After being out of town and missing a week of blogging it is time to put the figurative pen to paper and catch up, and there’s quite a bit to catch up on!
It’s always nice to be able to begin by highlight a completed piece of work so let’s kick off by giving a shout out to the wall that runs along the front of our old building between the angel’s office and the day school entrance. It has been transformed from an ugly duckling of a building eyesore (who can ever forget those perpendicular, 10 inch wide, white, wooden, planks that divided the wall and gave the impression of a retro “Tudor Look*”), into a beautiful swan of a structure that's so easy on the eyes. I have to admit there are still some small issues with rainwater creeping in between "roof and brick" but soon the final trim will be installed and those leaks consigned to history.
Let us stay with our old buildings by shining a light on the office corridor inhabited by Father Bob, Mother Ashley, Gretchen and the duty angel. First I need to give you a little roofing background; the new pitched roof meets the existing pitched roof somewhere above Gretchen’s office and the new flat roof meets the existing pitched roof somewhere above Father Bob’s office. I’ve looked at the roofing plans but have absolutely no ability to extrapolate a 3 dimensional roof structure from a drawing so those “roofing buffs” amongst you will have to pardon my inability to express the roofing challenge in technical terms. To the layman, and to be brief, this meeting of the old and the new is the roofing equivalent of the seas off the Cape Horn, it is a veritable maelstrom of seething shingles and flat roofing that will need some significant work and no small amount of expertise to bring harmony and calm to the clashing roof lines. Unfortunately to achieve this harmony the existing roof over Father Bob’s and Gretchen’s offices will have to come off!
Now you can’t just rip off a roof and expect everything to go well (we tried that already), the weather has had more than it’s fair share of impact on our construction so it’s more than reasonable to assume there will be rain whilst the roof is off. We could just ask Father Bob and Gretchen to come to work dressed like Bering Sea fishermen but when it wasn’t raining there would be dust and noise to contend with and then there’s the office contents left exposed to the slings and arrows of outrageous weather. What do you do?
Well you wait until the tree roots in the cemetery are turning an autumnal orange and the Rector is taking a short and well-earned break then you deploy a highly skilled “strike removal team” (actually Gretchen Hood, Blair Hood and your correspondent). This strike team packed up the office including its books, mementos, coffee cups, guitars and furniture and moved it all into storage (a.k.a. the kitchen, corridor, library, and Mother Ashley’s office). So my fellow parishioners, until the roofing is done, new carpets laid and a dash of paint added to the walls please spare a thought for Father Bob “the Wandering Rector of ODEC” Randall as he seeks out a place to rest his travelling iPAD!
Staying with the roofing topic for the next item. Avid followers of this blog, or for that matter the occasional reader, will know the great hall and narthex concrete pad has been laid and the steel wall frames have been erected. However, unless you have recently passed by the ODEC campus you may not know that it’s “roof truss and beam time!” again.
Some weeks ago, a low loader delivered the great hall and narthex roofing trusses and beams and since then their presence has been a reassuring indicator of what was to come and now that time is here. For the past few days Miguel, Juan, José (not their real names) and their team mates have been back on the site working their magic to bring order to the scattered heaps of trusses as they frame out the great hall’s roof. I have absolutely no idea how the team select the trusses so they are laid out in some (to me hidden) logical order on the temporary frame they constructed at ceiling level for this purpose – and it’s all done at lightning speed with a rather spectacular looking blue forklift machine!
It’s progress on all fronts and so until my next blog stay safe and stay healthy, David Beach.
Tudor Look*: Building style that pays homage to the Tudor style of building in England (1485 and 1603). A heavy wood frame supporting walls made of wattle and daub, which is a wall where vertical wooden stakes, or wattles, are woven with horizontal twigs and branches, and then daubed with clay or mud. An authentic period dwelling with its visible black beam skeleton framing white wattle and daub walls is very attractive but, at least for me, that’s not the case for buildings constructed in the Tudor look that was so popular in the UK in the 1950s and 1960s.
It was all going so well and then it rained “cats and dogs*”!
I know we will have our share of cold, frosty, and maybe even snowy weather before we reach our construction anniversary next March but to date it’s been the rain that’s brought building progress to a near standstill. l say “near standstill” because there’s the rear wing, now watertight with its roof, walls and windows, where building work can continue safely sheltered from the rain ……. but outside it was a very different matter.
