It is Saturday morning, and with an hour to waste I hopped into the car and took a trip to ODEC. Now it’s not that I don’t spend time in the week malingering on site, but sometimes it’s rather nice to loaf around the empty building to fully absorb what Scott Crumley has delivered. And, truth be told, there’s also a growing realization one can see the light at the end of the “construction tunnel” and it most definitely is not the headlight on one of those “big yellow construction machines” bearing down on me!
This week saw Scott Crumley in classic juggling mode as he chased and berated a myriad of trades that should have been on site to finish a plethora of jobs including plumbing, painting, electrical and HVAC, to name but a few. Although their presence was sorely missed on Monday, by Wednesday it seemed we were hosting a “construction trade fair” with so many different contractors on site. By week’s end most of the external painting was done, plumbing installation in the Great Hall well on it’s way, and Atlantic Heating and Air were “knocking out” the last few jobs that must be done before we start the, rather arduous, series of inspections to be concluded before occupancy.
I don’t know if you have ever played with one of those Chinese wooden puzzles? Jo, my wife, always buys some to pop in our Christmas stockings (hours of frustration promised for everyone). The trick to solving the puzzle is always the order in which you do things – try and remove one part before another and the whole puzzles locks up, leading to frustration and a desire to give the puzzle a good whack with a heavy hammer. Well, moving from where we are with the building now to being able to occupy the new spaces is very much akin to doing a Chinese puzzle, but without the heavy hammer. It is all about the the order of doing things, so bearing in mind you are being guided by the construction equivalent of a luddite, let me try to explain.
The ceiling tiles must be installed, but that can’t be done until Scott has had a ceiling inspection, and that can’t be done until the final electrical and the final HVAC work has been completed and inspected, a situation made ever so slightly more challenging due to the unexpected non-availability of the main HVAC chap, who did the lion's share of the work in our building. But for our purpose, let’s suppose we have the ceiling inspection “seal of approval” what then? Now, the fire alarm takes center stage for its very own inspection under the ever-watchful eyes of Thomas McCormick, our fire alarm guru.
I will not regale you once more with the fire alarm story, suffice to say if I never get the opportunity to be even remotely involved in a fire alarm system installation again…. well……..it will be way too soon! However, with doors suitably numbered, two permanent, dedicated telephone lines installed (and now working) and the door security contractor, having had enough nagging, (I’ve discovered a new talent, “professional contractor nagger” and I’ll be trying to leverage this talent into my fourth career AC – that’s “after construction” – with the proviso I don’t deal with anything even remotely fire alarm related) arrived on site in the form of Randall. Not our regular security door guy, but one who seems to have been just about the only cove from the company who wasn’t on leave since before the July 4th celebrations. So, many thanks to Randall for picking up the thread and “getting ‘er dun.” Bottom line, I think the fire alarm is ready for its inspection, that is, once everything else has been inspected.
I feel I’ve harangued enough on the subject of inspections so let me “dwell a pause” on that topic and bring you up to date on the goings on in Tucker Hall.
In a nutshell the Hall is currently a bit of a mess! The palladium window is gone and if it were not for the new sheet rock marking out its profile, a bit like those chalk markings you see in any good murder mystery (btw I recommend a Brit crime series called “Paranoid”) you wouldn’t know there ever was a window. Likewise, the new side door leading from Tucker into the Witchduck Rd. entrance to the Narthex has been cut into the wall and at the opposite end of the Hall the double back doors are no more. This is critical progress because, if you haven’t guessed, a successful fire inspection is dependent on the availability of those Narthex/Tucker Hall doors – now this is starting to get repetitive.
Of course, although Tucker Hall is in a slightly disheveled state just now, you know that it, too, will soon be put to rights and with that, I will leave you until next time.
Stay safe and stay healthy,
I think everyone “lucky” enough to have been working in the buildings over the past many months will have grown accustomed to the sounds of hammers, drills, heaters, and various loud pieces of equipment – to say nothing of the humans – that make up the clamor of a noisy construction site, but this past week was a different kettle of fish altogether!
Mr. Thomas McCormick, the man heading up the installation and commissioning of the new fire alarm system, was in full testing mode. On the one hand a blessing because testing portends getting the system in service but on the other…….??
When the new system “goes off” three things happen; 1) there’s a high pitched “squeaking” sound, which would drive our canine and feline friends crazy 2) there are strobes emitting a brilliant white light that pierces your eyeballs and 3) there’s "the voice!"
A flat, digital voice, no doubt a close kin to the voice in a lift* that announces the floor numbers. The fire alarm voice drones out a message telling you to “evacuate the building by the nearest exit – do not use an elevator,” I’m hoping Scott Crumley hasn’t sneaked an elevator into the building and that this is just a generic message! You may be thinking “well, that’s not too bad” and in truth for the first 5 or 6 tests it really isn’t but, and this is a big “but,” after a couple of full days testing it starts to drag on your nerves like finger nails across a blackboard (for that analogy I ask the older readership to explain to our younger parishioners who may have never had the opportunity to “enjoy” the fingernail across a blackboard experience). Although Gretchen appears to be smiling in the above picture in reality she is gritting her teeth as once again the announcement “evacuate the building by the nearest exit – do not use an elevator,” reverberates through the offices.
