Finding the Right Waterproofing System - Priceless

May 3, 2004
Seventy years after its 1933 debut as a state-of-the-art facility, Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is receiving a face-lift of gigantic proportions. This major campus-enhancement project includes significant renovations to the existing building, a new parking structure, and a new building that adds 160,000 square feet of space for galleries and offices. With 25,500 cubic yards of concrete poured for the project, a key concern for the owners was ensuring protection of the Museum’s treasures for generations to come - this led to the decision that waterproofing would be a key component. The Nelson-Atkins project will expand the museum by 60 percent, from its present 234,000 square feet to 394,000 square feet. Housed in the new addition will be the Museum’s collection of African art, modern and contemporary art, and photography, as well as special exhibition galleries.“The design for the new building called for below-grade construction, but that can be risky when priceless art is involved,” states Greg Sheldon, senior project architect with Kansas City-based BNIM Architects. Construction with a focus on quality and fail-safe waterproofing would be necessary to minimize the risk.The estates of William Rockhill Nelson and Mary McAfee Atkins originally funded the museum. For the enhancement project, the local community has stepped forward with contributions to a major capital campaign. Launched in 1997, Generations: A Gift to Us - A Gift from Us, raised more than $200 million. The funds both support the campus enhancement and provide permanent endowments for education and outreach initiatives to assure a broader range of audiences for the Nelson-Atkins’ collections and learning resources. “Holl's plan places a series of new galleries underground on the east side of the existing building, along Rockhill Road, in a slender triangle widening from north to south,” according to an article in The Kansas City Star. “Five above-ground lanterns, clad in transparent and translucent glass, will draw natural light during the day and glow from within at night.”“The size of the new museum is incredible,” stated John Hunter, senior project manager for general contractor JE Dunn. “It is like a 67-story building that is lying on its side below ground.”The underground galleries use concrete construction. JE Dunn, one of the nation’s leading general contractors, self-performed the concrete work. “There were really no two walls that were the same,” said Hunter. “There was not a right angle to be found. Our crews assembled the forms and poured all of the concrete. It was an amazing job.”With the early emphasis on a reliable waterproofing plan, the museum conducted extensive research to guarantee that the best waterproofing products were selected. An independent engineering/architectural firm carried out peer reviews to ensure a non-biased opinion. Meetings were held with technical representatives, product testing was executed, and a conservation environment consultant evaluated the products.“We wanted to make sure that we found a product capable of protecting priceless works of art,” says Sheldon. “The museum’s sole purpose is to preserve these treasures for others to enjoy. If Monet paintings were damaged from water leakage, it would be disastrous.” JE Dunn looked to Mid-Co Contractors, a division of Mid-Continental Restoration Co. Inc., a 50-year-old construction company. Mid-Co, a wholly owned subsidiary, has worked on every major landmark in Kansas City and is especially known for their below-grade work with many years of experience in waterproofing and restoration.“Projects like the Nelson-Atkins Museum demand that the contractor provide full manufacturer support with a team of strong players from manufacturing to sales to technical,” states Doug Norbury, project manager for Mid-Co. The owner looks for us to provide a strong application and strong representation from the product manufacturers.”The criteria for this high-profile, below-grade project eliminated several products that were not capable of preventing water leakage. “There were only a couple that could be considered because of the specific, tough requirements the museum had established,” says Sheldon.“The museum did not want these buildings to be water resistant, they wanted them watertight,” stated Norbury. “The specification we presented used Carlisle Coatings and Waterproofing Inc. products, including at the roof 90-mils of hot rubber followed by another layer of 125-mil hot rubber. This gave us 215-mils of waterproofing protection on all of the vertical walls.”Carlisle Coatings and Waterproofing (CCW) located in Wylie, TX, is a manufacturer of waterproofing products for below-grade projects like the Nelson-Atkins Museum. “Our products are interchangeable so that we can provide the right waterproofing system for the job. This is not a one-size-fits-all industry. You need to be able to deliver what the customers need in order to protect their buildings and investments,” said George Nix, Carlisle’s national sales manager.Mid-Co also recommended Carlisle’s root barrier membranes, and drainage and filter mats, which will be covered by back fill. “Carlisle’s technical and manufacturer representatives worked with us and the architect to plan every detail, flashing, and penetration, says Norbury. “For our documentation we needed reports and approval letters with ongoing inspections.”The CCW-500R hot applied system was then covered with MiraDRAIN, encapsulating the concrete system and allowing proper water drainage. The exterior of the system is protected by Monarflex root barrier system, preventing root intrusion from disrupting the system.  