Let me give a quick summary of the outside building "action" going on last week. The building’s façade from the Parish Administrator’s Office to the day school entrance had been ripped off and is being replaced by a very stylish new brick wall. The concrete floor for the great hall and narthex is finished and the steel framework for the walls are being erected. At the rear the day school’s outside classroom and little garden space had been restored with the addition of a new fence and work was focusing on giving the Historic Church’s exterior woodwork its annual “sympathetic” power wash. Yes, all was peace and progress on the ODEC campus last week and then, as the Tuesday afternoon shadows began to lengthen into dusk, the word came “prepare for rain!” (Actually, I have used a bit of “blogging license” there because by late Tuesday afternoon the skies were so grey there were no shadows).
It rained, quite hard (English passion for the understatement) on Tuesday night so when I swung by the ODEC Campus around 8:00 a.m. on a rain swept and blustery Wednesday morning I was surprised to find the drive and day school drop off area wet underfoot but not flooded. My first thoughts turned to mentally thanking Ryan and his Higgerson site construction crew for our new storm water management system that was obviously doing its job. Hopping from the comfort of my car into a rain lashed maelstrom I suffered the embarrassment of “brolly blowout*,” obviously lived outside UK for too long for this would never of happened to an experienced brolly user and there simply isn’t anything you can do with a blown out brolly apart from looking slightly sheepish!
So, turning back to the weather, the building site was a quagmire and one can only be impressed by the fortitude of our office staffs who risked mud and quicksand to reach the kitchen’s backdoor. Whilst wandering the site, trying to find somewhere not too conspicuous to dump the now useless brolly, I came across Mr. Scott Crumley. In a rain soaked conversation I learnt the lack of flooding on the drive was solely due to his early morning efforts to drain away the standing water, an effort that by noon that day I would come to know myself. Taking my leave of Scott I headed for home, blown out brolly in the back of the car and thoughts of a hot shower, dry clothes and a nice “cuppa*” on my mind (a Brits’ alternative to Georgia).
So it was, showered, dry clothed and with cuppa in hand when text messages and phone calls started to arrive. Rainwater was leaking onto Gretchen Hood’s desk in the Parish Administrator’s office narrowly missing the Parish Register, rainwater was seeping through the wall into the day school directors’ office and rainwater was cascading into one end of a classroom. It is an unavoidable outcome if you rip off a wall, in our case the façade, and haven’t quite finished replacing it when it starts to rain really, really hard – water gets inside and it’s time for buckets and mops! Easy for me to say sitting in our kitchen, cuppa in hand watching the rain fall……then came a call to arms.
It was by now 11:30 a.m. and day school pick up was approaching but the drive and surrounding grass was once again calf deep in water. Back into a second set of work shorts, shirt and donning rubber Crocs on feet it was a race back to the Church where I met none other than the redoubtable Scott Crumley soaked to the skin, doubled over and up to his elbows in standing water whilst wrestling leaves from one of the two rain water drains in the drive. So there we were, a drain each with the mission to keep the gratings clear of leaves. Let me tell you from first-hand experience, we have fallen leaves the size of dinner plates and keeping them clear of the gratings, so the standing water can drain away, is a great cardio work out and, once the water starts to drain away, very satisfying.
The good news is our new storm water management systems works a treat however come the fall getting rainwater into that system in the first place maybe a leafy challenge! And some more good news, once the façade is re-built and the odd bit of masonry added the day school will be completely dry as will be the Angel’s and the Parish Administrator’s offices although there is more destruction to come their way before the end but that’s for a future blog!
Stay safe and stay healthy, David Beach.
“It’s raining cats and dogs”: An English idiom used to describe particularly heavy rain and is not necessarily related to a raining animals phenomenon (I learnt that it may come from the Greek expression “cata doxa” which apparently means “contrary to experience”).
“Brolly”: Colloquial English for an umbrella
“Brolly blowout”: The embarrassing moment when you inadvertently turn your umbrella to catch the wind and it blows inside out then followed by that awkward period when you have a blown out umbrella in your hand but can’t find anywhere to dump it!
“cuppa”: Colloquial English for a cup of tea
. After the boom, crash and wallop of the past two weeks with the concrete pouring, the Wellie Gang going about their concrete smoothing work with a cheerful and excessively loud demeanor and the roofing frames arriving on site, this week has been slightly more tranquil! Although, as Mr. Einstein noted, “everything is relative” so even that tranquility has to be taken in the context of steel framers attaching their metal trays to the concrete block footings with a device that fires (quite literally shoots) bolts into the concrete whilst "over yonder" the bricklayers make merry with demolishing an old brick façade.
