The University of Houston is in the midst of a $100 million-plus construction and renovation project that began this summer. Several buildings, residence halls and classrooms around the campus are getting a much-needed facelift. Those include Melcher Hall, Farish Hall, Cullen College of Engineering, the Graduate School of Social Work and Agnes Arnold Auditorium. 


Earlier this summer while major interior renovation work was being performed in the Agnes Arnold Auditorium, it became apparent that there was a significant problem with the roof. It was leaking, and there was damage to the roof deck. Time was of the essence, as the repairs needed to be made before the Fall session started. These auditoriums are critical to the University of Houston as they are used by hundreds of students everyday. 


Similar problems were taking place at the Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) Building. The GSSW is the only school of social work in Houston. Established by the Texas Legislature in 1967, the school provides master’s level education for the practice of professional social work. The GSSW building houses the administrative offices and classrooms in which students are transformed into public servants and advocates of the greater good. Both buildings also hold important documents and programs that, if damaged, could prove catastrophic; therefore, it was imperative that the leaking was successfully curtailed. The window of time to complete the necessary work before school was to start was rapidly shrinking, so immediate action had to be taken. 


After extensive inspections by Raba-Kistner Consultants, Inc., it was discovered that the roofs over the Agnes Arnold Auditorium and the adjoining Graduate School of Social Work had more than met their useful life expectancy and needed to be torn off and replaced. In addition to the roof failure, sections of the brick façade were cracking, the windows were leaking, and most of the joint sealants had failed and were allowing water to enter the building. Also, the entire exterior skin of the building had become very dirty and stained. At this point, there were less than two months before school was to start on the campus of Houston’s largest university, this left a mere 35 working days for subcontractors to coordinate their scheduling to get all of this done without interfering with the beginning of the Fall semester. But, there was a real concern if two or more specialty contractors could possibly coordinate their efforts and perform the entire scope of the project in the condensed time allotted.


Basic Industries, Inc., general contractor on the University of Houston Agnes Arnold Auditorium and Graduate School of Social Work project, called on the knowledge and expertise of Chamberlin to perform the entire scope of remedial roofing and waterproofing work. Raba-Kistner was hired by the University to consult with Basic Industries on the project. “I recommended that Chamberlin be included as a bidder on the project because it fit their capabilities well,” said Robert Dulovics of Raba-Kistner. “This project had both roofing and waterproofing elements to it, and we needed one contractor who could deliver a lot of resources quickly.”


Although Chamberlin was given a very small time frame to complete the project, they were able to finish the major work in time for the beginning of classes on August 23, 2004. “The short schedule was a challenge,” said Shane Hubbard, Chamberlin Senior Project Manager whose waterproofing team started their work on August 4, “but both the roofing and waterproofing departments came together to get the job done. We were able to coordinate our efforts internally to meet the scheduled deadline.”


The waterproofing and caulking portion of the project included wetglazing all the windows of the administrative offices, cleaning the brick masonry using high pressure water, tuckpointing the cracking mortar joints and then waterproofing the brick using an opaque elastomeric coating. Exterior wall joints were also removed and replaced with Sonneborn NP2 Urethane Sealant. “The project specifications required a two component urethane sealant at the expansion joints,” said Hubbard, “so we submitted Sonneborn NP-2 manufactured by Degussa Building Products. We have confidence in all the Degussa materials and NP-2 is a product that Chamberlin has used successfully for many years. Sonneborn also backs their products with a five-year labor and material warranty.” In addition to Sonneborn, Degussa also manufacturers Hydrozo, Master Builders, Thoro and ThoRoc products.


The reroofing portion of the project included removing the existing 26,000 sq. ft. built up roof system down to the lightweight concrete deck, attaching insulation and then covering the insulation with three plies of felt, followed by a modified bitumen white cap sheet. “The Agnes Arnold Auditorium, which is attached by a breezeway to the Graduate School of Social Work is unique in that it has six different roof areas on four separate levels,” said James Cook, Chamberlin Roofing Project Manager. “The lower roof over the breezeway contains a small, 500 sq. ft. inset roof that is surrounded by a parapet wall. Starting and stopping the production to roof these small areas could have reeked havoc on the schedule, but we came prepared to mobilize quickly from one roof section to the other.” Since July and August are the hottest times of summer, the roofing crew tried to beat the heat by working early morning hours during some of the project. They also worked overtime and on weekends to meet the scheduled deadline.


The Chamberlin roofing team also removed and replaced the metal coping, gravel guard, copper metal flashings and roof hatches. Strangely, wood blocking required for fastening the metal coping was never installed with the previous roof system over 15 years ago. Chamberlin quickly recognized this deficiency and notified the general contractor. The GC promptly issued a directive calling for Chamberlin to install the necessary blocking for the proper securing of the metal coping on the parapet walls.


Although the fall semester had not officially begun, there was a relatively high traffic volume around the building. Yet, the Chamberlin team was able to continue to work safely without impeding class registration that was taking place in the adjacent building. “When I first inspected the area before we started the project, I discovered a possible hazard to non-construction personnel,” noted Cullen Irish, Chamberlin Safety Director. “To reduce this risk, we set up pedestrian walkways around the construction area and a fully manned barricade around our asphalt kettle staging area.” Chamberlin completed the job without a single safety accident or incident.


“This project is a good example of Chamberlin’s expertise and wide scope of services when it comes to remedial work,” said Hubbard. “We are proud of our work that we have done on the University of Houston campus, and look forward to continuing the good relationship we have with the school and its contractors.”