for tours, the fully operational Bullitt Center produced twice the energy it needed to run. The distinctive solar array atop the building captured sunlight to produce that energy, in line with the requirements of the Living Building Challenge.

I thought I might hear derogatory comments about the building’s appearance. The “hat” as some call the solar array, makes the building look different from most other buildings, and people don’t always like “different.”

Visitors line up for tours of the Bullitt Center during opening day, April 22. John Young photo

Visitors line up for tours of the Bullitt Center during opening day, April 22. John Young photo

That wasn’t the case in Seattle. I overheard at least one fan waiting in line for a tour giving a rundown on the building’s features — along with energy, the Bullitt Center collects and treats all its own water. Its 26 400-foot-deep geothermal wells will help heat the building during cloudy winters. Its service life is designed for 250 years.

That guy rattled off the features like Mariners’ baseball stats.

To me the building seems iconic. Fifty years after construction of the then-futuristic-looking Space Needle, Seattle’s Bullitt Center also points toward the future — a future of legitimate and quantifiably green construction.

Our industry can do it. They did it in Seattle.

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What are the best products and procedures to clean this historic brick? Sorry, there's no app for that.

What are the best products and procedures to clean this historic brick? Sorry, there’s no app for that.

Colleen “Coke” Peters in Technical Customer Care got this photo e-mailed to her the other day. Colleen and the other members of PROSOCO’s Technical Customer Care Department get photos like this all the time. This one came from a contractor hired to clean and repair the deteriorated brick in the photo.

The photo came, as they always do, with questions ~ what is that soiling on the brick and how do I get it off?

Now wouldn’t it be great if there was an app for that?

You just hold your smart phone up and take a photo of the wall. The app analyzes the photo and recommends products and procedures. Our head programmer, Steve Singer agreed with me that such an app would be cool. He also said it would be tough to execute.

“You’d have to have some kind of spectrometer in the phone,” he said. “You’d need some way to positively identify both substrate and contaminants.”

The problem, both Colleen and Steve say, is that just because the white stuff looks like efflorescence, that doesn’t mean it is efflorescence. And the black stuff could be carbon staining, but it might also be biological soiling. Or both. Very tough, Steve says, for an app to make those fine distinctions based on an image.

A smart, experienced person, on the other hand, can make those distinctions. A smart, experienced person can recommend easy tests you can use to verify what you’re up against. A smart, experienced person can consult with other smart, experienced people to give you the benefit of multiple minds.

It would be tough for an app to do that, Steve says. Heck, it’s tough for most companies to do that. I’m pretty sure PROSOCO is the only manufacturer of products for cleaning, protecting and maintaining concrete, brick and stone architecture that offers such a high level of professional support.

After consulting with Chemist Chris Moore in the PROSOCO Lab, Colleen offered this advice to the contractor:

Colleen "Coke" Peters, Customer Care Supervisor, takes a break between calls to smile for the camera.

Colleen “Coke” Peters, Customer Care Supervisor, takes a break between calls to smile for the camera.

Fred,

Sorry for the delay. You have a job ahead of you.

The black streaks on the brick look to be atmospheric and some biological growth too. I would start with an application of BioKlean. I’ve attached the product data for your review. This should go approx. 100 sq. feet per diluted gallon, be sure to neutralize the surface with Sure Klean Limestone & Masonry Afterwash, diluted 2 parts water to 1 part product.

If this does not remove all the black stains, then I’d use Sure Klean SafRestorer, I’ve attached the product data sheet for this also .

After you have finished repairing the joints, you can use Vana Trol at a dilution of 8 parts water. Make sure to prewet the surface with water and rinse thoroughly.

If they would like to apply a Water Repellent, Sure Klean Weather Seal Siloxane PD is a breathable penetrating water repellent that has a natural look.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Thanks,

Colleen Peters

As if there’s an app for that!

Something else we’re kind of proud about here at PROSOCO — When you call PROSOCO’s toll-free phone number 800-255-4255 — during our regular working hours 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Time you will always talk to a real person. You won’t have to press “one” for this or “two” for that at the bidding of a recording.

