Tag Archives: building enclosure

Presenting on Field Observations of Masonry Failures

Last month the Portland Chapter of RCI- a local chapter of the international association of professionals that specialize in the “specification and design of roofing, waterproofing and building envelope systems” (RCI PDX) hosted a two-day Education Symposium focused on Exterior Walls Quality Assurance & Building Envelope Presentations. The first day of the symposium was geared towards industry professionals “interested in performing observation to assure that exterior wall systems are installed in accordance with construction documents. The program covered diverse topics in the construction of exterior walls, and was intended for manufacturers, general contractors, quality assurance observers, and field inspectors.” (RCI PDX) While the second day was dedicated to Building Envelope Presentations. In addition to attending the first day of the symposium, Peter R. Meijer, AIA, NCARB, and Hali Knight presented on: When the Field Report of Masonry Does Not Correlate with Lab Results. Grant High School was the case study.

PPS-GH-2017-002

At the request of PPS, we provided a limited exterior condition assessment and interior historic evaluation of Grant High School. For the past 15+ years, Portland Public Schools (PPS) noted an accelerated degree of masonry face spalling on the original 1923 main building and 1923 Old Gym particularly when adjacent to concentrated sources of surface water. Other areas of spalling were not as obvious including protected wall surfaces. The masonry spalling was not occurring on later additions including the north wing (circa 1925), south wing (circa 1927), and auditorium building (circa 1927). Upon closer visual examination, it was observed that individual units were failing in isolated protected areas of the wall surface. Failures in such areas could not be accounted for under direct correlation of heavy water intrusion and typical failure mechanisms.

Before our assessment, it was hypothesized that the failure of the brick was potentially due to a number of separate or cumulative conditions including:
1) excessive water uptake by the brick;
2) sub-fluorescence expansion of salts in the masonry;
3) freeze thaw;
4) low quality of the original 1923 brick; and
5) the application of surface sealers preventing water migrating to the exterior surface.

As a result of the hypothesis and field observations, it was prudent to conduct a series of lab tests to the brick, mortar, and patch materials to assist in the determination of:
1) the quality of the brick;
2) the physical composition of the brick;
3) the quantity of naturally occurring compounds in the masonry and mortar, particularly salts; and
4) the quality of the mortar.

The findings would help narrow the potential cause of the spalling and lead to a more focused repair and maintenance process. To rule out damage caused by maintenance procedures, faces of the brick material were sent to determine if sealants were used on the brick and, if present, determine the sealant chemical makeup. The presence of a surface coating may lead to retention of water within the brick and thus prevent natural capillary flow, natural drying, and water evaporation.

Testing & Results
Samples sent to the lab for coating assessment were analyzed via episcopic light microscopy, and Fourier- Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) per ASTM D1245 and ASTM E1252. The results found no hydrocarbon or organic formulations used on the surface of the brick refuting the hypothesis of a surface sealer.

The Petrographic Characterization resulted in the most unusual findings and the most relevant results related to the observed failures. The polarized light microscope indicated carbonate based salt crystals seeping into the masonry from the mortar. No sulfate based salts, typically associated with the clays used for making brick, were present. Furthermore the inherent properties of the brick showed very small rounded voids and interconnected planer voids. Planner voids result from poor compaction during the raw clay extrusion process prior to firing.

The presence of salt migration out of the mortar and into the brick, plus small pore structure and low immersion values, combining with a cleavage plane resulting from manufacturing are contributing to the Grant High School brick spalls. Brick with smaller pores are less capable of absorbing the expansive forces of freezing water and drying salts. Interlaced pores creating linear plains parallel with the face of the brick create stress failure points resulting in surface spalling. Since the characteristics of the brick resulted from the firing and manufacturing process, the brick will remain susceptible to the failure mechanisms.

Conclusions
Field observations of masonry failures can lead to incorrect diagnosis of the source of the problem. It is critical to conduct advanced laboratory analysis of material composition in order to correctly deduce the known failure mechanisms. If the cause of the failure is from defective material or defective manufacturing, steps could be taken to slow the deterioration or eliminate the cause of the deterioration without compromising the original material.

