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 pm 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, it 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 incudes 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”!
It has been a “slow” couple of weeks from the construction perspective, but this enforced pause did give Father Bob an unexpected opportunity to leverage the Great Hall, fully cleaned out and completely swept (at least six times) by Scott Crumley, and some of Scott’s construction equipment for Holy Week and Easter Day worship.
So it was that Easter Day found the 0900hrs service in the Great Hall attended by some 90+ parishioners, all carefully seated in their socially isolated pods under an array of hanging ducting, cabling, lights and partially installed insulation. The 1000hrs outdoor service in the Eden Chapel (a.k.a. the cemetery) saw some 320+ parishioners seated in socially distancing pods arrayed around the cemetery and treated to the spectacle of Father Bob rising above their heads, a on off performance brought to the congregation by Scott Crumley’s “person lift” and some hasty operator training for the good Rector.
Let us turn to the construction, after all that is what this blog is supposed to be about, so what’s been going on?
Over the past 4 months the pace of construction has been tantamount to frenetic, the progress made is a testament to that pace so when that pace drops off a tad, as is inevitable when there are so many moving parts (inspections, materials, trades, etc), a lack of visible progress is even more noticeable. Now that is not so say nothing has been going on, far from it. The brickwork has mostly been completed, trim installed, air conditioning and heating in the Great Hall and Narthex finished and the external aircon units for the rear wing installed on new concrete pads.
Inside the buildings the cut over to the new data network is ongoing with all the new data drops and WiFi systems in the real wing and existing buildings now online. The office refurbishment is complete so soon we will be able to vacant our temporary, open office layout in Tucker Hall and return folks to their refurbished offices or, in the case of accountancy, their new offices in the rear wing.
What has caused this lull in construction activity? Well, you can be sure it is nothing to do with Scott Crumley’s drive and enthusiasm to get the job done but rather a COVID-19 induced global shortage of building materials that has not only made materials hard to come by but also raised the prices when there is limited availability. Scott was kind enough to give me the “Building Materials 101 For Idiots” explanation.
COVID-19 strikes causing processes, factories and supply chains that manufacture and deliver building materials to go into reduced production or even complete closure. Of course, it is not just the building material sector that shuts down, so do service industries, finance, manufacturing – you name it and it shut down resulting in many billions of people across the world spending a whole lot more time at home with a lot of extra time on their hands.
What a perfect opportunity to plan and tackle that home D.I.Y. project or those renovations that have been sitting on the back burner for months, if not years! Off to Home Depot, Lowes and B&Q* for tools and materials or for those bigger jobs, and no doubt to correct the ensuing D.I.Y. failures, the construction industry. So here we have the conundrum, on the one hand construction material production is nigh on at a halt whilst on the other the demand for construction material has seldom been higher, and as a matter of interest builders, electricians, painters, plumbers etc, seldom busier. The result is, of course, shortages and price hikes.
Let me try and give you some examples. There is a nationwide shortage of roofing shingles and I heard (he blogs trying to sound like a blogger who has his ear to ground in the construction world, which as I hope by now you know is far from true) about roofing shingle delivery to a supply company. In normal times they take delivery of 5 truckloads of shingles per week but in these COVID stricken times that is now one truckload every two weeks. Then there’s lumber, the truss package for our new buildings increased in price by several thousand dollars between contract signing and ordering – a gap of but a few months – as the price of lumbar sores. Lumber is currently at an all time high, increased by over 350% compared to one year ago and don’t even ask me about copper (surged 80% last week).
Through careful prior planning, preparation and an encyclopedic knowledge of his industry Scott Crumley has guided our project around the rocks and reefs of outrageous construction fortune, savings have been found to offset cost hikes and an astute awareness of the supply chain, backed by an impressive list of contacts, has kept the ODEC construction wheels turning – until insulation for the Great Hall became an issue.
True, there was a veritable “stash” of insulation tucked away in the new library waiting to be installed but, sadly, not quite enough and, as luck would have it, insulation installation is on the project’s critical path. Without the insulation, no inspection, and no dry wall hence no big activities in the Great Hall, if you don’t count Scott’s floor sweeping actions, and we have an indoor space available for Father Bob to exploit over Easter.