So let’s delve a little deeper into the demolition activities. You may recall the front of the building between the Angel’s office door to the day school entrance had a Frankenstein’s monster look about it. A low flat-roof line and the 10 inch white, wooden planks that marshalled the bricks into little patches of disorder all set off by odd looking oversized windows making the whole façade look like the product of a design committee working to a very tight budget. Well this past week Frankenstein’s construction monster was laid to rest by the demolition of the whole façade and a sprinkling of some roofing and trim magic to align the now pitched roof with the rest of the building. In the next few days, the new bricks will be laid in the same look and style as the rear wing which will then blend in with the great hall and narthex. It’s going to look “cracking*.”
Meanwhile the action continues as Mr. Crumley orchestrates work on multiple fronts. In the rear wing Atlantic Heating and Air are continuing to install the HVAC system, above work to build new roofing and replace old shingles continues all punctuated with various, to date successful, City inspections.
I’ve already mentioned the metal trays that provided the basis for the steel web of studs, braces and beams that will trace out the external and internal walls in the great hall and narthex. You will be delighted to know that progress on erecting that steel web is well underway and most of the external walls are now picked out by the utilitarian metal work that will soon metamorphosis into a place of contemporary worship.
I have been asked by a couple of parishioners (no really, I’m not just saying that as a transition to a new subject, I really have been asked) about the concrete block wall that now cocoons the end of Tucker Hall, around past the old main entrance, across what used to be Father Bob’s office windows to end by wrapping around the front of the building. What is it for, perhaps some modernistic architectural feature?
No not an architectural feature, what you see is a firewall made necessary by the City’s fire code the basically states a requirement to segment the overall building into “fire zones" designed to contain a fire so it does not spread to one of the other zones. We now have three of these fire zones; the existing building, the new rear wing and the new narthex/great hall. To meet this requirement a firewall has already been built between the new rear wing and the old library, it stretches from concrete floor right up to the peak of the pitched roof, and what you see in the front of the building is the exposed firewall between the narthex and the existing structure. Both firewalls are rated as 2H meaning in the event a fire shall be contained by these self-standing walls for 2 hours, so plenty of time to evacuate the building! In the final constriction both firewalls will be concealed by the internal finish and we will forget we ever saw them.
Well off to the hills for the weekend, so stay safe and stay healthy, David Beach.
“Cracking:” Colloquial English for something being “very good” and can be used in several ways e.g. “It looks cracking” i.e. “looks or looking good,” “it’s a cracking game” i.e. “it’s a very good game” (a term seldom used in the same sentence as Plymouth Argyle Football Club). Not to be confused with “let us get cracking” which means “let’s make a start” or with “crack or craic” which means having a chat in the pub, usually in Ireland and usually with a wee (small) glass of whiskey or two!
After the excitement of last week on the construction site, which was marked by the return of the Bueno Wellie Wearing Gang* from the honorable trade of concrete levelling and floor finishing supported by the mighty concrete pump, one might think it a hard act to follow but one might be wrong!
Even the most distracted traveler passing down N. Witchduck Road could not fail to notice the medium sized lumber yard that has sprung up on the ODEC “front lot.” Arranged around the site are stacks of roofing trusses and frames that will soon become the skeleton for the roof over the Great Hall and Narthex. To my deep regret I was not “in situ” to watch the arrival of all this lumber and so I am deeply indebted to Mal Higgins and Scott Crumley for their first hand accounts and by all accounts I missed a spectacle.
It was Thursday afternoon when the first low-loader arrived at ODEC with its cargo of roof frames and trusses. This was not one of those 18-wheel rigs we see every day plying their trade on the highways and bye ways of the USA. This was one of those extra special behemoths that seem to have more wheels than legs on a centipede and a flatbed trailer stretching some 85 feet back from the cab and accompanied, where ever it goes, by one of those flag carrying, pathfinder vehicles announcing “wide load” to those poor unfortunates trapped behind.
Picture the scene, the behemoth arrives at ODEC and is carefully reversed into position by Lerone the driver ably supported by his spotter Krissy. Once in position it's a puzzle for the uninitiated, how do you unload an 85-foot flatbed of stacked lumber with no forklift or crane in sight? Well there is a surprising process so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it weasel!
Lerone’s flatbed trailer is fitted with sets of little rollers that in “travelling down the road mode” are withdrawn into the flatbed. When it’s time to unload Lerone activates the electric systems that not only raise the little rollers so they lift the load an inch or so above the trailer bed but also power the rollers so they rotate and gradually ease the load off the back of the trailer. Those of you who can remember the days of air travel may have seen similar technology on the lifts used to load cargo into aircraft.
