Archive for the ‘architecture’ Category

Our very own John Young, PROSOCO’s digital marketing manager, went on location at Topeka (Kan.) High School recently to shoot footage of the restoration of the building’s historic brick and limestone exterior.

Topeka-based Restoration & Waterproofing Contractors Inc. got the nod for the job, which showed years worth of atmospheric and biological stains as well as smoke residue from a fire a few years back. RWC Project Manager David Falley used PROSOCO’s Enviro Klean® SafRestorer to safely remove stains around the building’s intricate architectural details and give the facade a brighter, cleaner appearance.

Watch the dramatic before-and-after shots in this video:

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Liberty Memorial

The most prominent feature of Kansas City’s Liberty Memorial is arguably its 217-foot-tall tower. Photo courtesy of Structural Engineering Associates

This year marks the beginning of the centennial observance of World War I, 1914-1918. The heart of that observance stands in the heartland — at Kansas City’s Liberty Memorial, a registered National Historic Landmark and home of the officially designated World War I museum of the United States.

So to call a project to clean and restore such a monument a great undertaking is… greatly understated. And it also takes time.

One iteration of the monument’s restoration began in 2000, when subcontractor Mid Continental Restoration Co. (along with general contractor JE Dunn Construction and a bevy of architects and engineers) used PROSOCO products to clean the memorial. They installed about 13,000 cubic feet of new stone, and cleaned and replaced around 24,000 cubic feet of existing limestone.

By this time, Liberty Memorial was a well-known site to PROSOCO. Its representatives had conducted surveys on the stone and also removed graffiti in the 1980s.

So when an army of designers and contractors undertook a $1.35 million masonry restoration project in 2012 to clean and protect the mostly limestone exterior of the complex, PROSOCO was ready for the call.

If you haven’t ever visited, put the Liberty Memorial on your list the next time you’re in Kansas City. Its stunning aesthetics have been part of the town’s cityscape since its dedication by President Calvin Coolidge in 1926.

The Liberty Memorial overlooks downtown Kansas City.

The Liberty Memorial overlooks downtown Kansas City. Photo courtesy of National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial

The monument, designed by Harold Van Buren Magonigle in an Egyptian Revival architectural style on 47 acres, includes a 217-foot-tall tower, two Assyrian sphinxes, the 488-foot-by-48-foot Great Frieze on the North Wall, the Dedication Wall and many more elements constructed of limestone.

Under a design team led by Gould Evans and in conjunction with General Contractor JE Dunn Construction, two Kansas City firms — Structural Engineering Associates and Susan Richards Johnson & Associates — worked in collaboration to complete the limestone restoration. That included cleaning and sealing of the main entry, tower, General’s Wall and fountains, south entry courtyard, sphinxes, and the Great Frieze on the North Wall.

A variety of sources and types of limestones comprising the massive structure complicated the scope of the project. There was limestone old and new, buff and variegated, from different sections of quarries and varying grades. But it wasn’t too much for PROSOCO’s EnviroKlean ReKlaim (formerly known as BioKlean), ReVive (formerly known as BioWash), OH100 Consolidation Treatment, SureKlean Weather Seal Natural Stone Treatment and more.

Liberty Memorial tower

Photo courtesy of Structural Engineering Associates

Kirk Matchell, restoration project manager and associate at Structural Engineering Associates, said that PROSOCO products were specified almost exclusively in the publicly bid restoration job.

“We had worked with PROSOCO’s products for many many years,” Matchell said. “(The products) did wonderfully. They took care of all of the stain issues, and we (applied) a really good water repellent. It’s holding its color, and it’s done what we’ve asked for it to do.”

For Julie Garvey, project designer of Susan Richards Johnson & Associates, familiarity with PROSOCO’s cleaning and protective treatments played a crucial role in those products getting into the specs.

Mike Dickey of Dickey Sales LLC, a manufacturer’s sales rep for PROSOCO, had volunteered to perform a test sample for the firm, “so that we could determine the efficacy of the product… and make sure that no damage or detriment would be seen with the product on the stone in the long term,” Garvey said.

The sample, conducted a full year before construction began, tested 10-year-old Indiana limestone that had been experiencing severe discoloration due to mildew and staining. On the right-hand side of the sample (pictured), the control was power-washed with warm water. The left side of the sample was cleaned with ReKlaim, followed by an application of EnviroKlean Revive (formerly known as BioWash). On the lower half of the left side, a consolidant (OH100) and PROSOCO’s SureKlean Limestone & Masonry Afterwash was applied to demonstrate that “the product would not discolor or darken the stone in any way.” Garvey and others from the firm, including Project Architect Angie Gaebler, watched the three sections as they were left exposed to the elements for a full year.

Test panel at Liberty Memorial

The test panel at Liberty Memorial included the control panel (right), which was power-washed, and the left-side panel, which was treated with PROSOCO’s ReKlaim and ReVive cleaners. They were found to safely remove biological and atmospheric staining on the limestone. Photo courtesy of Susan Richards Johnson & Associates

A year later, Garvey said they “saw significant improvement in the overall appearance of the stone, it was not discolored, and the area was remaining clean longer. There were no detrimental effects of the water repellent or cleaning treatments, and we approved those for the Liberty Memorial.”