Written by Peter Meijer, AIA, NCARB / Principal

Long Term Impacts of Masonry Waterproofing Sealers

Product X works as a masonry sealer, but what are the long-term ramifications of using Product X on masonry buildings? Masonry sealers come in a wide variety of formulations, but how do the various chemical compositions react to environmental conditions and what affect does the formulation have on the masonry? Most masonry waterproofing sealers specified by architects and conservators, installed by contractors, and requested by property owners are based on Silicone (═Si═ ) chemistry. There are three popular groups of silicone based materials being used as waterproofing materials: 1) silicates, 2) the group of silane, siloxane, siliconate; and 3) silicones. Silicates, similar to Product X, provide waterproofing properties by filling the pore structure of building materials with silicon dioxide (SiO2) precipitation. Common silicates are sand, Portland cement, and other natural occurring minerals. Silanes, siloxanes and siliconates provide waterproofing properties by bonding with the substrate. They are often referred to as penetrating sealers. Silicones do not form chemical bonds with the substrate. Silicones provide waterproofing properties by forming a non-bonded film. Such products are labeled as thin-film sealers.
WSU-PMAPDX_masonry_sealers
Silicates
Silicates are most commonly used in crystalline type water proofing agents for concrete. Their use is generally focused on concrete substrates. However, it is known that strongly alkaline, aqueous solutions of methyl silicates can be used to impregnate masonry. Such solutions often depend upon caustic soda for their alkalinity. Impregnation of masonry with such solutions is often disadvantageous, however, particularly due to the high alkalinity. For example, the high caustic soda content of the solution will cause a gradual removal of the organosilicon compounds from the interstices of the masonry by chemical combination with the surfaces of the masonry surrounding the interstitial voids. Moreover, the caustic soda solution reacts with carbon dioxide or other acidic components of the air which gives rise to salting out and the formation of efflorescence on the masonry. (1)

Silane, Siloxane, Silconates
Silane, siloxane, silconates are penetrating type of sealants. Their effectiveness is dependend on the porosity of the substrate and the dosage of repellant applied. Each manufacturer will have unique requirements for the application and dwell time of their sealer. Silanes and siloxanes form a chemical bond with siliceous containing materials. Silanes and siloxanes go through three reactions when applied to a masonry surface: hydroloysis, condensation, and bonding. During the condensation phase, the moisture vapor transmission rate is critical to preventing moisture accumulation behind the sealer layer.

With penetration type sealers, it is critical to the longevity of substrate (masonry) that the moisture vapor transmission of the sealer is actually known. There has been very little third party testing of vapor transmission and each product manufacturer provides varying ways of testing transmission. In addition, the active ingredient content of the sealer formulation and the coverage rate will greatly affect the moisture vapor transmission. In other words, performance in the field will vary greatly from highly controlled laboratory testing.

Siliconates are water soluble and they impart water repellency on porous surfaces. A drawback to using diluted siliconate solution for waterproofing applications is that siliconates react with carbon dioxide and carbonatious matters present in the substrate to form a water repellent, water-insoluble, white colored precipitate. This white layer may become quite visible and require aggressive removal procedures resulting in objectionable appearance or scarification of the surface during removal processes.

Silicone
The effectiveness of silicone sealer depends on the alkyl group used (which directly influences its resistance to alkaline conditions), the amount of exposure to ultraviolet light and the level of moisture in the masonry when the silicone is applied. (2)

The proliferation of masonry coatings on the market, and the continued pervasive use of the coatings, requires the architect, engineer, contractor, and conservator become more knowledgeable on the wide variety of coating formulations, the continued evolution of those formulations, and understand both the right application of the product and potential detrimental effects of using the wrong product on historic substrates.

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CASE STUDY: WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY, DUNCAN DUNN HALL
In preparation of a major renovation, Peter Meijer Architect, PC was retained in 2010 to conduct a general exterior condition assessment of Duncan Dunn Hall on the campus of Washington State University, Pullman, Washington.

Duncan Dunn was constructed in 1926 as a women’s dormitory for Washington State University, then named Washington State College. It is located in the heart of the WSU campus, facing north towards Linden Avenue. First known as the “New Dorm,” the building cost $150,000.00 to build at that time, and could house 140 students. The architect, Stanley Smith, was the head of the department of architectural engineering and was also the official University Architect.
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The predominant material present on Duncan Dunn is a solid brick unit, brownish red in color, and approximately 8” x 3 7/8” x 2 3/8” in size. At the time of assessment the brick had a very prominent unsightly, white coating over 60% of the masonry facades.