However, the little rollers are not in themselves enough to complete the unload and the next part of the process is…. shall we say, “slightly less subtle?”
As the wood seems to mystically glide off the back of the trailer with no visible assistance, thanks to the little rollers doing their hidden work, there comes the inevitable moment when gravity takes over leaving about a third of the wood still flat on the trailer, about a third of the wood now flat on the ground and the third in the middle distorted into an extended “S” bend. The little rollers have done their part and can’t push the load any further so Lerone hops back into his cab, engages a low ratio gear and pulls forward in doing so dumping the final third of word off the flat-bed and onto the ground accompanied by what sounds like a clap of thunder! I think I have had airport baggage handlers treat my suitcase in a similar manner!
Turning away from Lerone, his spotter Krissy and their behemoth what else has been going on in the construction world this past week?
From the outside the rear wing is starting to look like the finished article, albeit it still without doors, whilst inside Atlantic Heating and Air is continuing with the HVAC installation. At the front, our new concrete pad is now adorned with steel pillars that will eventually either support the main roof beams or form part of the entrances. Around the edge of the concrete pad metal troughs are being attached to the footing bricks in preparation for the wall framing.
Turning to the skies, the roofers are in the process of replacing the old shingles on the existing buildings, including Tucker Hall, having already re-roofed Alfriend House. The old, ugly, brick façade picked out with white boards, which gave such “character” to the front the building between the Duty Angel’s office and the day school entrance, is no more, thanks to some rather noisy demolition, and is soon to be replaced by brickwork that will match the new buildings.
Stay safe and stay healthy, David Beach.
“Bueno Wellie Wearing Gang”*: For those readers who my have missed an earlier blog the “gang” is a team of Spanish speaking construction workers from Richmond who specialize in laying and finishing concrete floors, a very skilled operation. As the team members must wade in liquid concrete, about 4 inches deep, in the course of their work the rubber boot is their preferred footwear. In the UK rubber boots are also called wellington boots or colloquially “wellies” and “bueno” because that is how I described the boots to the gang!
The Concrete Pump The Bueno Wellie Gang Truck and Pump United
Wednesday, 0600 a.m. and a slightly misty morning around the ODEC campus illuminated by the many vehicle and working lights surrounding the Great Hall’s and Narthex’s sand pad. In the dark of the morning, an hour and more before sunrise, the muffled sounds of heavy machinery are suddenly swamped by a cacophony of yelling and shouts as our old friends, the bueno wellie* wearing, concrete smoothing gang from Richmond arrive on site to get this little party rocking and rolling!!! Yes it’s concrete pouring time and by midafternoon the Great Hall and Narthex will have their concrete floors!
Before me, wedged between the N. Witchduck Rd’s verge and the edge of our sand pad sits the concrete pump truck with its hydraulic rams, to level and stabilize, extended to their very limits. Above the pump’s delivery system is slowly unfolding, as if a waking giant was stretching out an arm to retrieve a morning cuppa* from a bedside table* (Brit author so you get Brit metaphors!), as Clive, the operator, maneuvers his charge to make sure it can deliver concrete to the furthest reaches of our site. I was very taken by the concrete pump used for the rear wing but the machine before me is, my friends, in a completely different league. When fully extended the delivery arm cuts a graceful arc from N. Witchduck high into the night sky to the far reaches of the sand pad, as Mr Crumley pointed out it actually has a red light to warn aircraft of its presence. This is spectacular!
Let me veer away from the descriptive and give you some of the “numbers.” The concrete aficionados amongst us may recall from the rear wing that the distance from the compressed sand pad to floor level is 4 inches. Yes, it was surveyed incorrectly at the rear and had sand not been added we would have had a concrete floor in the rear wing that would have done a bomb shelter proud. However, I digress, the survey is good at the front so our new concrete floor will be 4 inches deep and, of course, cover the Great Hall and Narthex floor areas. Now I used to be able to work this out (and that was using a slide rule*) but I take it on good authority from Clive’s boss that we are looking at 135 cubic yards of concrete and at 9 cubic yards per concrete truck we will need 15 deliveries to feed the beast that, with the help of the “bueno wellie gang,” will cover our floor in concrete to a depth of 4 inches.
Enough of the numbers, back to the action!
It’s now 0625 a.m., the wellie gang are all “bewellied*” and an eerie silence has settled over the site, no doubt to the great relief of the immediate neighbors, as humans and machines are poised for the first concrete delivery.
