You might think buildings located in desert regions aren’t concerned with waterproofing. In ghost towns, this may be true; but Las Vegas is far from being one. Amid the glamorous, high-maintenance hotels of Las Vegas that bring big business to the city each year, waterproofing is an important part of protecting and maintaining the integrity of concrete buildings in this oasis.
In 2000, Glen Ashworth, lead architect for Las Vegas-based Wynn Development, began the process of designing yet another phenomenal resort in this fast-growing desert city. Many would think that after clearing the land, which once hosted the famous and original Sands Hotel, that the construction would be immediately under way. However, after 5 years of major ongoing planning and construction, large cranes, earthmovers, and crews have picked up their tool belts and equipment, leaving nothing but a trace on the former construction site. Today, the elaborate 2,846-room Wynn Hotel functions as prominently as other hotels and casinos on the Las Vegas strip.
Before builder Steve Wynn opened the hotel doors in April 2005, there were very earthly matters to be considered. “Even though Las Vegas is in the desert, believe it or not, we deal with a very high water table,” states Glen Williams, vice president of Technicoat Waterproofing, a waterproofing company serving Las Vegas and southern California. “Water and waterproofing is an important element of every project here in Vegas.”
The combination of a high water table and large amounts of waterways, ponds, and foliage surrounding the hotel, required a diverse collection of waterproofing products. With the massive waterproofing intricacies involved with the project, Ashworth contacted Ron Weller of Section 7, a waterproofing consultant and representative of Carlisle Coatings and Waterproofing (CCW) for technical support. “We needed products and a company that we could count on. I knew that Ron would help us specify the correct systems and stand by us throughout the entire project,” says Ashworth.
With the hotel’s unique design, the project involved a plethora of waterproofing. To waterproof the numerous tunnels in the hotel, bentonite, a sheet membrane, and drainage was used throughout. CCW-MiraCLAY - a bentonite waterproofing product that is manufactured using a uniform layer of sodium bentonite clay that is between a durable puncture-resistant, non-woven polypropylene fabric and a high-tensile strength woven polypropylene fabric - was installed in the tunnels between the concrete and dirt. The bentonite worked exceptionally well against the water table because the product is durable and flexible to position in unique areas. “For numerous below-grade applications throughout the city, we have used bentonite between the concrete and dirt,” Weller states. Bentonite is an excellent means of waterproofing against the water table. Keeping the water away from the concrete is critical in the long-term durability of the concrete, not to mention the problems that can arise from moisture build-up.
On the inside of the tunnels, MiraDRI 860 sheet membrane was used to prevent water and moisture from penetrating the concrete, and MiraDRAIN 9800 and 6200 drainage boards were both used on the horizontal and vertical surfaces to channel the water in the proper direction. “Every tunnel was 100-percent encapsulated in waterproofing and drainage,” says Weller.
In addition to the tunnels, the bentonite membranes were also used throughout five performance pools, one of them the size of a small lake. Concrete was poured around the perimeter of each pool and waterproofed with Barricoat, a spray- or roller-applied liquid waterproofing membrane that is water-based - and, when sprayed onto a surface forms, a monolithic, highly flexible membrane that cures quickly. The bottoms of the pools were then covered with MiraCLAY bentonite and with concrete. “The pools were a crucial area that needed the highest quality of waterproofing,” states Ashworth. “The pools and lakes are key areas that always need the highest quality of waterproofing.”
“We worked 24/6 for most of the project,” notes Rick Almond, project manager for Technicoat. “As we got closer to the end of the project, it was more like 24/7. We had a tight timeframe but it is a very exciting project.”
Contributing to the hotel’s unique appearance, hundreds of planters that circle and adorn the Wynn will hold every type of exotic foliage imaginable, including large trees. The fully grown pine trees and palm trees that are planted around a manmade mountain located in front of the casino added to the waterproofing challenges. “There are a number of planters throughout the project, and some that circle the mountain,” Weller confirms. “They are all concrete planters and every planter required a full system of waterproofing and drainage. We rolled Barricoat onto all the planter walls; the bottoms of the planters were covered with MiraCLAY and then MiraDRAIN drainage board, and a full system of root barrier and protection board followed on top of that.”
As for the garden area, the need for waterproofing was of great importance. Eberhard Roofing waterproofed the state-of-the-art villas that host a private garden, including a pool, hot tub, and full-grown trees and shrubbery. “We had to waterproof the entire garden, bottom to top,” states Weller. “Concrete was poured throughout, forming enclosures for the pool, hot tub, and planters. Eberhard waterproofed every section of the garden with 860-sheet membrane and rolled Barricoat up the walls. Additional concrete was poured to raise the level of the garden and it was all waterproofed one more time. They are strong systems that will last for several years.”
Touted as the “height of luxury,” the Wynn’s aesthetic appeal is equally important to its functionality. “When waterproofing below-ground pools and hot tubs that often sit over livable spaces, the quality of the waterproofing products and application is crucial. Many casinos have used multi-layered waterproofing systems to guarantee the containment and proper drainage of excess water,” says Tim Eorgan, technical manager for Carlisle Coatings and Waterproofing. “Because many of these plants are irrigated around the clock, a lot of water is moving below the surface.”
Managing the movement of water is essential in each of these desert situations. Properly installed drainage in combination with thorough waterproofing will enable the water to drain properly. “If you can control the movement of the water, you win the battle,” agrees Williams.
And, winning the battle is a huge concern in the construction industry. With a booming city like Las Vegas, a new structure of this caliber is inevitably going to receive much attention. “Water is the most deteriorating factor to a structure, second only to fire,” concluded Weller. Waterproofing is a building component that should not be a gamble.