Saturday, April 22, 2017

Promises to update the blog were not kept. Instead of writing, the time was spent resolving issues with Verizon phone connectivity. Today's edition will have to serve as an update from last week and next week's blog; the blogger is heading to North Carolina and Virginia to visit friends and relatives and to celebrate the life of a fellow alumni of the Theater Department of Richmond Professional Institute, now VCU.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly...

The Good...

Our excavator has returned and is working his way across the back yard installing the pipe for the storm drain from our new water retention system. When finished, the backyard will be graded with more flat area behind the new sanctuary than we have now and a different slope to the western property line. By early May, we expect to be able to spread topsoil and grass seed along the side and rear of the new building. Note the absence of scaffolding along the back of the building which indicates that the stuccoing has been completed in this area.

Two pipes into the storm water retention system poke up through the soil. The larger pipe, which will have an access cover, is equipped with a ladder for inspection. The yellow box on the top of the smaller pipe is a laser level, which is being used to ensure the correct slope of the outflow pipe that will connect to our existing storm line that daylights at the curb on Sunnyhill. The roller seen in the far right of the picture is being used to compact the soil over the pipe. It both roll and vibrates.

This view from the far northwest corner of our property shows the digger in action. As an aside, the speck of blue to the right of the digger is our new dumpster. Instead of having to open the top, we have sliding doors on the side we can use to empty our trash -- much more convenient.

By next week, this trench will cross the driveway to the garage and enter the grass on the other side. The new storm pipe will connect with our existing pipe a short way down the hill. As part of the excavation, a new, deeper drain basin will be installed in the driveway to better collect and disperse rainwater flowing down the hill.

More Good

On Thursday, Peg Hart and Michael Hennessy took Sybil McNulty, the nominee and presumed next President of the Board, through the new construction to give her an update on our progress. It was the perfect time to tour because the sanctuary, the hallway and all of the offices, classrooms, restrooms and storage rooms had received their final coats of paint. Without a wide-angle lens, it's difficult to get really good photos of the smaller rooms, but let's walk through and take a look.

Our tour begins looking into the new foyer while standing in the left archway that is one of two, large rectangular arches that provide access to the new wing from our historical building. The dark rectangle on the far right is part of the wall that supports the roof and separates the two archways. Directly ahead is the wall where our donor recognition sculpture will be installed. To the right of that wall is the entrance to the hallway that provides access to the offices, classrooms and restrooms and a rear entrance to the sanctuary. The dark line on the left of the picture is the edge of the double door frame into the sanctuary. This area is currently being painted.
Turning to the right (east) as you walk through the archway brings the new stairway into view. The windows across the front provide natural light to the stairwell, the entrance foyer and the infant and toddler room.

The two windows covered with cardboard are former doorways into the demolished north wing. The window on the left was the door to the closet where we stored tables and kept the AED. The window on the right was the door to the former hallway. This side of the windows is framed to match the new decor of the building. The other side of the windows in the entrance foyer with the blue tile have kept the original oak framing for the door. Oak panels will fill in the top and bottom of the door frames to tie the design to the historical oak window seats and moulding.   

Looking now to the left (west) while standing in the new foyer shows the infant-toddler room. In addition to the glass door visible on the left, the room has an interior window wall to allow light from the eastern windows to penetrate the room. The unit high on the wall near the western windows is the heating/cooling unit for the room. A sink and counter with a baby changing station will be installed where the pipes are protruding through the wall. A portable three-fold screen will provide privacy for diaper changing. A window seat that runs the width of the room will provide storage for toys. 

Looking north in the hallway, Mike, Sybil and Peg are standing by the niche, on the left, where the ADA approved water fountain will be installed. To the right is the entrance to Rev. Jim's office. The niche on the right with the large desk will be one of two areas for coats and hats.

Farther down the hall, the entrance to the men's room and a storage room can be seen on the left. The plywood door in the rear of the photo will be replaced with an exit door and will include a large window on the right to allow northern light into the space. On the right is the second coat niche, the entrance to the office that will be shared by RE Director, Jen, and Development Director, Beth. Beyond that is the entrance to an RE classroom. The rectangular boxes mounted to the ceiling will house state of the art LED fixtures.

The first office on your right as you head north through the hallway is for Roy, our Administrator. His new desk will sit in this corner. To the left can be seen part of his pass-through window.
Walking down the hallway looking to our right (east) we can get a a peek into Rev. Jim's office...

...a peek into the RE-Choir room with the 23' high cathedral ceiling.

...a peek into Jen's and Beth's office. 

...and a peek into the RE room on the northeast corner of the building. Once the protective plastic is removed from the windows, this room will be filled with light. 