Its now 0630 a.m. and suddenly with a fanfare of crashing gears and screaming engines (actually the engine wasn’t very loud so put that down to poetic license) the first concrete truck arrives on site. In an impressive display of driving skill, the truck is flicked into the Sentara car park entrance and then reversed back across the road, a bit of right hand down and the truck is backed-up to where it can disgorge its load of concrete into the pumps feeder. From the shadows a "man with wheelbarrow" strides onto center stage, he is the concrete tester charged with making sure the mix is what it should be and it is to him the honor of receiving the first concrete goes. With wheelbarrow now full he disappears back in to the gloom, concrete now pours into the feeder and, with revving engines, is then pumped high over our heads and to the furthest reaches of the site where it is met and spread out by the waiting wellie gang.
It’s a pattern that repeats another 14 times, as soon as one truck has fed its load to the pump another takes its place. At the sharp end of the action, the wellie gang’s spreader-in-chief continues his wrestling match with the hose that spews concrete at his direction, a dance punctuated by short and well deserved breaks as one concrete truck leaves and another arrives.
Now it’s after 0900 a.m., the pump and its supply convoy of concrete trucks have already gone leaving behind a blanket of concrete that covers the entire sand pad. To one side the wellie gang take a well-earned rest whilst the concrete starts to cure to just that right consistency for them to spring back into action smoothing the rough surface into a polished finished complete with freshly cut expansion cracks (101 lesson from Scott Crumley: concrete expands when it gets warm so the purpose of the cracks is to provided a little space for the concrete to expand into without causing damage).
A subtle signal ripples through the wellie gang and it’s time for action (actually the signal was far from subtle, the gang boss stood up and screamed out what I take to be Spanish for “I say chaps lets crack on shall we?” The gang deploy to their respective smoothing duties, some operate the ride on giant skimmers that ply their trade across the site like overly aggressive floor cleaners, others have rakes to push, pummel and bully the concrete into place and some have hand trowels used with great dexterity to get into every nook and cranny.
Now the job is done, the bueno wellie gang, machines, trucks and concrete pumps are all gone and we are left with a smooth, almost iridescent concrete floor that lays testament to the skills of drivers, pump operators, logistics planners and, of course, the Richmond based bueno wellie gang. The wellie gang is gone but certainly not forgotten, maybe you’ll see the wellie gang in your neck of the woods sometime in the future, if you don’t see them, you’ll certainly hear them, quite possibly all the way from Richmond!
Stay safe and stay healthy, David Beach
“bueno wellie”: Wellie is colloquial English for a wellington boot, the then leather foot wear invented by the First Duke of Wellington (he of the Battle of Waterloo fame) that is now worn as the rubber boot across the world. Bueno because the Spanish speaking concrete spreading team all very much favor their rubber boots!
“cuppa”: Colloquial English for a cup of tea
“bedside table”: English for a nightstand
"slide rule": If you are of a certain age you'll know what a slide rule is, if not then find some one who is and ask them to explain!
“bewellied”: A word I made up to mean “people who are wearing wellies,” similar context as bejeweled is to people wearing jewelry.
The Bueno Wellie Gang in Repose
In this, somewhat delayed, blog I want to report a case of “half inching”* on the ODEC campus!
In recent blogs I’ve made note of the departure, albeit as a temporary nature, of the Higgerson site construction team most ably led by that expert of all things sand, earth and below the ground called Ryan Hobbs. Well on last Thursday afternoon whilst wandering the ODEC grounds I unexpectedly came across the redoubtable Ryan looking as bemused as I have ever seen him. On enquiring of his plight, I learnt that at some time over the preceding 8 days a person, or persons, unknown had half inched* the Higgerson equipment trailer that had been left on site waiting for Ryan and his team’s return. The missing item, a large, black enclosed trailer had been left wedged between an excavator and a large, pneumatic street brush used for cleaning the site – the sort of thing that fits on the front of a large tractor. Some perpetrator had seen fit to drag, no doubt by truck, the brush away from the trailer and then with easy access to the tow bar had made off with trailer and contents.
In a perverse sort of way it is fortuitous the trailer and equipment belongs to a company such as Higgerson for although my sympathy goes out to Ryan for his loss I know that had it been a small contractor then not only would a trailer have been stolen but also quietly potentially a business and livelihood ruined.
Rest assured my next blog will get back to the business of construction with an exciting and exclusive report but until then stay safe and stay healthy, David Beach.