The message “evacuate the building by the nearest exit – do not use an elevator” repeats over-and-over-and-over again in a flat, expressionless voice that for me served to drag up memories of learning multiplication tables in class by rote. It got to the point where I began to think “Miss Plumtree,” Class 4B’s intrepid teacher, would walk through the door and deliver a swift “ruler assisted” whack on the knuckles to a young Beach whose mind had wandered to pastures far away. I digress, the point is our new alarm is working and there’s only a few more things to be done before it’s fully operational, and then we will be one step closer to being able to fully occupy our new spaces.
As if to remind us there is still construction work to be done the comforting sound of hammers ripping into walls returned to the site this week. On Wednesday our intrepid Facilities Manager, Matthew Improta, completed his preparations for the demolition work in Tucker Hall. On Thursday the Good Shepherd stained glass was carefully removed (it will be remounted in the Great Hall), and on Friday, Tucker Hall’s palladium window was demolished so one can now saunter directly from the hall into the narthex. Next week the hole, which was the window, will be enclosed with sheet rock and before long all signs of the window will be gone whilst at the opposite end of the hall (the end near the neighbor) the external double doors will be removed, the hole walled up and the enclosed space transformed into kitchen storage, and with that the last major construction activity will be completed.
Stay safe and stay healthy,
“Lift” Brit speak for an elevator.
With every passing week the building phase of the project draws ever closer to completion and now we are looking forward to the last major piece of construction by connecting the parish hall to the narthex and closing off the hall’s rear doors to create the new storage space for the kitchen, which will sit between the existing chair and tables stores.
The connection between hall and narthex will see the Good Shepherd relocated, more on that in a later blog, and the palladium windows, at the left end of the hall as you enter, removed to be replaced by drywall and a door frame for the doors leading into the main body of the narthex, which were installed on the narthex side some time ago. Those who have visited the construction will no doubt recall Scott Crumley’s delight in surprising visitors by opening those doors from the narthex side to expose what was the parish hall’s external wall and windows. That little game will soon be up! But this is all in the near future so let’s take a quick look back at the happenings in the week gone by.
Pride of place for the past week goes to the installation of our new audio/visual (a/v) system in the great hall. Andy and his 3-man team from ONYX have been hard at work mounting the large shades and the new projection screen above the palladium windows. This was quite a feat, the tops of those windows are well above my “high place comfort level” (which in truth is not much more than a very small step ladder) and the equipment is on the chunky side of very heavy. To give you some idea of mass, the mounting brackets for the screen can easily support the weight of man – as Andy proved before attempting to lift and secure the screen in place. We also witnessed a successful projector test and heard the hall reverberate to the rich sounds delivered by the speaker system. There is some further system testing to be done and the interconnection between the hall and the Old Church to be established but the heavy lifting has, quite literally, been done!
There’s also been a welter of small jobs completed including re-painting the nursery to give it more “child,” or more accurately “parent,” appeal, as well as the “green wall” in the new studio (this green wall is for video camera trickery rather than some bizarre designer impulse!). Along with the studio and nursery, the parish secretary’s office, so long the domain of Cheryl Sutherland, has been redecorated and new window blinds fitted throughout the rear wing as well as many windows in the “existing” building. The new cabinetry for the narthex restrooms, the coffee bar and altar guild has been installed but it will be several weeks before the display cases, the library shelves and the additional storage for the altar guild are delivered.
Some new chairs, courtesy of Bill Waide, have been delivered and a large order placed with a company called MYLITE for the Great Hall’s chairs. Storage equipment for the band’s storeroom has been delivered and as soon as the new carpet has been laid all of our excellent band’s musical instruments and paraphernalia will, at last, have a permanent home! And there’s more: Mother Ashley has been hard at work researching equipment for the new nursery and that too is now in-bound to ODEC.
On the downside, progress on commissioning the new fire alarm has been less than “dynamic,” but as I griped enough about this subject in last week’s blog, I’ll leave it there and hope there’s better news to report in next week’s offering.
Before I end, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a, albeit belated, very happy “Fourth of July.”
Stay safe and stay healthy,
The topic for this week picked itself, the blog is going to delve into the murky world of fire alarm installation, written from the perspective of a novice - one blissfully ignorant of the slings and arrows that comes with fire alarm installation (in my wildest dreams I never thought I would ever write “slings and arrows” and “fire alarm” in the same sentence!). To give this tale justice I need to go back 12 months, for it was about a year ago when we heard the distance rumblings of disquiet from the fire alarm world.