WSU-PMAPDX_masonry_sealers-003Believing the white haze was a result of UV degradation of a masonry sealer, PMA conducted Reunion Internationale des Laboratoires D’essais et de Recherches sur les Materiaux et les Constructions (RILEM) tube tests of water absorption on the exterior brick on Duncan Dunn Hall. The area of brick chosen for the test was out of direct sunlight to avoid affecting the results and was conducted during dry weather. No movement of the water over a 45 minute period was recorded during the test. Masonry units, even those constructed with high quality clays under controlled firing conditions will absorb some water. The results of the field test on Duncan Dunn, along with the white surface haze, reinforced the assumption of the presence of a masonry coating.

Communication with WSU personnel and their internal research surmised that “the building may have had a sealer put on after the original construction. [WSU cannot verify the application through original records] but do know [that a sealer] was not used on a regular basis after [construction completion.] Back in the 70’s some “miracle sealer” of some sort was introduced on Campus and used at a few locations. Duncan Dunn Hall was among the buildings [receiving masonry sealers.] Today you can see the remnants of this as a white powdery surface that almost looks like efflorescence. [WSU] does not know the name of [the sealer] product.”

To confirm the presence of the sealer, PMA conducted lab testing via polarized light microscopy (PLM) episcopic microscopy, capillary fusion and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) per ASTM D1245 and E1252, respectively. FTIR indicated the material to be Poly(2-hydroxypropyl methacrylate), an initially water-miscible acrylic polymer that in these samples is at present very brittle and sloughs rather easily.Testing confirmed the presence of a “water-miscible acrylic polymer”. Due to chemical breakdown under UV, the chalky coating remaining on Duncan Dunn is no longer soluble in water.Because of the insoluble nature of the white haze, low pressure hot-water cleaning methods would not be successful. PMA recommended the Rotec Vortex cleaning system using a mirco-abrasive mixture of dolomite, water, and air. Ultimately this removal processes was successful with no damage to the masonry surface.

(1) Patent application for new formulation of sealers. (2) Types of Masonry Water Repellents, GSA web site. Information derived from ProSoCo Inc. product literature.

Written by Peter Meijer AIA, NCARB / Principal

Analyzing Historic Masonry Wall Performance

Wilmer-Davis Hall is a residential complex on the Washington State University (WSU) Pullman campus. Built in 1937 by Architect Stanly Smith, with John Maloney, the six-story structure is composed of masonry and concrete with a masonry/brick veneer in the classical and Georgian Revival architectural styles. For a recent feasibility study of the complex, PMA provided an exterior assessment and a limited moisture study utilizing Wärme Und Feuchte Instationär (WUFI), an industry standard application in predicting wall performance to determine how additional insulation may impact the existing constructions and wall performance.

The primary concerns of this analysis included increased potential for freeze thaw action and increased mold growth as a result of added insulation. When historic buildings are insulated the insulation is typically added to the interior of the structure to prevent alterations to the exterior appearance. This often causes the outer layers of the wall to be both colder and wetter as the materials are no longer warmed and dried by the interior heating system. The additional water and more extreme temperatures can result in an increase in freeze thaw action, corrosion of metal reinforcement, and/or increased mold growth.

Additionally adding insulation to a wall changes the location of the dew point within that construction (the point at which vapor in the air condenses into water). A dew point within the middle of the wall can also result in increased moisture within the wall cavity. If a wall has difficulties drying due to any of the above causes it is possible that over the course of several years the quantity of water within the wall will consistently increase. Accumulation of water will exacerbate reinforcement corrosion and mold growth and can result in increased freeze thaw action. This study focused on the following metrics to analyze proposed wall performance: quantity of water in the assembly, quantity of water in each material layer, relative humidity in layers susceptible to mold growth, and isopleths.

MODEL SETUP
As in any simulation analysis a number of assumptions were made regarding the existing wall construction and the proposed design conditions. A variety of different conditions were analyzed in order to explore the range of conditions and variables. Below is a description of the inputs as well as an analysis of the results.