On the west side of the hallway are the restrooms. The first restroom is gender-neutral, the second is the women's room and the last, shown above, is the men's room. If you could look to the left, you would see the telltale urinal.

Just beyond the men's room is the janitors closet. Shelves and a large slop sink will be installed. The floor will remain concrete.

This is the northernmost of two storage rooms. This could be the most divisive room in our new building. I see space for our new banquet tables. Others, I'm sure see other things. This room will also have a concrete floor with no covering. There is a similar storage room further south along the hallway. It, however, has the stairs to the attic and access to our audiovisual control unit, a circuit breaker panel and a multitude of pipes and conduits running through it. Storage possibilities will be minimal, but we will need to make use of all available space.

The northernmost room on the west side of the hallway is the crying room. On the left is the window into the sanctuary. There will be a speaker in this room so occupants can hear the service.
In the center of the west wall of the hallway is the second, and most dramatic, entrance to the new sanctuary. The doors are 8' tall. The dark rectangles beyond the door frame are the return ducts for the HVAC system.

As you enter through the eastern door, this is what you will see. Words are not necessary, but imagine it with beautiful lighting, carpeting and chairs of the perfect color. ( Editor's note: Wouldn't a grand piano sitting on the right side of the stage look wonderful and provide glorious accompaniment for our adult and youth choirs?)

Looking to the left as you enter through the eastern doorway, the southern entrance to the sanctuary can be seen. Beyond it is the entrance foyer to the new addition and the archway where the first in this series of photos was taken. 

This photo was taken standing on the stage looking at the northeastern portion of the sanctuary. An exit door is in the center of the northern wall. The window to the crying room is visible on the eastern wall along with a portion of the eastern entrance. The dark rectangles high on the wall are vents for heating and cooling the room. The blue boxes along the northern wall are also vents from our underground ducting. They are currently sealed to keep out construction debris.

The front of the new addition has its first coat of stucco. The stucco has been dyed to the finish color. No other paint will be added. 

The Bad...

When the stucco crew began to remove the stucco from the historical section so it can be restored, significant damage to the structure was discovered. Our architect has contacted the structural engineer who has been working on our project for a solution, which involves installing several steel beams as headers above the main entrance door and the windows. See the photos below for an explanation of what happened.

When Sunnyhill was constructed in the early 1920s, the builder used a material called structural terra cotta or structural clay blocks as seen in this photo from the internet...

...and in this close up of Sunnyhill being built. Zoom in on the photo and look at the lintels above the door and the windows. These lintels were created by inserting an early form of reinforcing bar (rebar) through the hollow centers of the structural clay blocks and filling in around them with concrete. It's a pretty cool trick as long as water doesn't penetrate the structure, get to the rebar and cause it to rust. In the simplest terms, when rebar rusts it expands and exerts considerable pressure on the concrete that surrounds it. (Engineering studies of the phenomenon involve complex formulas.) This pressure causes the concrete to crack and break - a process called spalling. We've all seen it on bridge piers and abutments somewhere in Allegheny County. As the gravedigger says to Hamlet, "water is a sore decayer of your whoreson dead body." So it is with iron or steel rebar. 

This photo of the front of Sunnyhill reveals just how much of a decayer water is to rebar. Over the years, from who knows where, water infiltrated the hollow terra cotta structural blocks of Sunnyhill's facade and made its way to the lintels. Each lintel has four pieces of rebar, and as they rusted and expanded the lintels disintegrated. 

These lintels no longer have any structural integrity...

...and as you can see in this photo, the failure of the lintels has caused the terra cotta blocks next to and above them to shift and the wall to bow out. If you look closely, you can see cracks in the stucco that reveal where the edges of the blocks are. TEDCO has taken the precaution of shoring up the wall with 4X4 lumber, but the wall remains very unstable. It's impossible to predict just how many blocks will come down in the process of adding steel lintels and repairing the wall, but TEDCO's goal is to maintain as much of the original wall as possible.
This photo shows the damaged lintel above the right window.
This photo from the internet is a better image of the type of rebar used to make the lintels in our building. Look for photos of the repair in upcoming issues of the blog. If you have business at Sunnyhill, please stay away from the front of the building for safety's sake.

The Ugly...

With everything else coming together, we still have a little bit of ugly to deal with.

Except for one wall that TEDCO will paint because they added drywall to increase its fire rating, we will be responsible for painting what we now refer to as the polka dot room. The gray dots near the top of the photo are conduits that will some day carry electricity to an electronic sign or lighting for our existing signs. The white pipe just above the yellow polka dot is where our new 2-inch water line enters the building. Once we have water service, the line will be connected to our system. Since the polka dot room will be an important RE space, we will have to clean and paint it within the next month. The room will be getting new carpet.
Not yet installed, our new giant gas meter will go in front of the window that brings sunlight into the kitchen stairway. Locating the meter here was the best alternative. At least it's not in front of the new building, and Beth and Margaret will do their best to camouflage it with plantings without violating the regulations regarding blocking the meter. Because we will no longer be able to get to the window, it will be painted sometime in the next two weeks. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The blog will be updated later today. In anticipation of the upcoming Annual Meeting, we plan to do a photographic walk-through showing the progress of each of the rooms in the new addition.