Our plan was very simple, we have a working, and to-date, approved fire alarm for the existing buildings, so all we had to do to accommodate the new construction was slap a new alarm in the new areas and, as they say, “Robert’s your father’s brother!”* But not so fast. Early in the summer of 2020, rumors started to spread that the Fire Marshall was not too tickled with our proposed way ahead. By way of defense let me clarify that statement “our proposed,” simply put, and sad but nevertheless true, the Fire Marshall made it clear the proposal, delivered to us by a sub-contractor, did not present an acceptable design so it was, quite literally, a case of going back to the drawing board.
There is nothing like 20:20 hindsight so benefiting from that wisdom to look back it’s quite easy to understand the Fire Marshall’s perspective. By any standards, the existing system was on the downhill slope of obsolescence, no doubt a fine system in its day, but by now very much an analogue system in a digital world that lacked a great number of features provided as a matter of course (and as is it happens also a matter of fire code) by new systems.
Let me highlight a couple of functions you get with a modern system. First there is the automated exit instructions so if there is a fire the alarm tells folks in the building which route they are to follow to exit the building safely. Then there is the notification to the fire department that allows the fire fighters to know exactly where the fire is as they rush to the scene. All very clever stuff, and with a day school and a building with a much increased occupancy capacity all very worthwhile, if not a little more expensive than we originally thought (that’s one of those understatements we English are famous for). We were faced with a simple choice of either fitting out the old and the new buildings with a modern fire alarm system or never getting a certificate to occupy the new buildings, it was obviously time to accept the inevitable and a new system it was to be.
Now my dear blog-readers, (actually I believe the correct term is” blog-followers” but that I find to be a bit presumptuous) I, myself, and quite possibly most of you, have missed a lucrative career as fire alarm system integrators. This is how it works, at least to me; architect gets a consultant to develop a fire alarm design that seems to be kept between the consultant and Fire Marshall. The Fire Marshall rejects the design, at this point mostly unseen by the customer (that is us), but no great loss because as you now know it was not “up to code.” There then follows a, slightly less than frenetic, re-design effort that results in an assurance the Fire Marshall will accept the design and a bottom-line cost for a shed load of equipment without any explanation. Customer queries the cost and equipment schedule and gets snowed under with “fire-system” speak justifying the design, the equipment schedules, labor hours and, quite possibly, winning lottery numbers as well as the final score in the Euro-Soccer Championship match between England and Germany next Tuesday night (England will probably loose on penalties because that’s what always happens when we play Germany!). I’m sorry I digress, back to the fire alarm.
So, believing we have all the clarity we are ever going to get, and being aware the construction clock is ticking, the design is accepted, then the fun really begins. Fire Alarm cabling is brought to your Church buildings by IT’s Electric, Fire Alarm control station (the brain of the system) by SNS, Fire Alarm “addressable sensors” by a sub-contractor to IT’s Electric, programming the master computer by SNS and, because there does not seem to be anyone else, de facto force driving this forward is, of course, Scott Crumley!
So, what do you call a bunch of contractors all working “fire alarm”? I have no idea, so I’ve christened them a “plethora” of contractors and trades. A “plethora,” the meshing together like the cogs in a slightly “unforgiving” gearbox (must be an MGB), that over the course of the past 3 or 4 months has ground out the installation of a fire alarm system……or so I thought.
It was still early May when the email arrived, forwarded to me by our intrepid General Contractor (a.k.a. Scott), and originating from the depths of the “plethora.” An instruction, or maybe even a demand, that we the customer provide certain information with alacrity. Scott, a man with years of experience in the business, knows when he smells a rat of a task and so here I am trying to respond to the plethora’s siren call. Demand number 1: two 50v land telephone lines (contacted Verizon two lines installed, check). Demand number 2: fire alarm monitoring service (discuss whether we use our existing service provider, time to re-compete, run solicitation select new service provider, check). Demand number 3: plan of the old and new building that identifies rooms by number or name…..you have got to be kidding me! As you may know we have no such plan, just a couple of incidental room names!
Somewhere at the beginning of this blog, I described how intelligent the a fire alarm system is, well it turns out much of that intelligence is based on being able to identify the location of a fire sensor by the nearest room number!! So, my fellow “Old Donationians,” when you walk around the new, and old, buildings and perhaps glance up at a lentil over a door and see a “number” and perhaps wonder why it seems such a haphazard scheme please, take it from one who really knows, there is a logic to the apparent madness!!!
Before I sign-off from this week’s blog I’d like to report the visit to the new building of Betsy Morris, a stalwart of the new building planning program who moved away from Virginia Beach shortly before groundbreaking. Betsy was back in the area for a short visit, and it was a delight for Scott and me to have the opportunity to show her around the buildings last Friday and to see, and hear, her delight at how the plans and renderings she is so familiar with have been transformed into reality. I think she was “right chuffed*.”
Stay safe and stay healthy,
“Robert’s your father’s brother”: Abridged version of “Bob’s your uncle” – "Bob's your uncle" is a phrase commonly used in the United Kingdom that means "and there it is" or "and there you have it" or "It's done". Typically, someone says it to conclude a set of simple instructions or when a result is reached. The phrase originated in 1887 when the then British Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil appointed his nephew Arthur James Balfour as a Government Minister. The phrase 'Bob's your uncle' was coined when Arthur referred to the Prime Minister as 'Uncle Bob'. Apparently, it's very simple to become a Minister of State when Bob's your uncle!