A symptom of the extraordinary times in the construction industry or maybe a higher calling at work in creating time and space to contemplate the meaning of Easter?
Stay safe and stay healthy,
“B&Q”: As superstore chain, like Home Depot, of do it yourself (D.I.Y.) stores in the UK that, many years ago, had an advertising “ditty” that was an inspiration to a generation of D.I.Y-ers attempting home improvements and a cash cow to the professionals coming in after the failed D.I.Y projects to clean up the mess. Neither I nor my bank balance will ever forget those immortal words, a veritable titan in the advertising world: “You can do it when you B&Q it!” alas not so!!!
Back again (do I hear a collective groan?) after a happy, if somewhat wet, week touring in our RV. So returning to ODEC I was excited to see what’s been going on since I last walked the hallowed and muddy ground of our construction site.
Let me start with the rear wing, the biggest room is still full of furniture and fittings collected from the offices and the office corridor as the precursor to our renovation work. For the most part the rear wing is finished, true there is still some glass to be installed, restrooms to finish and IT and fire alarm systems to be commissioned but that aside it’s done!
The walkthrough between the rear wing and the main building is still under construction but construction on the old library is mostly done and now waiting for painting and carpet. Before the project is completed this room will be resurrected as a small, permanent studio and enjoy ducted HVAC instead of those old, in wall units that used to crank and wheeze away like an old steam engine.
The office and admin corridor renovation are also mostly completed. There’s new lighting, new carpets, new paint and a new printer/copy/fax and IT closet that will take the bird’s nest of a wiring installation out from the corner of the administrator’s office where it has been such a style icon for so many years! There is also the green shoots of new office furniture starting to appear in the refurbished office spaces so once the new IT network is up and running, and the favored items of furniture returned from the back wing, the regular inhabitants will be able to return from Tucker Hall, the Historic Church organ loft, home and wherever else renovation works dispersed the community!
The Narthex and Great Hall have enjoyed a quiet week both poised, as they are, between the end of the main construction and fitting out the inside. Yes, walls are built, roofs are on, brickwork is laid, the heating and air-cooling system is installed and where possible insulation is fitted. This temporary pause is very much a brief lull before the next building storm that will see dry wall installation, painting, ceilings, lighting, and A/V system installations. And what perfect, God sent timing with the building nigh on empty the Great Hall could be cleared, brushed out and setup as a fallback location in the event the 1000 hrs Palm Sunday outdoor service was washed out.
And now, for the first time in many weeks I can also turn my flying, fickle, blogging figure of fate onto the outside with the impending return of Higgerson to dig out the final underground bio system tank for the storm water treatment system (this will sit between the Great Hall and N. Witchduck Rd). Once the tank is completed Higgerson will turn their earth moving attentions on to completing the road traffic infrastructure (curbing, carparks, vehicle entrances), footpaths and the landscaping. So if, as the Flanders and Swann song goes, you are keen on glorious mud you must hurry down to the ODEC hollow to wallow, perhaps for one last time, in glorious mud for soon the site will be mud-less (and perhaps that long missing shoe will reappear?).
Stay safe and stay healthy!
As I sat down to pen this blog (figuratively speaking) I glanced at my calendar and read a recurring entry for 13 March 2021, I’d written a year ago “COVID-19 Close Down 2020.” It has been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic brought such havoc, disruption and change to our lives but a year on from that calendar entry vaccines are starting to offer the prospect of a less isolated future and that set against the backdrop of the new construction brings one word to my mind: “RESURGAM.”
Lest you think I’ve gone all classical on you fear not for I have, alas, not become a Latin scholar but I have known this word for almost as long as I can remember – “RESURGAM” (‘I will rise again’)* is engraved over the north door of the Minister Church of St Andrew in Plymouth UK (my home town) and I definitely feel a very strong whiff of “RESURGAM” in the air as we approach our celebration of The Christ’s Resurrection.