“Half inching” Cockney rhyming slang (cockney is a Londoner born within the sound of St Mary-le-Bow church), half inching rhymes with pinching which in itself is colloquial English for stealing.
A No-Frills Warehouse
Like a butterfly slowly emerging from its chrysalis our rear wing is gradually metamorphosing into the building we would recognize from those renderings we’ve stood and admired for so many months. Windows and the wood trim have been installed, an additional window to bring light into what will be our new accounting and finances offices is in the making and the moisture barrier’s white, plastic sheeting is steadily vanishing behind the rich tan-browns of the outside brick walls. But let me take you into the “belly of the beast,” deep inside the dark recesses of the rear wing, let me tell you what’s going on in there!
When I was a young and impressionable lad my parents took the family on holiday to the Principality of Wales, for those not familiar with the geography of the United Kingdom that’s the bulge on the west side of Britain that sticks out into the Irish Sea, For a holiday treat we took a day trip to visit a disused coal mine that had been opened as a tourist attraction. I remember standing in an underground chamber illuminated by strings of hanging lights and surrounded by steel pit props (apparently the days of wood props and beams were well past – probably something to do with “health and safety”) for a young lad it was an awesome experience one I never expected to enjoy again.
Well I was wrong, the rear wing might not be a couple of hundred feet underground but standing there in the middle of the building and surrounded by the steel frames now festooned with strings of work lights I was, for a brief moment in time, that young lad again! All around me the “It’s Electric Inc” electricians were pulling cables and installing the power sockets whilst above me in the rafters the “Atlantic Heating and Cooling” engineers were installing the duct work that will provide cool air in the summer and heat in the winter to the offices and meeting rooms below.
And what of the front? The familiar face of our old building is now encased in the concrete block sheath that is the firewall, designed to prevent a fire in one area spreading to another. I have to say it’s not an appealing look, vaguely reminiscent of a no-frills warehouse, but not to worry for the firewall will soon disappear from view behind the internal walls of the Narthex. In front of that firewall the sand pad is now surrounded by the footings which will soon be supporting the steel frames that will be the Narthex’s and Great Hall’s walls.
As you may recall from the rear wing’s construction before any framing can take place the concrete floor has to be poured (I feel a concrete pump in our future) and before concrete the utilities pipework has to be installed and that work is ongoing as I write. An orange excavator scarcely big enough to accommodate the operator, in sharp contrast to the yellow monsters that roamed the site for many weeks, is busily cutting the trenches for the utilities and already the first white, plastic pipe is sticking out of the sand marks the location of the future coffee dispensing station.
Meanwhile another battle with the complexities of the existing buildings has been won with the electrical power restored to the Historic Church. And there’s more! A fiber optic cable has been pulled from the Historic Church Sanctuary through the new underground conduit, via the new roof space to the Administrator’s Office, and is ready to be connected to the network switch so the Church will, at last, have a permanent connection to the internet.
Much more to be done and no doubt many more challenges to overcome but we are certainly on the way!
Stay safe and stay healthy, David Beach
The Very Small, Orange Excavator
Construction continues at a steady, almost tranquil pace, now the big yellow machines, having done their work, have moved on to construction pastures new leaving behind tracks in the sand and two new entrances as a testament to their labors! We also have a very fine, exposed agate path (I’m picking up some of the terminology at last) connecting the N Witchduck Road crossing point with the Bell Tower so now we can park in the Sentara car park (which is available to us at anytime during these COVID-19 times) and walk on an even surface from car park to Bell Tower with nary a damp shoe in sight.
So what do I mean when I blog “almost tranquil pace”? Is nothing happening, has the frenetic pace of construction tailed off, has the momentum left the job? Far from it, the tranquility is solely due to the recently departed machinery leaving the site in the hands of bricklayers, electricians and carpenters all plying their skills with far less noise!
At the front the bricklayers are continuing to raise the firewall that is gradually wrapping the end of Tucker Hall, the old entrance and around past Father Bob’s now ex-windows to the front of the Angel’s office in a concrete block curtain. At the back the rear wing has windows, a wood trim, the electrical system is being installed and outside the finished brickwork is being laid. Above, as already reported, we have a roof that whilst not yet shingled is nevertheless dry!
If I paint too rosy picture, then stand fast for all is not sweetness and light. There are, of course, the normal challenges of any new construction; scheduled trades that don’t turn up, inevitable design elements that don’t translate from the drawing board to reality, weather issues etc. but for our construction “the biscuit”* goes to the existing buildings and in particular those bits and pieces that lurk in ambush underground.
