North Lake College: Do the Buildings Still Leak?

ABC NATIONAL AWARD WINNING RENOVATION PROJECT

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The time capsule that was buried on the North Lake College campus in 1978 was just like any other of its kind.  It was filled with thoughtful snapshots, essays, news clippings and other memorabilia of the time period.  But, when the capsule was dug up in March of 2001, marking the 25-year anniversary of the school’s charter, North Lake College officials discovered a peculiar, almost prescient note written by a staff member.  The note asked, “Do the buildings still leak?”  This was a surprising question considering that the time capsule had been buried only two years after the award-winning Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) campus opened to the community.  The writer of the note may have had no intention of becoming a type of modern-day Nostradamus, but his/her question had the distinct ring of prophecy.  In that 25-year period of time, several of the campus buildings’ leaks had been repaired with moderate success, but others had indeed continued to have water infiltration problems. 

 

The college has taken many steps to correct the leak problems.  Previous repair projects on certain buildings have included replacing the brick parapet caps and bond beams with new coping stones, re-waterproofing plaza planters and installing wall flashings.  However, these attempts proved to be either somewhat successful or not effective at all. 

 

After becoming involved with several small emergency leak repair projects over a period of almost two years, Exterior Consulting Innovations, Inc. (ECI) developed a concept to address all water infiltration problems without compromising the aesthetic qualities of the campus, particularly on Buildings F and J, which house the ceramics lab, art gallery, classrooms and fitness center.  “Building F has open plazas with planters and stepped walls that contain long planter systems,“ said Michael C. Tolson, Sr., Senior Design Consultant and C.E.O. of ECI.  “It is a multilevel facility that is designed for a pleasant outdoor environment for students between classes.”  In fact, this charming outdoor plaza feature won the building’s designers several major awards. 

 

The repair concept called for removing and rebuilding the leaking planters and completely removing and rebuilding the exterior and parapet walls of the occupied buildings. The scope of work to be performed on the building was extremely comprehensive, and positioned Chamberlin well to be the single source contractor for the entire project – from exterior demolition to reconstruction.  “Chamberlin is a major player in the building restoration and waterproofing field,” said Tolson.  “This project is a very large, complicated restoration project and requires an experienced and capable contractor.”  Chamberlin had the experience and credentials to be selected as the General Contractor of the project.   

 

The demolition process began with removing the existing trees and planters on the plaza deck of Building F and the brick veneer on Building J.  Then the Chamberlin crews removed all existing cast stone coping caps, cleaned and labeled them noting their original location and stored them to use in the reconstruction process.  “The project was expected to have standard construction behind the brick façade,” said Terry Maitland, Chamberlin’s Projector Estimator.  But, what Superintendent Pete Klein and his crew discovered was that the original construction of the buildings was less than standard.  In many areas the interior walls were merely bricks haphazardly piled with random bags of cement sitting idly as infill.  “In one location,” said Klein, “a stud backup wall was found to have studs that were not extended the full height of the wall.  They were just dangling there loosely.”

 

Chamberlin’s waterproofing crews replaced deteriorated steel, cleaned salvageable steel and installed new, galvanized steel support angles.  They installed new flashing systems, new CMU back-up walls, expansion joints, joint sealants, through-wall flashing and damproofing.  At the same time Chamberlin’s roofing crews installed new tapered insulation and crickets to slope the roof for proper drainage and repaired the existing roof membrane and its flashings.

 

“The challenges on this project were actually two-fold,” said project manager Bryan Payne.  “First and foremost, Chamberlin’s exterior destruction and reconstruction of each building had to coincide with the community college’s ongoing activities.”  In fact, each week in the construction meetings with the College District, Payne and Klein reviewed that week’s scheduled activities in order to coordinate major scale demolition and construction work.  A large portion of Chamberlin’s demolition of the 15-foot parapet walls on Building F had to be demolished at night.  In addition, Chamberlin was required to take the entire brick façade off of Building J, which had to be demolished and rebuilt during classes.  “Secondly,” Payne continued, “the demolition work exposed the college to the potential of heavy rains damaging the building during an unusually wet June and November.”  To keep the building from flooding, at the end of each day Pete Klein personally checked every possible opening and temporarily sealed it in order to prevent water damage.

 

Chamberlin crews are wrapping up their work on Buildings F and J and performing final water tests this January, one month ahead of schedule.  At that time, the answer to the quarter-century old question inside the North Lake College time capsule can be put to rest – No, the buildings do not still leak thanks to the cooperation of design consultant, ECI, and the Chamberlin operation team.