“Right chuffed”: Colloquial phrase in common use in the English County of Yorkshire meaning extremely pleased.
In some weeks it is easy to focus my blogging efforts on a key event, whilst in others many topics jostle for blogging space and it becomes a challenge to choose what to write about. This week it’s a mix of both with some very big milestones achieved throughout the Great Hall and Narthex. So, let’s dive right on in!
Ever since the Great Hall was declared “dry” (basically means it has a roof) we have grown accustomed to the “Yuletide” like strings of yellow construction lights that festooned the rafters throughout the building. In this past week the yellow strings of lights have gone out all over the building and it is our hope we will never see their likes again (with apologies to Sir Winston Churchill) …. because it’s “switch on time” for the installed lighting! It is hard to believe, but I am told throughout the new and existing buildings It’s Electric has laid over 50 kilometers of cabling of one sort or another, much of it by the hand of Brandon who, in the past, has mostly appeared in photographs as a pair of legs atop a scissor lift, but in this blog I can feature the other half of him and face on!
As they say on marketing shows, “there is more.” Last Saturday, a mere 5 days ago as I write this blog, I was helping our construction powerhouse, Scott Crumley, clean the Great Hall floor. My particular prowess has become the 24” broom with which I’m getting quite handy whilst the heavy lifting was, as always, done by Scott on the rotary floor polisher. Now here’s an interesting aside, have you ever tried to operate one of those commercial rotary floor cleaners? Can’t be too hard, I thought. How wrong could I have been! There’s a knack to this, a lever for forward, and another for back and the trick is to strike a fine balance between the two. If you are successful then the machine acts like a well-trained Labrador on a leash, get it wrong and, my friends, it’s the floor polishing equivalent of trying to ride one of those mechanical bulls when it’s set at “rodeo expert” level. So, sheepishly handing the controls back to Scott, I took up my brush and swept on!
Moving forward a day, it’s now Sunday and parishioners are taking up the call to write a prayer, poem or thought for the day on the Great Hall’s concrete floor. I will forgive the parishioner I overheard, as I passed through the Hall, saying “this floor isn’t very clean …. I wish they’d cleaned the floor.” No really, you are forgiven. Unsealed concrete needs no encouragement to generate dust especially when it’s been under a building site for the past 6 months, and it is a trifle tricky to buff it to a high gloss when you only have 4 hours on a Saturday morning to get the job done.
Moving forward another day, it is now Monday, and Cherry Carpet and Tiles have just arrived on site to start to lay the floor covering. Let me paint a picture, hopefully with well less than 1000 words!
Scott has removed the clutter of building materials, tools, ladders, empty plastic water bottles, discarded food containers, and general debris, but the floor, even after our exhaustive sweeping, is far from “carpet tile ready.” For one thing the dust is back, maybe it never actually went away, and the blotches of hardened filler dropped from the trowels of the ladies as they patched the sheet rock must be laboriously scrapped off. Then the whole area is given the once over with a couple of commercial vacuum cleaners, putting our efforts with the broom to shame, and then the meeting between floor and wall must be chipped clean. After the scraping and cleaning it’s time to fill the expansion joints between each concrete floor section with some type of mastic that doesn’t mind getting squeezed as the concrete expands, or conversely expanding when the concrete contracts (clever stuff this mastic…but don’t get it on you’re the sole of your shoe because by comparison it makes your worst “stepping in bubble gum” experience seem like merely having to wipe water off a glass surface with an absorbent towel). Then it is time to glue, square yard by square yard of glue that’s dried off with heaters until it’s tacky and whilst that’s happening the tiling crew take the opportunity to pop down the plastic tiles in the rooms that are off the Great Hall.
Just two days later and it is as if the concrete itself sprouted carpet tiles over night! The entrances are carpeted, the Great Hall is carpeted, the corridor and new library are carpeted, and the Narthex is nearly finished, including the complicated “swirl” feature where two different patterns join to make carpet harmony. Good grief this crew really know how to lay carpet!
Whilst the “carpeteers” plied their trade, the main entrance to the Narthex, that is, the one facing the Church where the Great Hall and existing building meet, has been getting ceramic floor tiles, and it certainly is an interesting result. The space is like an elongated hexagon with dark tiles surrounding an inset of patterned tiles that together, with the yet to be installed light fitting, will give the Narthex main entrance its architecturally dramatic look.
Before I end this “blog-a-thon” it would be remiss of me if I were not to mention the return, like swallows in summer, of the “Men’s Wednesday Breakfast” crew. There they were, tucked away in the rear wing and holding their first in person meeting since March 2020, albeit with a “bring-your-own” mandate but gathered once again in comradeship, and ready to end their meeting with a quick tour of the new building. As I wandered with them through the building, I was very much struck by the thought that I was in the company of some of the parishioners that made what we were looking at possible when they started the process all those years ago. Thank you.