Four (4) proposed wall constructions were analyzed to determine how different types, quantities, and configurations of insulation would impact the existing constructions. The configurations were based on outlined solutions for meeting Washington State Energy Code (WSEC) or providing improved thermal comfort. Two of the proposed constructions meet WSEC (Option 1 and Option 2), while two of the solutions (Option A and Option B) fall short of fully meeting WSEC, but would provide improved insulation values. The options simulated included:

Base Case (Existing Conditions) (R-4.8)
3-1/2” Masonry
1” Air Gap
7-1/2” Hollow Clay Tile Back-Up Wall
1-1/2” Plaster

Option 1 (Meets WSEC) (R-15.4, continuous insulation)
3-1/2” Masonry
1” Air Gap
7-1/2” Hollow Clay Tile Back-Up Wall
1-1/2” Plaster
2” Expanded Polystyrene
Vapor Retarder (1perm)
0” Gypsum

Option 2 (Meets WSEC) (R-20.9, insulation is not continuous)
3-1/2” Masonry
1” Air Gap
7-1/2” Hollow Clay Tile Back-Up Wall
1-1/2” Plaster
3” Batt Insulation
0-1/2” Expanded Polystyrene
Vapor Retarder (1perm)
0-5/8” Gypsum

Option A (R 17.4, insulation is not continuous)
3-1/2” Masonry
1” Air Gap
7-1/2” Hollow Clay Tile Back-Up Wall
1-1/2 Plaster
2” Foamed-In-Place Polyurethane
Vapor Retarder (1perm)
0-5/8” Gypsum

Option B (R-18.4, insulation is not continuous)
3-1/2” Masonry
1” Air Gap
7-1/2” Hollow Clay Tile Back-Up Wall
1-1/2” Plaster
3-1/2” Batt Insulation
Vapor Retarder (1perm)
0-5/8” Gypsum

Materials It should be noted that no material testing was performed during this phase of the project – instead default material properties were chosen from the WUFI database. Materials used include:

  • Masonry: The material ‘Brick (Old)’ was used to simulate the existing masonry. The material is a generic historic brick material compiled from a variety of different bricks and included in the WUFI database.
  • Airspaces: All airspaces were modeled without additional moisture capacity which according to WUFI, models more realistic moisture storage in air cavities.
  • Hollow Clay Tile: The historic drawings indicate that behind the masonry is hollow clay tile. WUFI does not have a default material for hollow clay tile. Instead a masonry material ‘Red Matt Clay Brick’ was used to represent the solid portions of the clay tile. Air spaces were used to simulate the hollow portions of the tile.
  • Historic Plaster: The WUFI database does not have a default historic plaster material. The ‘Regular Lime Stucco’ material was used to simulate the existing plaster.
  • Batt Insulation: ‘Low Density Glass Fiber Batt Insulation’ was used in simulations.
  • Rigid Insulation/Expanded Polystrene: ‘Expanded Polystyrene’ was used in simulations.
  • Fomed-In-Place: ‘Sprayed Polyurethane Closed-Cell’ was used in simulations
  • Gypsum: ‘Interior Gypsum Board’ was used in simulations.


  • Weather/Interior Conditions In each simulation the model was set to mimic extreme situations to verify that the existing walls will perform in all conditions. The Spokane, Washington weather file indicates that the south elevation should have the most wind driven rain and moisture impacting the wall. Given this information the analysis used south exposure and the Spokane weather file to simulate exterior conditions. For the interior climate conditions the following profiles were used:

  • Interior temperatures ranging from 69 °F to 72 °F
  • Relative humidity ranging from 50% – 60%


  • The above values represent a relatively high moisture load which is consistent with the existing use as a residential facility.

    Water Intrusion Additionally as per ASHRAE 160 a small leak (1% of driving rain) was introduced into the exterior assembly to simulation a scenario where water was penetrating the exterior surface. This could occur at bondline failures in the mortar or penetrations through the wall assembly. The leak was placed past the masonry veneer on the face of the hollow clay tile backup wall.