All this introduction, which I hope you do not find too contrived, brings me to the blogging about the new construction’s brickwork. The brickwork on the Great Hall and Narthex is nearly done and soon the bricklaying team will be off to pastures new leaving us with a masterpiece of their craft that I am sure, in years to come, will be marveled as we today marvel the craft that built the Historic Church. Even though I visit the building site on more than the odd occasion I am always struck, perhaps almost surprised, at the harmony between the old and the new. Until this past week I thought this harmony was best appreciated from the prospect offered by Sentara carpark from where you can see the new building backed by the Historic Church but it’s no longer so. This week I found a new vantage point whilst standing by the Historic Church and looking across at the new building, the Old standing strong in front of the New, I’ve tried to capture the sight in a picture above!
Laying the bricklayers aside (yes! I meant to do that) it has been a week of “Erics.” There was Eric the “data network guy” from Secure Network Solutions (SNS) building out our new IT closet. Then there was Eric “the dais guy” who delivered the new platform that, once sheathed in the appropriate shade of laminate, will carry the Altar in the Great Hall. And then, of course, there’s Eric and his crew, the general-purpose demo/build/paint team of furniture movers I blogged about last week.
This week has also brought an abundance of parishioner visitors to the site, another sign we are starting to break the shackles of COVID-19. Early in the week it was Janet Forbes and Vicki Dorsett both providing expert input on how the new Altar Guild room should be fitted out. Then there was Mal Higgens providing his legal advice and then a group of ladies meeting with Diane Miller. I do very much enjoy it when there’s an opportunity to walk a visitor around the new construction, I think the way people genuinely get “lost” in buildings, which before construction they were so familiar with, speaks volumes about the amount of change that’s taken place over the past year…..and so far not too many adverse comments and, long may that last!
This will be my last blog for a couple of weeks so until then stay safe and stay healthy,
“RESURGAM” (‘I will rise again’): In 1941 the City of Plymouth, like London, was subjected to very heavy bombing raids, the Minister Church of St Andrew was burnt out and left a roofless shell. Later a board bearing the word ‘RESURGAM’ (‘I will rise again’) appeared over the north door – the sign remains there to this day. I am told once the building was made safe the parishioners planted grass and continued to hold services throughout the war and on until their Church was rebuilt.
At about this time last year, just as we were entering the grips of the pandemic, I was lucky enough to join the members of the Vestry and shortly thereafter to be able to take the Vestry on a guided tour of our construction site. Back then a great deal of what I described was in the mind’s eye with much of the actual work taking place below the surface where Higgerson, the site contractor, was digging out and installing the new storm water management system and preparing the ground for the new rear wing.
What an incredible amount of construction action has happened over the past 12 months and for this year’s annual Vestry meeting I was able to lead the Vestry on a tour, all mask wearing and maintaining social distancing, around the existing buildings whilst the meeting itself was held in a large room in the new rear wing, albeit a room that looked like we were about to have an estate auction but more on that later.
Last week I spent some blogging time chatting about the folks working around the site and promised to introduce a few more “construction stars” in this blogging episode. So to honour* that promise…..
The Network Team: Most of the time there are two of them who by the very nature of the task always seem to be working where other people are not as they lay out and install what now seems to be a mile or more of blue CAT-6 cabling around the building. “What the heck is he blogging about now?” I hear you ask well as it happens CAT-6 cabling and data networks are something I do know a bit about so these two fellows are putting in the cables (called CAT-6) that will bring the little holes in the walls where you can plug in a computer or printer to life – it’s our new computer network that will also provide a WiFi connection to the internet to anyone armed with a lap top anywhere in the buildings, old or new. These cables are all being brought back, like a blue spider’s web, to our IT room and thereby giving Gretchen’s office a well-deserved relief from the tangle of technology that used to lurk and blink away in the corner.
Eric’s Crew: I don’t know what else to call them but “Eric’s Crew,” a multi-talented and multi-role gang with a dynamic husband-and-wife demo come plasterers* duo at its core. If you need something ripping down (and believe me, we had a lot that needed ripping down) or need something putting up then these two are the point people in the construction assault. But there’s more! If you have a corridor and offices all full of heavy furniture have no fear for Eric’s crew are here (now that has a catchy ring to it, maybe their jingle?) and so it was that last Monday found Eric’s expanded crew, including the dynamic duo, shifting furniture out of the admin corridor and into the rear wing as a preliminary to the carpet team laying carpet and the paint team painting, which is a nice segway to my next topic.