Construction started in 2012 and was completed late last year, but the work of everyone involved didn’t go unnoticed. The restoration of the memorial’s Wall of Dedication earned a 2012 Preservation Award in the conservation category from Historic Kansas City, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the city’s buildings of “historical, cultural or architectural significance.” This wall commemorates the five allied leaders — Lt. Gen. Baron Jacques of Belgium; Admiral Earl Beatty of Great Britain; Gen. Armando Diaz of Italy; Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France; and Gen. John Pershing of the U.S. — who attended the memorial’s groundbreaking ceremony in 1921.

In addition, the overall masonry repairs of the memorial garnered an award of merit from the International Concrete Repair Institute in the historic category.

But it didn’t take international awards for the project’s architects to take pride in the finished product. “It was a labor of love,” Garvey of Susan Richards Johnson & Associates said. “We’re truly honored to have been part of such a significant historic property here in town.”

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Bullitt Center

Seattle’s Bullitt Center
Photo by John Young

We’re always paying attention to what industry publications are saying about PROSOCO and its products that improve the appearance and performance of sustainable buildings.

But when we receive recognition from a consumer website as well-read and far-reaching as the Huffington Post, well, it really makes our day. It’s encouraging to see our message go beyond the construction industry. Especially when it’s about a project that’s as near and dear to us as Seattle’s Bullitt Center.

The article, written by Lynne Peeples and published in the site’s “green” section, talks about how the commercial building was constructed using exactly zero of more than 360 identified elements and compounds that are believed to be potentially toxic to humans. Given that Americans today spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, it’s becoming more and more important that buildings are made using green materials, the article states.

PROSOCO is specifically named near the end of the article:

“The researchers even worked with one manufacturer, PROSOCO, to reformulate its ‘liquid-applied air and water barrier’ without phthalates.”

The product referenced – PROSOCO’s R-GUARD® FastFlash® air and water barrier system — helped the Bullitt Center become net-zero energy-efficient, one of the facets of the Living Building Challenge.

Watch: Learn more about our phthalate-free FastFlash® product »

PROSOCO’s Consolideck® LS/CS® and Consolideck® LSGuard® products also comply with the Living Building Challenge requirements and were used on the center’s concrete floors.

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Karuna House

Photo courtesy of Hammer & Hand

It began with a goal so ambitious, it had never before been achieved.

The Karuna House in Yamhill County, Ore., designed by Holst Architecture and built by Hammer & Hand, aimed to earn three green building certifications, each demanding in its own right — Passive House (PHIUS+), Minergie-P-ECO and LEED for Homes Platinum.

With the help of PROSOCO’s R-GUARD® air and waterproof barrier products, the Karuna House has now received all three certifications and been dubbed the “world’s greenest” house.

The R-GUARD® FastFlash® system provided many elements the energy-efficient, high-performance project required – an airtight, watertight and vapor-permeable wall assembly.

According to our Aug. 15, 2012, update on the project, FastFlash® offered additional bonuses that no other product could, like its ability to go on damp surfaces, a key in the Pacific Northwest’s notoriously rainy clime, and its vapor permeability, which “lets those damp surfaces dry out, even after being coated with FastFlash® products.”

With a margin for error of virtually nil in the house’s air barrier, Hammer & Hand also applied PROSOCO’s R-GUARD® Cat 5 liquid-applied membrane everywhere, from the roof and parapets to the undersides of cantilevered decks.

For more on the construction of the Karuna House, check out this series of videos from Hammer & Hand on installing the PROSOCO R-GUARD® air and waterproof barrier system.

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Kansas City skyline with Union Station (foreground) as seen from the Liberty Memorial in Penn Valley Park. PROSOCO photo

Kansas City skyline with Union Station in the foreground, seen from the Liberty Memorial in Penn Valley Park. PROSOCO photo

As Independence Day nears, we’ll all likely hear about American heroes — as we should.

Military, first-responders, teachers, farmers — these are all people who have helped make our country something special — often in the face of great odds and at significant personal sacrifice.

Two others you don’t hear much about when the talk turns to “heroes,” but who I think merit at least some consideration — architects and contractors.

Being in the construction industry myself, you might say I’m biased. I’m ok with that.

If you’re reading this, thank a teacher.

If you’re reading this indoors, thank the people who designed your building and then built it according to the design.

Our built environment is so omnipresent, I’m not sure we even see it half the time. But when you consider all the products, procedures, codes, schedules, client whims and requirements, budgets, personalities and more involved in constructing even the most modest building — it’s a marvel to me that anything ever gets built.

My hat is off to the people who are willing to tackle that, and do it right.

Because every facet of our lives, birth to death, is framed by our built environment. Hospitals, schools, factories, offices, stores, churches, homes; yes, and even prisons, barracks, cutting-edge scientific research facilities — all designed and built by architects and contractors.

Sure, just like our other heroes they get paid. And if something goes wrong, they get sued.

Design and construction are professions not without risk, and definitely not for the faint of heart.