    Initial Conditions Lastly the initial conditions of the materials were determined using ASHRAE 160. For existing wall materials EMC80 was used as the initial moisture content. (EMC80 is a value expressing an equilibrium of water and material masses at 80% humidity). For new components the expectation was that the materials would be installed from the interior and would remain dry during the construction process – thus EMC80 was used for new components as well.

    WUFI RESULTS
    Four metrics were used to interpret and analyze the following WUFI results: Total Water Content/Water Content in Material Layers, Temperature, Relative Humidity, and Isopleths.

    Total-Water-Contents-WSU-Wilmer-Davis-WUFI-Report-6Total Water Content WUFI can predict the total accumulation of water over the time frame of the simulation, in this case five years. Over the course of each year a wall assembly will be wetted by the rain, and dry over the summer months. Differences in humidity and temperature between spaces may cause water condensation within the walls. If conditions do not allow condensation or other water to dry, materials may accumulate water over a period of time.

    The chart above shows how each of the different simulations performed. Note that total water content is measured per ft2 of wall. Walls that are thinner (existing construction) will inherently have less capacity to hold water. In general all of the walls performed in a similar manner – an indication that the retrofit strategies should perform in a comparable manner when compared to the existing walls. As can be seen in the chart, all of the simulations, including the base case showed some accumulation of water over the five year simulation. These results, however, do not conclusively show that the proposed walls will accumulate water. The results indicate that even the base case is accumulating water over time. During PMA’s site visit, however, the existing exterior walls appeared to be performing well – which would not be the case if they were consistently accumulating water. Additional analysis showed that the gradual accumulation of Total Water Content appears to be a result of initial instability within the wall construction that equalizes over time. A 20 year simulation showed accumulation over the first five years, after which the water content stabilizes.

    Water Content in Material Layers Each of the individual layers of material in a wall assembly have the capacity to hold and retain water. A high water content in any individual layer can indicate the potential for mold growth, the possibility for damage associated with freeze thaw, and a reduction in R-Value based on moisture content. Mold growth is possible when the moisture content is above 20% and if the material has the capacity to feed mold growth. The charts below show how each simulation performed for each layer within the wall.

    Water-Content-Materials-WSU-Wilmer-Davis-WUFI-ReportIn general most layers remained well below the 20% threshold for mold growth. The insulation layers, however, are an exception. Options 2 and B both had batt and/or foam insulation which yearly exceeded 20% water. This quantity of water is somewhat concerning for the batt insulation as it may reduce the material’s R-Value and/or contribute to mold growth depending on the composition of the material. Solutions that used foam insulation performed better than those with batt insulation.

    Temperature One common result of insulating a historic building from the interior is increased freeze thaw action. Insulation prevents the interior conditioned space from heating and drying the exterior masonry. As a result the masonry is typically saturated with more water and exposed to colder temperatures. The analysis looked at the temperature within the middle of the masonry to determine how added insulation would impact the material. A chart comparing the base case to the four options for insulation is located below. As can be seen the brick temperature remains consistent with the base case in all retrofit options. This is an indication that the masonry may not by exposed to additional weathering as a result of added interior insulation. It should be noted that not all masonry reacts to water saturation and freezing conditions in the same manner. To further analyze the masonry’s susceptibility to freeze-thaw action lab analysis is recommended to determine material performance. If results indicate that the masonry is susceptible to freeze-thaw it will be critical to ensure new constructions do not lead to a significantly colder/wetter exterior wall.