Moving large bits of furniture is not for the faint hearted so it was with some degree of relief that I was able to gratefully accept Scott Crumley’s offer of a work gang (also known as Eric’s Crew) to move the contents of the admin corridor and its offices into the largest room in the new back wing for temporary storage. Desks, chairs, bookcases, filing cabinets and sundry items all moved in the space of a couple of hours to make way for paint and new carpets. Some of this stuff was a tad on the heavy side and not just because of their sturdy build but in at least three instances because they were also still full of files, books, paperwork and, I think, someone's lunch. In the great move of things, the winning piece of furniture in the most difficult category goes, by unanimous decision, to the large, slightly overstuffed, leather settee that used to adorn Father Bob’s office. It will always be a mystery to “we-who-were- there” exactly how Eric and team got that recalcitrant beast through the office door, miracles do happen but then what should we expect? After all it is Father Bob’s office!
And that brings me back to the Vestry meeting, another neat blogging segway even if I do say so myself, for that is why the Vestry found itself in a room filled with all types of office furniture. Finding a place to sit was certainly no problem and even that leathery old warhorse of a settee found itself busier than it has been for several months!
Stay safe and stay healthy,
“Honour” Brit spelling for honor (and having lived in the States since 2003 I had to look that up)
“Plasters” In England they put plaster on the walls, in the USA it’s mud!
I thought for this blog I would try and introduce some of the individuals in the various work crews working on the site. Now off the bat I must confess that I am not good at remembering names, never have been and my expectation is I never will be. I have always greatly admired those individuals who can grasp and file away a name at the first encounter, Father Bob has that gift, but for me it has always been a case of "in one ear and out of the other" not matter how attentive I am, even clever memory tricks don’t help. So in this blog you are dealing with a blogger who not only struggles to remember names but also found several “voices” on the site to be, sadly, unintelligible to my Brit ear! With that caveat, let’s get at it!
The Electricians In the main there are two of them, one very definitely the supervisor who carefully studies the electrical systems and fire alarm cabling diagrams with great diligence before dispatching his team, of one, into various walls, voids, and roof spaces to do whatever has to be done. There is an awful lot of cabling in the constriction project and not just cable to power-points*, lights and switches but also the heavy-duty electrical systems that bring the main power utility to the new buildings. We also have a second team of electricians that mainly focus on work in the existing buildings to upgrade lights and fix some of the old infrastructure’s electrical “quirks” that have so blighted the construction projects.
The Bricklayers This bunch are cut from the same cloth as my famous “Bueno Wellie Gang” of concrete pad fame! The Bricklayers are a rowdy bunch who favor the “building site yell” over the quiet word. I can’t begin to describe how the “Brickie Bunch” ply their trade but suffice to say there’s a supervisor armed with plum line and spirit level, there the two chaps who actually place the bricks then there are a couple of worthies (official title is “hod carrier”) who carry bricks and mortar to the brick layers to keep the production process going. I hope from my pictures you can get an idea of the great job the “Brickie Bunch” do.
The Roofers The roofers are, to me, a slightly mystical team that was once very evident on the site but who are now quite literally “heard but not seen” as they work on the back sides of the roof that are invisible from ground level. Their modus operandi promotes this mystical persona for the team arrive on site at first light, often when the morning mist still shrouds the earth (actually I’m edging towards blogging poetic license a bit there) to “get at it” with their orange lift used to hoist the day's worth of materials up onto the roof before they vanish up ladders and over roof ridges leaving us earth bound mortals to struggle through a day that is marked by the cacophony of their banging hammers and ethereal yells!