And since all these people who answer when you call ARE people, and my friends, I’m going to introduce them:

Amy Fick
Candy Monroe
Colleen Peters
Janet Horner
Jennifer Alexander
Judy McCormick
Lucy Klick
Mike Brennan
Phil Harden
Stan Gimlin
Ted Barnekoff

We’re proud of them and the job they do.

And the fact is, there’s just no app for that.

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POWERHOUSE

The Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity, Kansas City, Mo.

Photos courtesy JE Dunn

Once housing the power plant for nearby Union Station in Kansas City, Mo., this 1914 Jarvis Hunt-designed building is now the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity, and houses the Kansas City Ballet. photo courtesy JE Dunn

Once housing the power plant for nearby Union Station in Kansas City, Mo., this 1914 Jarvis Hunt-designed building is now the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity, and houses the Kansas City Ballet.

It was a powerhouse then.

It’s a powerhouse now.

For nearly 60 years this 1914 Jarvis Hunt-designed coal-fired power plant supplied steam-generated electricity to Union Station, once the second-biggest train station in the U.S.

Now the 60,000 square-foot Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity helps power the Kansas City arts community as home to the Kansas City Ballet and K.C. Ballet School.

Space formerly used for cranes and boilers turned out to be well-suited to the needs of a dance studio.

Space formerly used for cranes and boilers turned out to be well-suited to the needs of a dance studio.

In between, the powerhouse stood vacant and abandoned for nearly 40 years. It went through an epic restoration 2009-2011 designed by Kansas City, Mo., architectural firm BNIM and executed by general contractor JE Dunn, also headquartered in Kansas City.

In 2012, the project garnered six awards for restoration, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “National Preservation Honor Award.” That’s on top of four previous honors in 2011.

Next year, the power house turns 100.

The job of overseeing the transformation of the interior and exterior masonry from decaying shell to elegant envelope fell to the project’s masonry foreman Pete Johnson.

“To be honest, when I first saw it, I thought ‘we’re going to fix this?’ To me it looked like it should be taken down.”

Union Station Power House facility,front entrance, shortly before restoration begins, 2009. JE Dunn photo

Union Station Power House facility, front entrance, shortly before restoration begins, 2009.

Mr. Johnson soon changed his mind as he got a closer look at the century-old 22-inch thick masonry walls.

“I have no idea how they accomplished some of the things they did, given the means they had at their disposal back then,” he said. “They built a structure that could stand for a century. And that’s with being abandoned for 40 years.”

Despite the craftsmanship, the masonry fabric still needed serious attention, Mr. Johnson said.

That attention began with tuckpointing the walls, including grinding out the joints three-quarters of an inch deep and pressure-rinsing before installing the mortar.

“We let the mortar set up a day or two,” Mr. Johnson said. “Then we cleaned with (Sure Klean®) 600.”

Though made for new masonry construction, 600 removes excess mortar from tuckpointed historic masonry as well. It also dissolved most of the accumulated contaminants that had darkened the brick.

The cream-colored terra cotta trim also needed work, Mr. Johnson said. The decades had turned it completely black in places, particularly along the bottom edges of the trim.

The terra cotta trim was particularly dirty along its bottom edges.

The terra cotta trim was particularly dirty along its bottom edges.

The likely cause, he said was smoke from trains and furnaces, and the years of neglect.

What was certain was that the first specialized cleaner they tried barely affected the dark coating. But the next one, PROSOCO’s Sure Klean® Restoration Cleaner worked “like magic.”

“We sprayed it on, let it sit for minute or two, scrubbed it a little and rinsed it off. It was like night to day the way that black came off the terra cotta.”

Efflorescence also proved a challenge, Mr. Johnson said, at least until the powerhouse got its new roof. Water from frequent rains falling into the open cavities evaporated out through the brick face, leaving efflorescence’s trademark powdery white deposits.

The efflorescence showed up mostly on the South side and Southwest corner of the building, Mr. Johnson said. The JE Dunn crew spot-cleaned it with Sure Klean® Vana Trol, another PROSOCO new masonry cleaner made for addressing efflorescence and metallic staining as well as removing excess mortar and other common job site contaminants.

Once the roof was on, keeping water out of the walls, the efflorescence stopped showing up, Mr. Johnson said.

The crew began repairs and cleaning on the rectangular building’s long North side, then moved to the West (front entrance) elevation, then to the South and East.