    Relative Humidity The relative humidity of the air within the wall construction also has an impact on material longevity and mold potential. A high relative humidity in plaster or batt insulation layers may indicate mold growth, while a high relative humidity in layers with reinforcement may indicate the potential for corrosion. A constant and high relative humidity (above 80%) indicates the potential for mold growth. The charts to the right focus on several susceptible layers, the existing plaster, batt insulation, and gypsum board. In general the majority of the layers susceptible to mold remained below 80% relative humidity, or consistently dropped below 80% relative humidity allowing the material to periodically dry. An exception was the existing plaster layer. The addition of interior insulation caused the relative humidity within the layer to increase approximately 15%, from 65% (base case) to just over 80% (all options for added insulation). This spike in relative humidity is concerning and could indicate the potential for mold growth within the layer.
    Materials-Temperature-Relative-Humidity-WSU-Wilmer-Davis-WUFI-Report
    Isopleths WUFI can also predict mold growth by plotting isopleths on the interior surface. The isopleths are plots of the temperature and the relative humidity for every time period calculation. When the temperature and relative humidity both exceed the limiting lines calculated by WUFI there is the potential for mold growth. The simulations indicate that there is very little potential for mold growth. All of the simulations begin above the limiting lines, but over time equalize and remain well below the threshold calculated by WUFI.
    wufi-isopleths-results-wsu
    CONCLUSIONS
    The results described above indicate that there could be some challenges to designing an appropriate insulation system for Wilmer Davis Hall. Three of the primary concerns noted in the above analysis are: increasing total water content quantities; high quantities of water in the batt insulation layers; and consistently high relative humidity’s in the existing plaster layer.

    In general Option 1 and Option A performed better than Option 2 and Option B – primarily because they relied on only foam/rigid insulation. This resulted in no risk of mold growth within the insulation layers and no reduction of the R-Value. Concerns were still identified with both Options in terms of total water content and relative humidity in the plaster layer.

    Prior to detailing a new wall for construction additional analysis is recommended. Minor changes in material properties can have significant impacts on wall performance. The above analysis has indicated that there is a potential for mold growth, but has not confirmed its likelihood. Most of the metrics indicated no risk of mold growth – however because some of the metrics showed a potential for mold, additional analysis is recommended. Testing of the existing materials and specific data on proposed products should be used to refine this analysis and determine extent of mold growth risk.



    Written by Halla Hoffer, Associate, Architect I

    Post Modern Building Materials Part Two

    Post Modern Architecture: Documentation and Conservation
    At the DoCoMoMo US, Modern Matters, conference April 2013 in Sarasota, Florida, DoCoMoMo Oregon presented a debate on the merits of Michael Graves Portland Building and on the larger context of Post Modernism in general. A lively debate at the end of the presentation centered on the merits of DoCoMoMo incorporating Post Modern under the mission of the organization. In general, the support, or lack of support, for an expanded interpretation separated into two distinct viewpoints. The division represented the difference between individuals that look at Post Modernism as a historic event and individuals that still perceive Post Modernism as bad design even if executed within their own practice.
    pomo-part-two-document
    In a seemingly short period of time, a lot has transpired since 2013 regarding the conservation of Post Modernism. After a presentation on Post Modernism: Are You Prepared to Protect It during the Modern Heritage track at the October 2014 Association for Preservation Technology (APT) Conference in Quebec City, the APT Board unanimously supported the need to get ahead of the technical issues associated with preserving Post Modern architecture.

    And in December 2015, the Princeton School of Architecture, educational forum for Michael Graves, hosted the Postmodern Procedures Conference. Described in the conference outline, there was a “particular emphasis on methods of documentation and analysis, technical and narrative drawing” related to Postmodern. Post Modern works, buildings, sites, and neighborhoods, as well as art works, are recognized as important design styles deserving conservation and further understanding of construction techniques. And many iconic structures are being negatively modified (Richard Meier, Bronx Development Center, 1977) or lost entirely (James Wines, Sculpture in the Environment (SITE), Best Product Stores, circa 1976). <1>

    Post Modern design was broadly practiced in both the United States and internationally. Large and small firms were attracted to the stylistic incorporation of classical western design vocabulary in stark juxtaposition against the plain, unadorned, square box that many argued architecture had become. Post Modern architects, engineers, and material suppliers were pushing new materials and innovative construction technologies as a way to create Post Modern design elements. Continuous innovation in building skins reintroduced porcelain enamel panels, a product brought by Lustron to the building industry during the housing boom following World War II. New skins made from Glass Fibre Resin (GFR) capable of being molded in classical curves and ornamental shapes favored by Post Modern design were created. Innovations in brick technology including large scale brick panels made from a single wythe of masonry to panels whose outer face was only one half inch of masonry, or thin bricks. Improvements in resins created new wood or simulated wood products and adhesives for mounting faux finishes to structural systems. Perhaps one of the more ubiquitous new materials used in the creation of Post Modern architecture was the faux stucco product Dryvit, an Exterior Finish Insulation System (EIFS). Like porcelain enamel panels, EIFS was introduced as insulated wall assemblies as a means to improve energy performance during the world’s energy crisis of the 1970s.