Stay Safe and stay healthy,
It is just before 1000 a.m. on Friday morning, and I am sitting in Tucker Hall’s temporary, open-plan office area. My plan was to come to the Church early, take photographs of the newly planted exterior, and then write a fully illustrated blog for this week. As the great Scottish bard "Rabbie" Burns wrote long ago “The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men, Gang aft agley, An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,”* and so now I’m sitting here typing whilst outside it’s raining cats and dogs* making photography impossible (okay in truth photography is possible but I’m dressed smartly for a later appointment and have no intention of getting another drenching). On the downside, no pictures of the planting but on the upside (and it is a big up) although we have had 2 to 3 days of heavy rain the campus hasn’t flooded and one useful spin off is the new trees have had a great start at getting watered in!! Let me try and describe what has been going on.
The first thing you would note on arriving at the campus is we now have a new carpark and drive through that connects N. Witchduck Rd to the Bell Tower, as well as a pull through that allows vehicles to swing off N. Witchduck Rd, drop passengers off at the Narthex entrance and then follow the loop back to the road. Carpark and drive through have a glistening covering of asphalt – which has also benefited from the cooling by heavy rainfall – and now, after so very many months, the day school drop off and collection traffic flow doesn’t have to do a “U” turn back the way they came but can now continue past the west end of the Great Hall and back to the road. Next week, weather permitting, the new carpark and road marking will be added so a great opportunity for someone to drive, or walk, through the wet, white paint and leave an indelible mark of their passing! And there’s more.
Asphalt aside, the main highlight of this week must be the landscape contractor arriving on site to plant the various shrubs, bushes and trees that are part of the site plan. Most of this planting is along N. Witchduck Rd, with bushes and young trees along the curb, and two flower beds either side of the Narthex entrance that, on the right side, joins a line of “needle point” bushes planted along the Great Hall wall. If I were in the least bit botanical I would, at this point, reel off the full list of new flora, but although a Brit my gardening knowledge and talent is more in the field of heavy lifting and digging whilst under close supervision. There’s also been some plant changes between plan and reality to better reflect the locality but even so, from the construction plan I believe the trees are a mix of oak, hackberry, dogwood and pine.
Anyone with even a hint of “green thumb” knows the importance of watering in new plants even when they are native to the area. This has posed a small challenge; we don’t have too many external watering points around Tucker and the one at the end of the Great Hall will not go live for a few more weeks. However, we are blessed with a commercial water faucet on the outside of Tucker Hall and after a quick user trial to confirm water availability I developed an irrigation plan based on timers, soak hoses and water sprinklers.
Setting up the irrigation was not quite as I had imagined (there goes that “The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men” again) because the commercial water faucet had given of its best to my user trial and now stubbornly refused to gush forth water! (a recent visit by the plumber has confirmed the need to demolish some of the wall to facilitate a repair……and that won’t be happening anytime soon). It is a very long hose-lay from Alfriend House to N. Witchduck Road and, I have to confess, a somewhat frustrating, and at times soaking, task to connect enough of ODEC’s stock of aging hoses and cracked connectors to cover the distance. But persistence prevailed, also driven by the thought of being responsible for killing off all of the new planting by week’s end if I failed to get water to where it was most needed (after an afternoon hose hauling in the sun the water was most needed down the throat of your blogging correspondent). Happy to announce the timed watering system is now fully operational and just in time to welcome the deluge of rain we’ve had for the past 3 days.
I’m afraid my ripping yarn from the “do-it-yourself” handbook of irrigation is not quite done. There are 8 new trees that need much care and attention until they get established, which will apparently take about 6 weeks. Four of the trees are planted at the corners of the new car park and another four are tastefully arranged along N. Witchduck road, they are all well-spaced out making any automatic watering system impractical. Happily, for the trees, there is a water faucet behind the Historic Church and now it’s connected to another lengthy hose between Church and Witchduck Road, where it feeds another 100 feet of hose so a gang of volunteers can give the 8 adolescent trees their daily drink. It takes about 10 minutes to give each tree its watering due - nearly an hour and a half everyday for the next two weeks then every other day for another two, great thanks to the Building and Grounds commission for stepping in to lighten the watering load!!!!
There’s more to report from the inside of the Narthex and Great Hall but I think I have rabbited on for quite long enough for this edition so we’ll save that for another blog and I thank you for indulging me!
Would you Adam and Eve it!* Now it’s stopped raining so there goes that “The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men” thing again. There shall be pictures after all but, my friends, the blog stays as written!!!!
Stay safe and stay healthy,
“The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men, Gang aft agley, An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain”: from the poem “To a Mouse” by the Robert Burns (1785). Rough, although I’m sure unnecessary, translation is: “The best-laid schemes of mice and men, Go oft awry, And leave us nothing but grief and pain.”