They worked in top-to-bottom drops about 72 feet across, Mr. Johnson said. The cleaning crew followed the repair crew section-by-section all around the building.

Mr. Johnson’s crews applied the 600 to the brick and the Restoration Cleaner to the terra cotta the traditional way — with bucket and brush.

Though the cleaners can be sprayed, Mr. Johnson didn’t want to take any chances with wind-drift because of the building’s historic windows and the proximity of traffic.

JE Dunn cleaned the masonry via the traditional bucket-and-brush method  to protect these painstakingly replicated historic wood windows. Note the bottom edges of the terra cotta trim, now free of its black soiling.

JE Dunn cleaned the masonry via the traditional bucket-and-brush method to protect these painstakingly replicated historic wood windows. Note the bottom edges of the terra cotta trim, now free of its black soiling.

Interior masonry walls also needed cleaning and repair, Mr. Johnson said, though the bigger challenge inside, he said, was working with and around the other trades as they hustled to meet their own goals.

“They were pouring new concrete floors, putting in the stairwells and elevator shafts, hanging sheetrock, anything you can imagine, all while we were trying to wash the building.

“Communication was essential,” he said.

A 15-foot tree sprouting from the bricks of the powerhouse’s chimney presented an unusual challenge.

“There were several trees growing up on the roof,” Mr. Johnson said. “But that was the biggest one.”

The tree’s root, about 50-feet long, had wrapped all around the chimney under the brick. Mr. Johnson’s crew got it out, but had to rebuild most of the chimney, which was set to be converted into a skylight.

The cleaned, repaired powerhouse then got an application of Sure Klean® Weather Seal Siloxane PD, pre-diluted water repellent.

The water-based treatment penetrates the microscopic masonry pores and bonds to the substrate, imparting water repellency from beneath the surface.

Because it’s a penetrating treatment, it doesn’t change the appearance or texture of the masonry. Siloxane PD is also “breathable” — it lets moisture evaporate out of the masonry, while blocking penetration of liquid water.

Interior masonry needed cleaning and repair as well, though the bigger challenge was getting it done in concert with other trades.

Interior masonry needed cleaning and repair as well, though the bigger challenge was getting it done in concert with other trades.

The JE Dunn crews applied the Siloxane PD with bucket and brush just as they did the cleaners.

By project’s end, the team had removed and replaced 17,500 bricks, 268 pieces of terra cotta, and 158,000 linear feet of mortar joints. They cleaned and sealed 134,000 square feet of brick and terra cotta.*

Mr. Johnson said he found the project more challenging than most of the new construction projects he works on.

“This was literally a dirty job,” Mr. Johnson said. “There was dust everywhere all the time. We went through a lot of trial and error, from deciding on the right masonry cleaners to figuring out the best way to shore up walls for cutting new windows and doors.

“We pulled weeds on the roof. That’s not something masons do every day,” Mr. Johnson said. “But every time I drive past that building and remember what it looked like the day we started, I feel tremendous satisfaction.”
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*Figures from Power: The Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity,” published by BNIM and the Kansas City Ballet

BNIM's design transformed the former powerhouse chimney into a skylight on the catwalk along the building's second level.

BNIM’s design and JE Dunn’s execution transformed the former powerhouse chimney into a skylight on the catwalk along the building’s second level.

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Gray concrete floors can be gorgeous, but aren't the only color choice.

Gray concrete floors can be gorgeous, but aren’t the only color choice.

A pearly gray polished concrete floor can be a thing of beauty. But the days of gray-only for concrete floors are long gone. Now, the color choices for concrete are unlimited as dreams and imagination.

Particularly when used with concrete polishing, coloring can provide translucent, almost gem-like effects.

Color offers almost gemlike effects when used with concrete polishing.

Color offers almost gemlike effects when used with concrete polishing.

 Here are the 6 most common ways to color horizontal concrete.

1. Integral coloring

Colorant added to concrete during mixing produces uniform color throughout the slab.

integral color

integral color

The colorant may be liquid or powder. Integral color is for new installations only, and usually only for large monochrome areas, since the main application device is a ready mix truck.  Integral colors are expensive because you are coloring the entire depth of the slab.