    Outside of dramatic assembly failures, particularly within the EIFS industry, that provide insight into Post Modern material and assemblies, much technological information has been relegated to the historical archives. Many Post Modern buildings incorporate systems or components that are neither produced nor currently assembled in similar manners due to improvements in technology and building envelope science. Therefore, the process and method of building restoration, rehabilitation, and/or focused envelope repair could dramatically impact the exterior character of Post Modern structures.

    Focusing on one popular building skin material, Alucobond, much in use during the 1980s provides insight into the need for more research and deeper understanding of Post Modern assemblies and how to conserve and protect these systems.
    portland-building-materials-detail
    Origins & Development
    Alucobond falls into the category of aluminum composite panels (ACP) or sandwich panels. Alcan Composites & Alusuisse invented aluminum composites in 1964 and commercial production of Alucobond commenced in 1969, followed by Dibond in 1989.<2> ACPs are used in a variety of industries ranging from aerospace to construction. Perhaps the most well recognized structure using ACP is the Epcot Center’s Space Ship Earth built in 1982. However, it is the work of Richard Meier and I.M. Pei during the 1980s that brought Alucobond into the forefront as an architectural cladding material. Several different skin materials are available including aluminum, zinc, copper, titanium and stainless steel.

    Manufacturing
    The major aluminum raw ingredient, bauxite, is mined throughout the world with US sources coming from Georgia, Jamaica, and Haiti. Processing of the bauxite predominantly occurs near the ocean ports, like Corpus Christi, where the raw material is off loaded. Manufacturing starts from either solid blocks of aluminum made into coil sheets or directly from pre-manufactured coil sheets. Assembly occurs along a continuous operating line that bonds the weather (exterior) and interior faces to the core, cuts the panel to length, and produces special shapes as needed.

    Aluminum Composite Panels (ACP) are high-performance wall cladding products typically consisting of two sheets of nominal 0.020″ (0.50 mm) aluminum permanently bonded to an extruded thermoplastic core (polyethylene). Assemblies in the mid-1980s would often consist of curtain wall sub-components with sheets of aluminum on the exterior and insulation placed behind the aluminum sheets. (See fig)

    ACP can be roll formed to curve configurations for column covers, architectural bullnoses, radius-building corners and other applications requiring radius forming. This process can be accomplished with a “pyramid” roll forming machine, which consists of three motor-driven adjustable rollers. You can successfully roll form ACP using machines with minimum 2 1/2″ (64 mm) diameter rolls. The operator normally makes multiple passes of the panel through the rollers to gradually obtain the desired radius. <3>
    pomo-part-two-methods-install
    Use & Methods of Installation
    Post Modern assemblies generally assumed water would get behind the face aluminum panel and need a weep path to exit the system. Air gaps were incorporated to induce drying and allow for weeping via gravity. Wind loads were accommodated through additional brackets, or stiffeners, set behind the face panel and connected to sub-framing. Much of the technology was based on curtain wall knowledge.

    The panel systems could often be complex in the attachment to the structure, but the face panels were very similar to panels of today.

    Conservation
    Deterioration mechanism are generally associated with the system assembly and rarely are there failures in individual panels beyond cosmetic damages to the face aluminum including fading colors, scratches, and impact damages. More often incorrect fasteners were used that create galvanic reaction between the fastener and aluminum panel or inadequate fasteners were used to accommodate structural loads. The lack of design for thermal movement between panels, over the height and length of the panel façade, or along edge interfaces with sealants are also key areas of assembly failures.

    Fortunately manufactures of Alucobond, or other aluminum composite panels, are still manufacturing the panel and components making in-kind replacement a viable conservation option. Inadequate structural systems can be reinforced through disassembly of the ACP for access to the structural support. Laser scanning technology has greatly enhanced the accuracy of recording existing conditions and is critical in reproducing replacement panels. Although labor intensive, most of the systems were attached using stainless steel fasteners. Like modern curtain walls, sealant and gaskets will be removed during disassembly and require reinstallation.

