I’ve been at this architecture thing for a bit over 20 years now and I can say with certainty that I am still surprised at the way some contractors choose to do their work. I am not saying this as a negative comment; it is just that it seems I can still learn about someone else’s approach to what they deem as the most efficient method to do construction. So let me explain…
I have a small renovation project that is almost completed with construction. It is about a 3-hour drive one way from my office. This is a renovation to an existing visitor center and gallery for a historic site. So the structure itself is not historic. It was built in 1993. And it is already in need of renovations. (insert sad/frowny face) But the renovations were mainly due to foundation issues that were caused by the large tree growth that had caused some movement in the building. Also, of course, there are upgrades to finishes throughout and then some spatial modifications to better suit the current usage. But the main point I am going to focus on is this elevation below.
So this is the existing entry into the museum gallery space that tells the history of the area and why this is a significant location. It does not seem very significant eh?
As part of this project, we are replacing this façade with a new large glazed storefront that is meant to encourage and identify this as the main focus. Easy enough right? Well, I think so and I think the methods to get there are fairly straight forward. But as I learned in this process of construction, it did not go according to my concepts. And while this was a slight change in the way this worked in my mind based on my experiences, it did not affect the outcome. It was just a different path than what I had envisioned. This is one of those instances where the execution seems to be more costly in my mind that apparently, it was in reality.
So above is the planned new elevation. My thought process here is that the area required for the new storefront would be removed and then the new steel columns be placed and then the storefront inserted within the remaining opening. Seems straightforward to me. Well, the way in which this actually occurred was different.
The first thing that was done was the entire façade was stripped of the stonework. Huh? Really? That seems to be a very labor-intensive process in both removal and replacement. First off the removal has to be done with care as to not damage the stone. That takes more time than just busting it out. Then the stones require cleaning and removal of any grout/mortar so they can be reinstalled. Then they have to be reinstalled with new mortar. Again labor-intensive due to time and also resources as it requires mortar that was not really needed. So…mind blown right?
Above and below are some images of the process as it worked itself through. Of course in renovation work, there are always surprises in the process due to the “unknown” aspects of the existing conditions, and this project has been no different. In regards to this particular part of the modifications, the foundation plans for the support under the new steel columns had to change due to the discovery of subgrade conditions. We did not have have any foundation drawings for the original project. It always seems that those are missing on every project!?! So there was a spread footing in the location that we had planned to have a new footing to support the new steel column. So upon discovery, we had to make some slight modifications to our foundation design. But it all worked out and allowed the new columns to remain. Also, the proposed head height of this storefront system was changed due to discovery from demolition. There was a large header beam in a location that interfered with the height we had planned for the storefront. So the height of the storefront was dropped by 1-1/2”. So not a huge complication. But that the steel columns had to change and the storefront systems. Again only minor adjustments but they allowed the construction to take place in a simpler manner. I can understand that as a logical course of action. But I am still a bit “dumbfounded” by the removal of the entire stone façade. Every bit of my experience and logical construction knowledge would have me believe that would be more expensive, labor-intensive and time consuming that simply removing only the area needed and shoring up the rest. The best rationale that I was given for removing it all was that due to the random patterning of the stone, it would be difficult to “cut a straight line” to allow for the new opening. So it was “easier” to remove it all and then build back to a new straight line at the head of the storefront, beam and lintel angle.
So this just goes to show that in some situations, the seemingly most logical course envisioned by the architect may not be the one that is deemed so by the construction team. Middle-aged dog meet new trick.
The project is close to completion. At the point in the process above, the exterior stone is not in place yet. After my next visit or upon final punch out, I will update and provide another look at the final results of the renovation efforts.
Lastly, I wanted to say that at least the drive is through some fairly pretty parts of the state. I pass through two national forests and over several large lakes. So as I have traveled this path for over a year now, I have gotten to see these areas in all the seasons. That at least makes it a nicer drive.
I like this photo because it is so idyllic of a rural setting. Honestly, I do not think this is what most people picture as a rural Texas image, but I think it is definitely one of many such scenes to be found in the state.
Until next time,