Last week it was the day school’s sewer lines “lurking in ambush” with no rhyme nor reason for there being an extra line and taking all of Mr. Crumley’s detective skills to resolve the problem. This week it's the three-phase power supply to the Historic Church (powers the air conditioning) lurking in ambush and requiring even more detective, and almost forensic, skills to resolve. Let me give you a layman’s (for that is what I most certainly am) taste of the three-phase power problem!
Stay with me, this won’t take too long!
Three-phase power to the Historic Church comes via a heavy cable from a panel in the electrical closet behind the Sexton’s office in the main building. That cable follows a path that can only have been devised by someone intent on giving the electrons flowing through that cable a sightseeing tour around the ODEC campus. The cable runs from the panel then underground towards the Church, it then doubles back, breaks surface but only to disappear underground to make a loop outside the back of the old library…….yes, that is completely in the wrong direction. The cable then makes an underground beeline for the Historical Church Sanctuary where it reappears just outside the wall. No surprise then that the cable was damaged when the rear wing footings were laid, even less surprise that no one could fathom out where the problem lay and total amazement that Mr. Crumley and the team from It’s Electric were able to trace the cable’s route and find the fault. Power will be restored next week.
That's quite enough three-phase from me, stay safe and stay healthy, David Beach.
“the biscuit”: as in “to take the biscuit” a British idiom meaning something has become bad, annoying or objectionable e.g. “the journey was bad but the traffic jam at the HRBT took the biscuit”
Today I can report a significant change in the economics of the emergency roof repair business in Virginia Beach. The cash-cow that was the ODEC flat-roof is no more and we now have a fine, pitched roof covering the rest of the day school, library, corridor, and the front façade of the building. True, the roof is, as yet, without shingles, but it is, as they say in the construction business, “now dry” because the water barrier and felt layers have been installed. I very much hope the message of a “dry future” will soon gain the trust of the day school’s directors and teachers and they no longer feel the need to leave their classrooms and offices festooned with buckets and bins to catch those inevitable leaks that have blighted their lives for so many years.
I was lucky enough to get a tour of the new roof. From ground level you just can’t appreciate how complicated and vast it really is or the way it spans the old flat roof and integrates a veritable smorgasbord of existing pitched roofing into a seamless entity. Underneath the plywood covering there is a myriad of frames and beams that very much reminded me of the J2A’s pilgrimage visit to Salisbury Cathedral. We were taken on a Cathedral tour up into the roof and then up the tower to the very base of the Cathedral’s famous spire, led by a guide who must have been in his late seventies but as spritely as a mountain goat. I recall the roof space and it looked very similar to our construction with spars, beams, and frames in every direction albeit on a slightly grander scale!
Whilst I well recall the Cathedral’s roof space my powers of recollection and description of the inside of the spire or of the, no doubt, phenomenal view from the aspect of a small exterior walkway at the spire’s base, are somewhat muted. This is as you should expect from an acrophobic standing 230 feet above the ground on a small ledge built in the thirteen century and without the benefit of any City inspectors!!
Well enough of the roof, let me shine the blog’s spotlight on “firewalls.” If you’ve visited the ODEC campus, or perused through the online new building photo album, you may have seen or noticed some pretty impressive, concrete block walls being erected in what seems to be the middle of the building. These are the firewalls and are a building code requirement designed to ensure that a fire in one area of the building is contained in that area for two to three hours. We have firewalls between the rear wing and the existing library, between Tucker Hall and the narthex and between the narthex and the office wing.
All these firewalls will, in the final build, be concealed as internal walls but in the meantime an interesting side effect is the apparent “bricking” up of existing windows. Father Bob’s office is now a dark, windowless cave as is the old library whilst part of the kindergarten classroom is now windowless. This is also happening across the palladium window in Tucker Hall and as the bricklayers ply their trade the light behind our stained glass panel is gradually fading but take heart, there is no doubt a bright future for the stained glass panel when it’s relocated to grace one of the palladium windows in the new Great Hall!
Now I confess I am a big machine “groupie,” I don’t actually hang around outside garages or construction yards you understand but I am keen on the big machines and this week was an absolute treat.
We were visited by a “slipform concrete curb machine” that very much resembled an early twentieth century tracked tractor with one steering track at the front and two drive tracks on either side. The machine’s purpose is to extrude concrete curbing and to do that this lumbering contraption lays a continuous line of concrete curb whilst being guided by a small metal filament resting on a string marking the line of the new curb. I was struck how it brought to mind a blind person reaching out to a handrail for guidance and support.
