Chamberlin's Coastal R&R: Remediation and Restoration

When a structure is built along the coast, eventually airborne corrosives from the saltwater will deteriorate some of the building’s most important structural components. Proper care and maintenance is crucial to protect the structural components and extend the life of a building envelope located near the ocean. The South Texas Gulf Coast is currently experiencing a rise in the number of buildings in need of structural remediation and upgraded waterproofing protection due to such corrosives, and Chamberlin is working to fulfill that need.

 

Chamberlin’s Austin and San Antonio offices have teamed up to accomplish the goal of restoring various buildings in the South Texas Gulf Coast region. Since 2004, Chamberlin has been involved with over $1.5 million worth of building envelope and structural remediation projects in the region.

 

In November of 2004, Chamberlin began work on the first of two restoration phases of the luxurious Sunchase IV Condominiums in South Padre Island. Sunchase is a visually stunning 14-story condominium with concrete cantilevered balconies. With the ocean surrounding the building on two sides, the saltwater was taking its toll on the concrete balconies and structural steel within.

 

To restore the spalling concrete of the condominium’s balconies, Chamberlin had to get to the root of the problem: restore and protect the rusting reinforcing steel. Chamberlin crews removed the concrete surrounding the steel and installed cathodic protection anodes to mitigate the corrosion.

 

“Cathodic protection anodes polarize the reinforcing steel in concrete, thereby preventing the steel from giving up electrons and, thus, corroding,” explains Chamberlin Project Estimator Shawn Gibson. The anodes, also known as galvanic anodes, are “hockey puck” looking mechanisms that sacrifice themselves by absorbing electrons for the steel. The resulting flow of electrons to the anode prevents a corrosive chemical reaction on the steel.

 

Phase One of the Sunchase IV restoration project finished just before the 2005 Spring Break season. Chamberlin’s team returned to the condominium for Phase Two the following January to further protect the concrete and reinforcing steel by applying a skid resistant, pedestrian waterproof coating on each balcony.

 

Shortly after work began on Sunchase IV Condominiums, Chamberlin crews were hanging swing stages on Corpus Christi City Hall to restore its masonry and replace the through-wall flashing where the original flashing had failed.

 

The façade of the City Hall building is a combination of brick and curtain wall. Chamberlin replaced control joints, recaulked window perimeters, and replaced the through-wall flashing behind the brick that is above the curtain wall on the sixth floor.

 

“Removing the brick to replace the flashing was a little precarious,” describes Pat Kelleher, Chamberlin Superintendent. “So as not to damage the curtain wall and other areas below, the brick had to be removed and replaced five lineal feet at a time.” This is a tedious process, especially when the bricked area totaled 120 lineal feet.

 

Cleaning the exterior was also a challenge. The material used to wash the façade had to be non-ionic. “We tested several cleaners and processes before we developed the proper mix to get the job done right,” said Kelleher.

 

Another South Texas project was the beachfront Regency Condominiums in South Padre Island, which presented its own set of challenges as well. Several of the concrete balconies were heavily corroded due to saltwater infiltration, almost to the point of being structurally unstable. In fact, a concrete awning and several balconies were so badly corroded that they had to be demolished by Chamberlin for fear that they would literally fall off the building. Other affected concrete areas, however, were able to be restored.

 

A cathodic protection system, similar to that installed at the Sunchase IV Condominiums, was also placed inside the salvageable concrete balconies at Regency. In addition to the anodes, though, a special passive cathodic protection spray was applied to the underside of the balconies to further protect the structural steel.

 

Safety is always at the forefront of every Chamberlin project, but it was even more essential at Regency since work was taking place on every level from the sidewalk to the roof. “With some demolition taking place above the top floor, it was critical for our team to clearly communicate and coordinate work,” said Field Operations Manager Dave Edwards, “not only for our safety, but also for the tenants and their property.” As is always the goal, the team finished the project accident free.

 

Work continues in the South Texas Gulf Coast. Chamberlin is currently finishing up the structural remediation of a half-mile section of the Corpus Christi Seawall and will soon start working on the fourth out of six half-mile sections of the seawall restoration. With each new project comes new challenges. “The challenges keep us on top of our game,” said Gibson. “Every new challenge gives us a new solution, and creative, cost effective solutions to difficult problems are what make Chamberlin an industry leader.”