2. Shake-on colors

Shake-on color consists of finely-ground pigments and dry cement that is “broadcast” onto freshly placed concrete. The powder gets worked into the concrete during bullfloating.

Shake-on color

Shake-on color

Bleed water from the plastic concrete wets the cement powder, causing it and the pigments to bond to the exposed surface. Because the pigments are concentrated in the top layer, grinding and polishing will remove the color.  Since shake-on colors rely on water from freshly placed concrete, they are only suitable for use on freshly placed concrete.

3. Acid Stains

Acid stains are formulas of acid, metallic salts and water. The acid chemically reacts with minerals in the concrete, creating a unique, mottled color effect that’s as durable as the wear zone of the concrete it’s applied to. Acid stains are hazardous materials and require all the safety precautions common to acidic products.

Acid stains

Acid stains

 Concrete floors that have been acid stained must be neutralized and rinsed thoroughly to remove any excess acid.  You must be careful when handling acid stains, also, because spills, sloshes and drips instantly create permanent “features” in the floor. Acid stains can be used for retrofits or new installations.

4. Acetone dyes

The benefits of fast-drying solvent-based dyes are often overshadowed by the risks inherent with using highly flammable reduction solvents.  Acetone – one of the most common reduction solvents, has a flash point of 4 degrees F and an odor and toxicity that makes it impractical to use in most occupied spaces. The color usually is applied after the floor has been polished with a 400-grit resin.

Acetone dye

Acetone dye

Though solvent-based dyes can impart vivid colors, they aren’t UV-stable. Sunlight, through a window or skylight can fade the colors. Most require a topical protective treatment to lock the color in.  Respirators and explosion-proof ventilation are required when installing solvent based dyes on new or existing concrete floors.

5.  Water-based dyes

Water-based stains and dyes have several advantages. They are odorless, safe and easy to apply, and dry quickly. Different colors can be easily mixed and matched, creating striking patterns and effects in areas large or small. Combined with hardening, densifying and polishing, water-based stains can create a translucent, gemlike effect. However, water-based stains must be used with protective coatings to lock in the color. Like acetone dyes, they are not UV-stable and will fade in direct sunlight. Water-based dyes can be used for new installations or retrofits. 

Water-based colors were used to create a Navajo Wedding Basket design in the entryway of this elementary school in Monument Valley, Utah. Scot Zimmerman photo

Water-based colors were used to create a Navajo Wedding Basket design in the entryway of this elementary school in Monument Valley, Utah. Scot Zimmerman photo

Water-based colors are easily applied with pump-up or airless sprayer, followed by spreading with a microfiber pad. The color usually goes on before the floor has been hardened and densified.

6. Color hardener/densifiers

Color hardener/densifiers are a recent innovation in which fine pigments suspended in water are blended by the applicator with a lithium-silicate hardener/densifier. This lets you harden/densify and color in one step. Apply color hardener/densifiers to concrete floors ground no finer than with a 200-grit resin pad.

UV-stable color hardener/densifiers outside the elementary school in Monument Valley, Utah. Scot Zimmerman photo

UV-stable color hardener/densifiers outside an elementary school in Monument Valley, Utah. Scot Zimmerman photo

The pigments in these products are similar to shake-on colors in that they are  surface treatments, so polishing after application removes the color. Also like shake-on colors, most are UV stable and suitable for exterior application. While a protective treatment to “lock in” the color isn’t needed, strictly speaking, protective treatments are always a good idea for horizontal concrete, inside or out.

Which is right for your project?

The answer is… it depends. If it’s a new installation, any of these products will work. If it’s a refit or restoration, you’re limited to acid-stains, water-based dyes, acetone dyes or colored hardener/densifiers.

If it’s polished concrete and uniform color you’re after, acetone or water-based dyes are your best bet. The difference? For safety and environmental concerns, choose water-based dyes. For slightly more vivid colors, acetone may be the product you want.

For the mottled, antique look without polishing, consider acid-staining.

Shake-ons are best for small, simple jobs, when there’s not going to be any grinding. Since shake-ons are surface treatments, grinding will take the color off. Consider integral color for large areas where you want uniform color.You can grind  these installations aggressively if, for example, you want to expose aggregate.

And though your standard gray concrete isn’t the only color option any more — it can still look pretty good.

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