This wondrous machine is no “one trick pony,” far from it. I have learnt there are different types of curb stone. There’s the rather common “parks” curbing for edging sidewalks and grassy areas and then there’s the curbing that includes the flat gutter that we frequently see at the side of roads. With a quick change in the “form” the clever machine can extrude a wide variety of curb types, we have both the parks and the gutter type on our campus which gives me a nice segue into my next piece of news.
All of this curb laying is just a small part of the bigger picture of constructing vehicle entrances and pathways around the new campus. Within the next week the new entrance/exit, the one where the herb garden used to be, will be given a temporary surface and made operational for one-way traffic. This will be used as an exit from the campus, so vehicles will enter via the Cathedral Drive entrance and leave via this temporary exit thus avoiding the need to make a U-turn by the bell tower. And there’s more, next week will also see the opening of the new, concrete path that connects the N. Witchduck Rd crossing to hard standing by the Bell Tower. This will allow folks to use the Sentara car park and walk to the Church doors without the need to navigate around flower beds and over wet grass.
It has been a very full and busy week on the construction site and I’ve not even touched on the windows and electrical systems being installed in the rear wing or Troy who has been digging the new conduit that will provide high speed internet connectivity to the Historic Church.
Enough if my ramblings, stay safe and stay healthy, David Beach
Troy Digging the Conduit
IIt was late July, Scott Crumley and I had just emerged from a meeting with Father Bob and Gretchen Hood where the prospects of opening the Day School in September was discussed and as re-opening seemed unlikely the decision to accelerate the construction was taken.
Right from the get-go the construction plan had been designed to minimize, to the greatest extent possible, impacts on the day-to-day business of ODEC and the day school whilst maintaining compliance with fire code for an occupied building, which mainly entailed making sure there were sufficient exit doors to be code compliant. It was, of course, always recognized that some impacts were going to be inevitable but with a careful, stepwise approach over a 18 to 22 month schedule it was hoped these could be minimized. With the meeting’s decision to leverage the opportunity offered by a near empty campus by accelerating construction the step wise approach went out of the window.
Translated into words a layman could understand (that would be me) the new approach set aside the paced, sequential approach we’d followed to date and now had carte blanche to “go at it” from all angles at once and no finer way to start down this path than a spot of demolition.
Instant action, within days the front of the building was ripped off, the car park was ripped up and the ceiling in the kindergarten was ripped out – it really was a ripping time! And there was more, to replace the flat roof over the library, corridor and day school wing nearly a ton of masonry had to be removed to establish a level and secure base for the new pitched roof. Progress in every direction, what could possibly go wrong with the plan?
Well, sometime after adopting the “go at it from all angles” building approach, and after a great deal of careful planning and hard work by the day school directors and staff, reopening the day school became a feasible option and the school was at last able to open it's doors to its pupils on 8 Sep.
Bit of a “curve-ball” for the construction plan! With great alacrity ceilings were replaced, lighting was installed, holes where windows should be were concealed, new power cables were installed, air conditioning units were re-commissioned, sewer lines were repaired, parking was organized and safe access was set in place. I feel I’ve missed something ……… of course the roof! How could I have forgotten the roof?
If a ton of masonry is removed from an, albeit slightly leaky, flat roof and it rains, even with a partial pitched roof frame and plywood in place over the top, there are bound to be some leaks! If it rains really, really hard and the scuppers aren’t exactly what the used to be, which at their best wasn’t much, then not only does water get into the rooms below but the far greater risk from rainwater pooling on the flat roof and then causing a “breach” that would do significant damage to a classroom's ceiling.
Remember Thursday 17 September? It absolutely “hammered down*” from early afternoon into Friday daybreak, the weather radar for Witchduck Rd was red, red and more red! The worst possible conditions for our half-finished roof and a disaster seemed imminent – or would have been had it not been for Scott Crumley mounting an individual watch through that stormy night. Placing buckets and bins under ceiling leaks, mopping wet floors and carpet tiles, and most importantly keeping the scuppers flowing by strategically “twitching” (my words not his) the flat roof’s rubber membrane to prevent water pooling.
At a conservative estimate during that wet and windy night the storm deposited over 20,000 gallons of rainwater on the flat roof and of that less than 20 gallons penetrated into the building below and much of that was caught in buckets thanks to Scott’s diligence and dedication.
Stay safe and stay healthy, David Beach.
“Hammered down”: In the Brits escalating scale of rain fall descriptions “hammered down” is one up from “raining cats and dogs”!