The HVACers The “heating, ventilation and air conditioning team (I call them the HVACers) are a bit like the very air their systems manage because like air you know they are all around the building, you can certainly hear them but you can’t see them. Well, that is not strictly true because you can see the HVACers if you peer up into their natural “building habitat” of the roof rafters and roof space. Their task involves installing endless feet of flexible and boxed ducting, couples and junctions, ventilation grills, power cables, control panels and the units that deliver cold and hot air when you need it. All of this “gubbins*” is hidden from sight behind dry walls and drop ceilings or concealed in the roof space or even outside on the flat roof. Although they spend much of their time hidden in the rafters what they lack in “face- time” is more than compensated by their volume as they hold conversations across the expanse of the Great Hall as if they were sharing a booth in their favorite restaurant.
The Handyman I think every construction needs a handyperson, in our case a handyman, who amongst other things over the past 12 months has refurbished the exterior of Alfriend House and washed the Historic Church. To me, the handyman seems to be an independent sort of cove*, certainly I would not accuse him of “not being a team player” but one who doesn't really need a team so he remains slightly aloof from the main effort. One who arrives on site with minimal fanfare, brings his own materials, tools, music, coffee and lunch gets on with the job, gets the job done and then vanishes after sending a short “job done” email. The new fencing around the day school’s outside classroom and more recently the rear of the building are his works.
I think I’ve waxed lyrical enough in this blog but do not despair for I will be introducing some more of the folks working on our site in my next blog (do I hear the sigh of “deep joy”?) but for now stay safe and stay healthy,
“Power Points”: Not a Microsoft product but what Brits call electrical power sockets or power drops.
“Gubbins”: Brit word for bits and pieces often used to describe the inner workings of a machine or motor….e.g. ”he dismantled the engine and now there’s all sorts of oily gubbins on the kitchen table.”
“Cove” Old English (Dickensian) word for a man….e.g. “he wasn’t a bad sort of cove.”
It’s 0635 a.m. on a wet and chilly Friday morning and I’m sitting at my temporary desk in Tucker Hall looking across the array of tables and filing cabinets, where the accounting office has taken up temporary residence, to a grey* and misty Witchduck Road. Why am I here you may ask? Let me tell you……..
Last Tuesday, 16 February, a willing band of brothers and sister (Ned Kuhns, Diane Miller and I) executed the long-awaited move of the accounting offices from their familiar spot in the office corridor to their temporary billet in Tucker Hall. You will recall the area in Tucker just outside the kitchen doors where there’s tiling on the floor so it’s okay to spill coffee, tea and anything else that might stain a carpet? That has now been transformed into an open plan office space to provide temporary housing for the Parish Administrator, accounting and your blogging correspondent leaving the office corridor empty of inhabitants so it can be refurbished. Many thanks to Dave Wilkinson for bringing the miracle of IT to all of us into Tucker Hall, so the beating heart of regular ODEC business can continue unabated, and thanks to everyone else who helped the accounting office prepare for their move. In the pictures above I’ve tried to capture the “operational-look” of Tucker Hall, might strike a note with anyone who has served in the military and been on deployment!
That’s the background, now let’s fast forward to bright and early this morning, 19 Feb, that saw me heading up the road at an hour I had, since retirement, forgotten even existed to be on the ground in Tucker Hall to meet Scott Crumley and prepare for the arrival of the work “crew,” due in at 0700 a.m. This “crew” will, over the next two or three days, be stripping the old carpet, tiles and assorted glues from the floors in the corridor, the offices and the printer/copier room. To do this the “crew” will also have to shuffle furniture, file cabinets and sundry items around the spaces so they can get at the offending floors, rather like that game where you move little tiles around a small, framed board until they align into a picture or well know phrase.
Just after 0700 a.m. and the “crew,” a band of three, is on site. I really don’t envy them, shuffling all the kit and caboodle around is a big enough job in itself but adding to that the task of lifting carpet and then hand scraping off the underlying glue is quite a mission. Then, of course, there’s the debris to be disposed of, not just pieces of carpet but also the plastic tiles under the carpet and then flakes of glue under that.
It’s 0710 a.m. and time to give the “crew” a quick briefing on what they can and can’t do. The “can” is easy, they can do anything they like in the corridor and offices, it’s their space for the next few days. The “can’t” is straightforward as well, they can’t take anything that’s covered in dust out of the corridor into the rest of the building, that narrows their options down to the contents of Mother Ashley’s office where, rather wisely, the door has been kept closed so everything is dust free.