Many an architect starts with a vision of something fine and beautiful, only to be forced to watch as others hammer away at it in the name of budgets, schedules, politics and who-knows-what-else, until it’s almost unrecognizable.

They may be the lucky ones. Architectural Record reports thousands of architects lost their jobs, and even left the profession during the recession and its aftermath.

Construction firms suffered, too. Even many who stayed in business had to let people go — old and valued employees in some cases. The “tool belt recession,” they called it.

Sure, things are tough all over, not just in the construction business. But in my humble opinion, construction pros got more than their share of grief during our recent economic problems, considering what they’ve done for this country.

Just look at any city skyline, New York City to Dallas to Denver to Los Angeles. Or check out this great AIA slideshow of Americans’ 150 favorite buildings — they are something to see.

All of us together — paper-pushers like me, lawyers, grocers, doctors, politicians, engineers, athletes, entertainers and everyone else you can think of — we all do our part to make this country what it is.

But when we talk about people who built this nation — literally built it — we’re talking architects and contractors.

In my opinion, we’re talking heroes.

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The Grand Canyon, Arizona, 277 miles long, 18 miles wide,  6,000 feet deep, carved through the rock of the Colorado Plateau. By water. -- photo courtesy Grand Canyon National Park and ace-clipart.com.

The Grand Canyon, Arizona, 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, 6,000 feet deep, carved through the rock of the Colorado Plateau. By water. — photo courtesy Grand Canyon National Park and ace-clipart.com.

When you design and construct buildings, you are challenging the number-one enemy of the built environment.


Think you’ll prevail? Think again, my friend. Water always wins.

You’re going to build an apartment building? Water wears down mountains. It dug out the Grand Canyon. It sank the Titanic.

You might keep water out of your roof or walls for today or tomorrow. Water will bide its time. It’s been around several billion years already, just on this planet. Eventually, it’ll find a way in.

Maybe you’ll try to keep it out with an impermeable air and water barrier — the way the French tried to keep the invading German Army out with the Maginot Line during World War II.

“You shall not pass!” you are, in effect, saying to water.

Prudence Ferreira, CPHC Principal, Integral Impact Inc [i3]

Prudence Ferreira, CPHC
Principal, Integral Impact Inc [i3]

It won’t work, says LEED AP Prudence Ferreira, Certified Passive House Consultant and founder and principal of Integral Impact Inc., San Francisco. i3 specializes in using building science and systems-thinking to help design and build ultra-durable, sustainable, energy-efficient and low-impact commercial and residential buildings.

Integral Impact Inc has a long list of such projects throughout California — sustainable buildings that perform at Passive House and Net-Zero levels of energy-efficiency because of their air- and water-tightness.

And yet, it’s a fact, Ms. Ferreira says. No construction is perfect. Water will eventually get in.

Water in liquid or vapor form won’t penetrate an impermeable air and water barrier. But it can bypass the barrier through vulnerable roof-wall or wall-foundation connections.

It can get in through rough openings where window installation may have torn the barrier fabric or peel and stick flashing.

It might bypass the barrier via a leaky pipe.

In cold weather, positive pressure pushes warm moist air from living spaces into the walls through plumbing and electrical penetrations. When that air hits a cold-enough surface, the vapor it carries condenses, and you have water in the walls.

Water has countless ways to get in walls, and it’s been getting in since there were walls. Like the Germans with the Maginot Line, water will flank the air and water barrier.

If the air and water barrier is seamless, continuous and durable like it should be, then likely just a little moisture will get in. If it’s vapor-permeable, that little bit of water can evaporate out again, and no harm done.

But if the air and water barrier is impermeable, the moisture stays. That’s how rot and conditions for mold begin.

Harm done.

It’s the same principle as when you wear impermeable vinyl or plastic rain gear. Sure, you keep the rain off, but you end up soaked anyway, from your own sweat. The human body itself, after all, is more than 60 percent water. Brain — 75 percent water.

Water wins again.

“I advise our construction teams to use materials with the greatest vapor permeability possible,” Ms. Ferreira says.

Ms. Ferreira, who teaches the Certified Passive House Consultant (NaCPHC) training and advanced Passive House technical workshops for Passive House Institute US, assumes walls will get wet at some point, one way or another, even with the seamless, continuous, durable air and water barriers she includes in her design recommendations.

She just wants the walls to be able to dry out again. “If the assembly can dry, there’s no rot. There’s no mold,” she says. Simple.

That can only happen if the air and water barrier, among other building envelope components, is vapor-permeable.


But if a vapor-permeable barrier lets water vapor out, won’t it also let vapor in?

In a 1997 study titled Preventing Indoor Air Quality Problems in Educational Facilities: Guidelines for Hot, Humid Climates by CH2MHill in cooperation with Disney Development Company, researchers determined that diffusion results in a negligible amount of water ingress compared to water vapor carried in through air leaks.

That means stopping air leaks, rather than diffusion, is key to preventing water-condensation from developing in walls. And for that, you need a seamless, continuous, durable air and water barrier. And make it vapor-permeable.

Because as Ms. Ferreira puts it, “If you keep the vapor out, you’ll keep the moisture in.”

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