“Raining cats and dogs”: The English idiom "it is raining cats and dogs", used to describe particularly heavy rain, is of unknown etymology and is not necessarily related to the raining animals phenomenon.
“Adam and Eve it”: London Cockney rhyming slang for “believe it” (Cockney is a native from the East End of London, traditionally refers to a baby born within the hearing/sound of Bow Bells). (Bow Bells are the bells of St Mary-le-Bow Church, Cheapside, London EC2V 6AU, United Kingdom – rebuilt in 1666 after the original building was destroyed in the Great Fire of London.
I’ve been taking a short blogging sabbatical for the past two weeks and now it’s time to tickle those old keyboard keys and bring you up to date on the happenings around the ODEC construction site, so let’s take a blogging stroll around part of the campus!
Stand with me at the corner of our Old Church and look across at the building that is the new Great Hall and Narthex. Just 9 months have past since the Scott Crumley building machine broke ground on what was our old car park. For much of that time ground between the edge of the graveyard and Witchduck Road has been a no man’s land mired in mud, dust, building material, and general construction debris accessible only to those wearing wellie boots* or sensible constructers’ footwear (unlike your blogger who will never see that missing slip-on shoe again) and constantly crisscrossed by mud-churning heavy plant of the yellow variety.
Larry Higgerson and his site team have transformed the area and the no-man’s land is gone! Now we are looking at neat landscaping that abuts the new exposed agate pathways (there I go again, sounding like I know concrete), which is, as some may recall, the same finish as the pre-construction paths. One walkway closely follows the route of the old path that used to run from the Church to the Tucker Hall entrance now with a slight detour to connect with the new porch and entrance at the west end of the Great Hall and then on to connect to the main Narthex doors. Beyond that the new path sweeps along the front of the building past the Day School offices to the Day School entrance where it links with the old path running along the cemetery side of the Church. As we walk this path towards the Day School entrance we pass, on our left, a new concrete patio where folks will be able to sit, contemplate, chat to friends or even use the new outside WiFi to catch up on the goings on at ODEC.
Back to our vantage point by the Old Church, looking towards Witchduck Rd we can see order appearing out of construction mayhem. The curbs that delineate the carpark and vehicle entrance are all in place and the surface is all prepared for laying the tarmac. Once again, the landscaping is complete and in many places sporting a straw-net “wig” laced with contractor’s grade grass seed – staying with the straw-net the one laid at the rear is now covered with a fledgling grass lawn that will soon need cutting!
Enough of the outside, let's walk the new path once more but this time turn off at the west end entrance to the Great Hall. Inside the Hall the sheet rock is brandishing a new coat of “balanced beige” paint nicely set off by a white ceiling reaching to apex of the roof. To either side of the apex ceiling the suspended ceiling matrix has been installed and as I type “It’s Electric” are busily installing the lighting system. Crossing the Great Hall into the Narthex another ceiling matrix is in place and in the Narthex restrooms floor tiles are laid.
From the Narthex we can walk through the double doors and into the Angel’s office (still where it always was) now, like the rest of the corridor and its offices, fitted out with new carpet, freshly painted walls and new lighting. Moseying from the Angel’s office into the corridor to the left we find the first incumbent to reoccupy their refurbished office. Father Bob is back from his various “roaming locations” and now when he says “I’ll be in my office” you’ll know where to find him!
Enjoy your weekend, stay safe and stay healthy,
“Rubber Wellies” English vernacular for rubber boots that are known in the UK as wellington boots after the Duke of Wellington of the Battle of Waterloo (18 Jun 1815) fame who is reputed to have developed the knee length leather boot that evolved into the rubber wellington boot (the wellie).
The chap in a yellow safety jacket wielding a rake said, “There’s nothing like topsoil to finish it off,” and I cannot disagree with that assessment from a man who knows how to shift earth!
Larry Higgerson and his team have put the finishing touches to our storm water system and as the redoubtable Larry said, “It’s great to be above ground at last” and that means final grading, spreading topsoil and laying grass matting. In past blogs I have waxed lyrical about the big, powerful, yellow machines that have roamed our grounds with brutal efficiency as they excavate, fill, and pound the earth and once again a big yellow machine has held center stage this week. This time it has been a master class in precise “excavator bucket” handling to spread topsoil into the tightest corners of the site and operated by a fellow with such a deft hand that I believe he could use the excavator bucket to pull the skin off a rice pudding* without spilling a drop much less breaking the bowl! I have tried to capture his dexterity in the pictures above, alas they do no justice to skill of the man at the controls.
Staying outside there’s been a lot of work on installing trim and finishing the entrance porches around the building and whilst this is in itself a sight to behold the real eye catcher has to be the head of the crew and, I think, owner of the business. He is clearly a rather tenacious and hardy chap who whilst working on another site took a tumble off a ladder and in doing so managed to damage the tendons in this right elbow. He is waiting to get scheduled for surgery but in the meantime, he is working a full day albeit with his right arm in plaster from armpit to wrist!!
