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A stone facelift

image The newly restored University of Texas Main Campus Statue Area

AUSTIN - Since 1969 Alpha Building Corporation has been providing general contracting solutions to transform how their clients undertake construction. The University of Texas at Austin Main Campus (CAM) Statue Area Remodel CP621315 project was no different.





   The UT main campus statue area has been a focal point for many major types of events over the years including Graduation, UT Remembers, and Party on the Plaza.  It’s no wonder that father time and mother nature finally got their voices heard when the UT system decided it was time for a facelift.  After decades of weather, tree sap and billions of footsteps and handprints, much of the historic campus statue area was deteriorating.
    The $300,000 project took six months to complete.  “There were several sections over the years where the stone wall had cracked along with sections of wall where poor repairs had been previously done,” says Bill James, Project Manager for the UT Project Management and Construction Services Department.  James continues, “We started in December 2016 and completed before spring graduation. Alpha’s contract was issued before Christmas break so Alpha could order the replacement stone. Material procurement was a critical milestone   for the project.  Actual stone repair started taking place when we had the material and could remove and replace sections at the same time.  Prior to the arrival of the new limestone, Alpha cleaned the limestone with a specified solution that would remove the biological matter but not harm the existing wall. This process took at least 2 applications before all of the biological material was satisfactorily removed. Alpha then proceeded to repair all mortar joints. Several mortar samples were submitted for acceptance prior to mortar joint repair commenced.”
    100% of the masonry in that area had to be cleaned due to the buildup of tree sap from year to year.  100% of the masonry had to be re-pointed.  Severely damaged limestone balustrades had to be replaced.  Delaminating and loose stone had to be removed where spalling occurred.  Bronze and steel handrails were removed and reinstalled with new masonry anchors.  Masonry holes were patched with cementitious patching materials. 
    “When we replaced limestone, we had to take actual sections of the wall out, take it to a quarry and pick out limestone that matched as close as possible to what we were replacing and had to finish the stone with sandblasting and other different techniques to get a surface that would match the existing stone areas as close as possible.  We also did work to stain the stone to match the other, because over the years you have different stains that had taken place  on the stone itself  and so it had to match.  A new white piece of stone would stand out if we didn’t.  Our stonemason in the general construction shop mixed up different batches of stain using different types of teas and coffee to achieve an acceptable color. The staining turned out quite well,” James recalls.
    In addition to limestone and mortar, a biodegradable cleaning agent was used.  The cleaning agent was used to clean the existing stone was also used to clean the entire fence line of the area.
    PAVECON Building Services was the waterproofing company who assisted Alpha Building Corporation on the project. 
    Kevin Rainey, Project Manager and Darrell Duelm, Project Superintendent for Alpha Building Corporation oversaw the completion of the UT main campus statue area remodel.  Larry W. Irsik, with Architexas Architecture, Planning & Historic Preservation Inc. was the architecture in charge.  Assisting all parties involved was Frances Gale, Conservation Scientist and Senior Lecturer at the UT School of Architecture, who worked closely with the project team to insure that the historical aspects of the wall were maintained.
    Matching the existing stone textures and colors was one of the major issues that brought uniqueness to this project. “Not everything was repaired or replaced.  Over the years, students had scratched their initials into the capstones and they were left untouched,” adds James. 
    “Bringing together a project team that can arrive upon a solution and then move forward to make the solution work.  Everyone was committed in the process of repairing the wall and not just saying, “It needs to be fixed,” says James.
    Alpha Building Corporation is a general contracting firm headquartered in San Antonio with branch offices across  Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. -cmw

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Carol Wiatrek meditor@constructionnews.net