0830 a.m. and the “crew” are hard at it. What remains of the carpet in the Angel’s office is already gone, all of the cardboard boxes in the corridor (mostly the contents of Father Bob’s shelves) have been stacked back on the shelves and shrouded in plastic sheeting, the Parish Admin office is empty and more plastic sheeting is being used to seal off the area. It’s time to leave the “crew” to do what they do best and take a short “blogging browse” elsewhere.
The rear wing has, as you may know, been waiting for its ceiling tiles and carpet for some time and in this past week that time arrived. Ceiling tiles have been hung and carpet installed, and the result is quite spectacular. Aside from the new accounting office suit there are four spaces in the rear wing. Three of these spaces are rooms of varying sizes, each well-lit with natural light and each offering the promise of a multitude of uses from the small meeting or educational event to the largest room that could easily host a function. The fourth space is the toddler and nursey room divided in two so the cribs have a dedicated area of their own. In each room there is a wall that picks out a colour from the carpet that gives it all a very professional look.
Back to the “crew,” it’s just after midday as I sit at my temporary desk, looking across the temporary open plan office to the back of Diane Miller’s (permanent) head as she works her fiscal magic in the accounting office’s temporary area. Down the corridor from Tucker the “crew” have the office corridor tightly sealed off with dire notices warning the casual bystander to stay away. From the depths of the corridor the sound of scraping can be heard, a sure sign that the “crew” are hard at it but exactly what that “it” is I can’t rightly say because I’m just a casual bystander!
Stay safe and stay healthy,
"Grey" Brit for gray!
As the Flanders and Swan song goes, this week it has been a case of “Mud, mud, glorious mud.”* A very good week to have your wellies* at the ready in the boot* of the car and your best, weather proof coat to hand. Being out and about on the construction site this week has not been a pleasant experience, lashing rain, “a lazy wind*” and temperatures hovering above freezing but even so the construction show must, and does, go on!
Even with the inclement weather, progress has been made on completing the roof on Tucker Hall, on the brickwork around the Great Hall, which is gradually rising either side of the palladium windows, and on Wednesday the HVAC mechanical units were hoisted onto the new flat roof for installation by Atlantic Heating and Air. Inside the Great Hall and narthex, the roofing framing and the HVAC conduits were inspected and approved by a City Inspector and the store front glass was installed either side of the main doors so now the Hall and narthex are not only dry but also weather tight!
Last week I blogged about the challenge of integrating the new construction with the existing buildings, not just the roofing, utilities or even the structural bones but also to give easy passage for us humans to move throughout the buildings. I’ve discovered, from hanging around on the site and picking up the odd tip, these new passages also serve the secondary purpose of “hiding” the joints between the existing and new so it doesn’t look like the rear wing and narthex were just “bolted on after the fact” but rather as if they were always meant to be there.
So, if you were to walk with me from the narthex we would pass through a single set of fire doors into a short “crosswalk,” that used to be the small vestibule between the main doors, and there we would be, standing in the corridor outside Tucker Hall. If you were to continue walking with me down the corridor passing the kitchen door on the left, restrooms on the right moving towards the day school wing it would all look very familiar……that is until we arrived at the courtyard. As you may know from bygone blogs the rotten, wooded doors and windows have already been replaced, so not too much of a surprise there, but if we were to turn our backs to the courtyard we might be a little taken aback to see that the old library is now two thirds of its original size and the tiny passage that used to lead to the back door has now metamorphosed into a fine, wide passage to the new rear wing.
Stay safe and stay healthy,
“Mud, mud, glorious mud,” “The Hippopotamus Song,” Flanders and Swan 1960
“wellies” colloquial English for rubber boots
“boot” what we Brits call the trunk of the car – not to be confused with boot as in a wellie boot!
“a lazy wind” what my old Mum (Brit speak for Mom) used to call a biting, freezing breeze that cut through you because it was too lazy to go around you.
David Beach is our Building Project Manager. David 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.