Inside the ladies of the sheet rock finishing team have been continuing their “altitude” act with alacrity as they stretch a scissor lift, quite literally, to its limits whilst their boss keeps a critical eye on their work from the safety of terra firma (a man after my own heart when it comes to heights).
Some may recall from the dim and distant past that our Rector’s office used to have windows that looked out onto a shady and sun dappled entrance to the old building. That “shady and sun dappled entrance” was, of course, an early casualty of the new building and that space is now occupied by the Narthex and in particular the two new restrooms that now back on to the Rector’s office – please rest assured the windows are no more. This week the sheet rock team has been doing their thing in restrooms as a prelude to the finishing ladies working their magic then it will be the turn of the plumbers.
And it’s not all been contractor action for our own Shirley the weekday sexton and Mathew the weekend sexton have been doing their bit for the project. In the past I’ve blogged about, and posted pictures of, the furniture, box and sundry item “mountain” in Tucker Hall. Well, that mountain is no more. Furniture and boxes have either been returned to the rightful owners’ offices or placed in a handy spot for future distribution in the new spaces and soon it will be time for Father Bob, Mother Ashley and Gretchen to move back into their rightful workspaces!!
I’ll be taking a blogging-break for a couple of weeks but in the meantime stay safe and stay healthy,
"Rice pudding" I'm not sure rice pudding is a familiar dish in the States but it was one of my Mum's go to deserts. Her recipe created a hot, rather "sloppy," but rather tasty concoction with a crispy topping (the skin) considered by my brother and I to be the choice part of the serving!
In the style of our Rector, and to misquote the immortal words of Mr. Rodgers and Mr. Hammerstein, “Progress is bustin’ out all over!” The ODEC construction site is awash with contractors all plying their trades as the sluggish days of late March and early April are behind us so let’s take a blogging stroll around the highlights.
If there was an award for effort of the week it would certainly go to Messrs. Antony Beach (a close relative of your correspondent) and David Wilkinson for bring their expertise to bear by putting in a magnificent 14-hour shift from 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon through to 6:00 a.m. on Thursday morning to bring the new computer network on line with minimal disruption to the normal business day. And a special additional thanks to David Wilkinson for going the extra mile to keep body and soul together with a timely supply of tuna tacos!
Outside the work of the earth moving colossus that is Higgerson, Inc. is very evident with the completion of the third, and last, bioretention storm water tank, complete with its plastic milk crate filling, gauze filter wrapping and a contoured surface. Aficionados of this blog will recall that this tank connects the first and third tanks, so storm water is filtered three times to remove polluting nutrients before flowing into the underground pipes that lead to the Chesapeake Bay water catchment area. The storm water management system has been a recurring theme in this blog since ground was first broken in March 2020 and now all that remains to do is the connection between the roof scuppers and the first tank, a mere bagatelle for Larry Higgerson and his earth moving team! And there is more! Staying with the exterior, Higgerson has begun the task of grading and landscaping between our buildings and Witchduck Rd, and on around the west end of the Great Hall. Soon it will be time for pathways, carparks and exterior lighting, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves!
Inside, it’s not all been about computer networks, far from it. The sheet rock finishing team of ladies have once again been gracing our site, this time in the Great Hall and Narthex. We have had variety of gangs on site over the course of the build ranging from the somber, the eccentric, the incredibly loud but the prize for “most jolly on site” must go to the ladies of the sheet rock finishing team who seem to find joy in every seam that needs filling, the higher that seam, the more joy it seems to bring!
Looking ahead at the weather forecast there is a good chance for morning rain on Sunday 25th and so once again the 1000 a.m. service may relocate to what is increasingly becoming a usable Great Hall. Well, usable might be a slight overstatement because what you see on Sunday is far from the hurly-burly that fills the Great Hall during the week. In fact, its metamorphosis from building site to worship space is only made possible by the works of our very own superhero “broom-man” whom, when the last workman has left and the site quietens for the weekend, takes up his 24” broom and spends 2+ hours sweeping the Great Hall floor. I would not break the code of anonymity that surrounds broom-man but if anyone needs his special powers then, when the construction is done and dusted, I can hook you up!
Broom-man is not the only superhero to grace the building site for this every week one of our parishioners donated a new concrete patio to ODEC. This patio fills the area between the Day School and Narthex entrances and will provide a space where one can sit to contemplate, admire the Old Church and ODEC grounds and give parents a place to sit and wait for their children at pick up time. A truly wonderful addition to our grounds!
Before ending I would like to take a blogging moment to answer some questions that have come my way over the past few weeks. 1) The missing shingles on the roof near the Witchduck Road entrance resulted from an English to Spanish translation error and the issue has now been resolved. 2) The leaning columns at the Narthex entrances are not a building error. The columns you see are purely cosmetic with the load supported by steel beams nestling inside the polyurethane plastic faux columns. Please rest assured when the entrances are finished these faux columns will be standing straight and proud. 3) To quell rumors and set the record straight, there will be a display cabinet in the Narthex. It will be situated to the left of the door leading from the Narthex into the Angel’s office, and will run into the corner and make a 90 degree turn to the left and run along the adjoining wall, it will have the capacity to display a mannequin. 4) The courtyard will be renovated, there will be a new surface suitably graded so water runs into the central drain rather than the buildings. The courtyard will not be covered and there will not be flower beds nor, hopefully, wasp nests. 5) The contract includes a low level of landscaping mainly consisting of grass and the planting of some new trees, this is part of the site permit issued by the City. Additional landscaping to further beautify the site and replace some of the 30+ trees that were felled for the buildings will be addressed in the future after the construction is finished.