    Repainting or repairing surface defects is feasible but the results generally do not achieve the same quality of finish as the factory applied coating process. And as with all repainting projects, surface preparation is critical to the long-term success of the project.

    Loss of original Post Modern aluminum composite panel systems can be reduced through an increasing interest and research into the original design intent and assembly techniques. ACP were incorporated into Post modern structures because of the simplicity to create the curved forms and for rapid pace of construction. The systems are an important part of understanding Post Modernism and worthy of Conservation.

    Marquette Plaza (historic photograph)

    Marquette Plaza (historic photograph)

    Written by Peter Meijer, AIA, NCARB, Principal

    Post Modern Building Materials Part One

    Advances in science and material properties have always played a role in the development of building products. Postmodernism fueled the advent of several new building materials including Glass Reinforced Polyester (James Stirling, Olivetti Training Center, c.1972), Insulated Exterior Metal Panel Systems (Richard Meier, Bronx Development Center, c.1979), Dupont’s Fabric Tensile Structures (University of Florida Gainesville, O’Connell Center, c.1980), polycarbonate sheets (Kalwall, et.al.), pre-fabricated brick panel systems, and many other new construction technologies.

    richard-meier-bronx-development-center

    Richard Meier, Bronx Development Center, 1977


    Post Modern Building Materials and Life-Cycle
    Like any new technology or building material, the life span of postmodern materials is now known but there is a lack of case studies and journalistic papers describing the failure mechanisms, and more importantly, how to repair, retain, or preserve the exterior materials. On one level there is an inherent impermanence of the original materials based on a default decision making process that limited a building’s longevity to a twenty-five (25) year life-cycle. On another level, the façade of the Postmodern building incorporates building systems or individual components that are neither produced nor assembled currently in similar manners due to improvements in technology and building envelope science. In either case, the process and method of building envelope repair could dramatically or minimally impact the exterior character of Postmodern structures.
    aldo-rossi-theatro-delmondo-venice

    Aldo Rossi, Theatro Delmondo, Venice 1982


    There are some Postmodern structures, despite the polarizing opinions regarding the aesthetic values, that are iconographic examples of the high-end of Postmodern style. Included with those structures named above, are the Portland Building (Michael Graves, c. 1984), Piazza d’Italia (Charles Moore, 1982), and Theatro Delmondo, (Aldo Rossi, Venice 1982) to name a few. Rossi’s Theatro Delmondo poses an even more challenging theoretical debate as to whether or not to preserve or repair the structure since the theater was built as a floating temporary stage set.

    Rehabilitation and Postmodern materials
    The rehabilitation of Postmodern materials is compounded by the lack of physical or chemical stability in the original product (e.g. color fading or material breakdown by UV light); changing urban context and surrounding development; inadequate original construction means and methods, and lack of precedence – Postmodern buildings are just now reaching the end of their design life-cycle. Proposals to improve envelope performance are challenged in finding products that will improve performance and retain the aesthetics of a Postmodern building. Given these challenges, is the proper repair, rehabilitation, or conservation of Postmodern structures to retain the appearance of insubstantial material installed incorrectly? Or should any new work, often entailing proposals for replacing the building facades, to discount the design appearance and fix the problems regardless of the impact.

    zgf-koin-center-materials

    ZGF, Koin Center, 1982


    Moving forward, there are precedents set by the early and current challenges associated with mid-century modern structures that can be followed. For example, circa 1960 glass curtain wall upgrades have created methods to retain the exterior appearance while upgrading the thermal efficiency of the system or conversely, left the existing original curtain wall in place and upgrade the mechanical system and distribution system as both more cost effective and more energy efficient over the life of the building. The solutions towards postmodern materials will similarly be led by research, initiative, and innovation. Engaging the manufactures in the dialogue is essential, particularly when replacing a failed product is critical to retaining the building design character.
    james-stirling-olivetti-training-center-materials

    James Stirling, Olivetti Training Center, 1972


    Unique Challenges
    There are unique challenges with Postmodern buildings, but as is the case with all new materials and systems, developing a strategy of research, methodology, and documentation will result in extending the life-cycle of these provocative structures.
    pomo-text

    Portland Building

    Written by Peter Meijer, AIA, NCARB / Principal