This complete line of drainage systems is comprised of versatile products that can protect vital underground areas such as foundation walls, planters, trench drains, retaining walls, shoring/lagging, plaza decks, and underground structures. Without the use of these critical drainage systems, structures can be stressed by earth and water seepage, and hydrostatic head pressure, resulting in major interior and exterior damage in below-grade structures.“As we finished sections of the project, we performed a flood test of the waterproofing,” says Hunter. “The process utilizes several pools of standing water over time to assure no leaks.”Another key to the success of any job is communications among the manufacturer, waterproofing contractor, architects, and general contractor. “Communication is essential and you have to work with a team concept,” says Hunter. “We had that on this project.” The first phase of waterproofing was on the museum’s new underground parking garage. “We started in the garage in 2001. It was over 199,000 square feet of waterproofing, not counting the waterproofing for the landscaping and reflecting pool on top of the garage,” says Norbury. “The specified system was used throughout all of the projects with slight variations between vertical and horizontal applications.”For the roofing segment above the parking garage, the system maintained the specification with a 215-mil membrane used throughout. Landscaping covered many of the roofs. For the garden roof portions above the parking garage, Mid-Co used Styrofoam, along with the waterproofing, to build up low areas to keep the ground even. Styrofoam was used instead of fill due to the weight restrictions of the garage below.The reflecting pool that tops the garage, contains skylight lenses that direct sunlight into the parking structure below. With several feet of concrete to penetrate, the skylights artfully bring light into the parking space. As daylight shines through the water and the 34 windows in the pool’s base, it shimmers and dances on the floor of the garage. “Work on the skylights was the most sensitive part of the waterproofing,” says Norbury. “We waterproofed the cones at the bottom of the reflecting pool skylights. We needed to be sure that the water from the pool would not leak into the garage or wear away the concrete.”Mid-Co began gallery waterproofing in January 2003, with a target completion date of spring 2004. Every side of the new building will be waterproofed. The systems varied slightly between horizontal and vertical applications, yet the Carlisle hot rubber/rubber membrane systems with drainage were the base that provided complete waterproofing for the museum’s campus enhancement efforts.The winter weather posed a major challenge. “We started the job in January,” Norbury notes. “Keeping the site clean and dry during the spring run-offs was a huge challenge. Keeping the walls clean and dry is critical to good waterproofing application.”“We also had a number of stop-and-go days due to the weather,” continues Norbury. “We would have the job set up and be waiting either due to the weather or other contractors. It really is the nature of the job. Waterproofing is a trade that gets stuck between everything else that is going on. Our job is to make sure we don’t hold up the overall project.”As always, safety was important for Mid-Co and was ensured by two full-time safety coordinators. “Safety is critical,” confirms Norbury. “All employees take at least 10 hours of OSHA courses that cover everything new about waterproofing, plus general safety like CPR. It is very extensive.”“For the hot rubber portion, Mike Dickey of Frieze and Associates trained and refreshed our crews on hot rubber safety,” Norbury continues. “We look to our manufacturer representatives to keep us updated not just on product but also product safety and new application techniques.” “We do not sell hot rubber to just anyone,” states Dickey, a CCW sales representative. “Mid-Co is one of the best waterproofers out there. They are true quality. We feel that we have a great relationship that benefits us both along with the project owners and developers, not to mention the general contractor and architect.”With the museum addition due to open in 2007 to the public, all involved are looking forward to marveling at the final results. “This exciting project will enhance the jewel of our city,” stated Dickey. “It feels great to be part of such a challenging and rewarding project.”Go to Carlisle Coatings Website

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