Stay safe and stay healthy,
Yes!! we are back to “arcing and sparking” on the ODEC construction site where the arrival and installation of insulation padding, and another City inspection, gets us back in “full on construction mode” both within and without. The tranquil days on the building site that so resonated with Holy Week are behind us as Monday marked the return of Higgerson under the leadership of none other than Larry of the Higgerson clan bringing with them, much to my delight, one of their very large yellow excavators.
As you may recall from a blog long, long ago, a third storm water bioretention holding tank must be dug in the area between the Great Hall and Witchduck Road. The first two tanks were excavated and installed at the beginning of the project. As a brief reminder these tanks remove pollutant nutrients from storm water that runs off, the now extensive, roof area and car park before it enters the Chesapeake Bay Water Catchment Area. This third tank, actually number two in the series, connects the two existing tanks so by the time the treated water flows into the underground culvert system, which loops around the rear wing, it is fresh, clear and ready for the Chesapeake Bay. Blog readers may also recall that a bioretention holding tank is really a rather fancy name for a hole in the ground that is packed out with what strongly resembles a stack of plastic milk crates encased in a permeable membrane that acts as the filter. So, with that highly technical description suffice to say Higgerson has started excavating the third and final bioretention tank!!
And it’s not all about bioretention tanks, Higgerson has been busy “outback” and transformed what was, until the end of last week, a slightly abandoned looking building site into a fully landscaped backyard where the ground gently contours to the building, pathways and fence lines. The observant amongst you might notice in the picture the backyard grass appears to be a shade on the yellow side however, fear not, what you see is the bio-degradable straw matting that protects our “contactor’s mix” of grass seed until we see the green shoots of grass recovery! For those grass seed aficionados out there, I can report the “contractor’s mix” is rye and fescue of indeterminate portions!!!
And it’s not even all about the exterior, far from it! Inside has been a veritable whirlpool of activity all triggered by the successful conclusion of another City building inspection. It is “sheet rock” time and here I’m talking about sheet rock on a significant scale. Walls and Great Hall ceiling are all being plastered with boards – which is a little play on words because in England it is called plaster board. Be it sheet rock or plaster board on either side of the pond it is darn heavy. Being a member of the sheet rock installation team is not for the faint hearted. Not only do you need to be pretty ambivalent about working at height on a scissor lift you also have to be blessed with a bit of muscle so you can hold the sections of sheet rock against the ceiling studs whilst your colleague pops in a screw or twenty to secure it in place. All this happens under the watchful eye of Eric (not his real name) who strides the floor like a sheet rock colossus yelling instructions at his aerial crew!!
Forgive me for trying to make myself seem “acquainted” with the construction profession as I digress by throwing in some “technical detail.” As we are not blessed with a fire sprinkler system, believe me Scott Crumley left no stone unturned in trying to figure out a way of retrofitting a sprinkler system (which proved to be significantly cost prohibitive), we have “fire walls” intended to hold back any conflagration for up to two hours so we are fire code compliant. If I could be frank for a blogging minute, with these ground floor* buildings and their many doors and windows I think in our case the code must be making provision for having a good, leisurely meal before exiting - assuming you can tolerate the new fire alarm system blaring out its repetitive warning to leave the building!
So back to the technical detail. To achieve this two-hour window the Narthex, deemed in fire code terms to be a corridor, is lined with two layers of sheet rock each rated to hold back a fire for an hour so doubling up satisfies the two-hour requirements!
The spin off of applying sheet rock is the myriad of machinery, ducting, piping, conduits, cabling (fire system, electrical, audio/visual and data networks) will forever be hidden from view and although this is, of course, as it should be I for one will never be able to look at a finished wall again without thinking of the materials and skills hidden behind that skin.
Moving forward, we should see "sheet rocking" (I hope there is such a word) done-and-dusted by early next week to be followed by the gang who will seal the cracks between sheets and apply a liberal coating of plaster*. Then it’s onto installing lighting, hanging ceilings and painting (perhaps not in that order but you get my drift) flooring and all of the other bits and pieces to finish the Great Hall and Narthex.
It might not be the end, but I can cautiously say “it is definitely the beginning of the end!”
Stay safe and stay healthy,
“Ground floor” Brit speak for a first floor
“Plaster” Brit speak for “mud”!
David Beach is our Building Project Manager, and has been an active part of our parish family for more than a decade. He is retired from NATO and the British Army and is a joy and blessing to all of us.