Until those photos are added, enjoy the photos of the big dig.

On Monday, April 17, the big dig began. The deeper trench on the right is for the new 2-inch water line. The higher bench on the left is for the 3-inch gas line.

Thanks to Craig from TEDCO, crews went out of their way to avoid damaging some of our flora, which includes a beautiful peony. We did lose one small decorative tree.
Once across the parking lot, the trenches diverged. The trench to the right will carry the new water line and two electric conduits, which enter the basement in the polka dot room. The white plastic pipe is for water. The two grey "pipes" are electrical conduit. The gas line has been covered and cannot be seen in the photo. If you enlarge the photo by clicking, you can see an old, abandoned iron gas line in the side of the trench below the coil of plastic pipe.

The orange pipe in this photo is our current gas line. It will be abandoned. The larger diameter white and black pipe is from our downspouts. It was damaged during the excavation and has been repaired. The smaller gray pipe is electric conduit that carries the power lines to our parking lot lights.

The trench carrying the gas line has been partially filled in. The walk to the temporary entrance has been destroyed. Fortunately, it was made from concrete pads rescued from the back yard before demolition. The walk builder (also the blogger) is weeping over the destruction of his hard work. Hopefully gravel will replace the walk until it is no longer needed. 

Our new gas meter will sit on top of the gray flange. The gas line will enter the building through the hole in the lower right. Landscaping will hide the new very large meter without blocking access to it by the gas company.

The white dot is the hole where the gas line will come through the wall. When the new service is in place, this old meter will be removed. The current meter is under the stairs that lead from the kitchen to the basement.
Looking east you can see the two "stub ups" for the conduits that will one day, we hope, carry power to a new electronic sign or for lighting for our existing signage. The yellow tape sits above the gas line as a warning to anyone excavating the area in the future. The yellow coil is wire that is buried along with the warning tape and is used to track the line using special equipment.

Looking further east toward the road the crock that will hold our water meter is visible. The crock is about 4-feet deep.

A top down view of the crock.

The parking lot and driveway have been filled in. The pipes have been cushioned with a bed of sand above and below and the remainder of the trench is back-filled with gravel.

These are the piles of sand and gravel, just delivered, that are being used to back fill the trench.
The dirt excavated from the trench that isn't needed for back-fill will be used as fill dirt in other areas around the church that need to be filled before grading can occur. Once the trench is filled, we will be able to use the parking lot again. We hope the lot will be available by the end of the day on Friday so the choir has a place to park on Sunday.

Come back later for a photo tour of the new addition.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

This survivor of grading has earned the right to be rescued and planted in one of our gardens. 

Within the next few weeks, our property will be regraded, top soil will be spread, lawn seed will be sown and the front of our building will be landscaped with a variety of new plantings. Landscaping serves two purposes. First, it's like adding a string of pearls to the perfect little black dress -- it's the finishing touch. Second, and more mundane, the township requires it. In fact, we've had to post a bond to ensure we will landscape to Mt. Lebanon's satisfaction.

Margaret Hamstead and Beth Hedin collaborated on the preliminary design shown here. Their goal is to create a deer resistant, low maintenance garden that will look beautiful throughout the growing season. The drawing is hard to read, so below are photos and names of just some of the plants (with apologies to the gardening experts in advance for any errors). Remember, clicking on a photo will enlarge it.

Coreopsis lanceolata

Amelanchier canadensis

Bouteloua curtipendula

 Coreopsis rosea

Echinacea purpurea

Fothergilla gardenii "Jane Platt"

Galium odoratum

Helleborus "Winter Rose"

Liatris spicata

Sporobolus heterolepis

Asarum canadense "Wild Ginger" 

In addition to landscaping, we will be re-paving our driveway and parking lot, which was in sad condition before construction and has been all but destroyed in places from the heavy equipment and trucks coming and going on our site. The construction oversight team put together a request for proposal (RFP) and will send it out to five paving companies tomorrow to get competitive bids. 

Inside the new addition painting continues. Most of the steel in the sanctuary has had both coats of paint, and it looks beautiful against the wood of the ceiling. The exterior steel is yet to be done. When finished, painting the steel will have used about 12 gallons of paint.

The walls will soon get a final coat of paint over the tinted primer seen here. The topcoat will be an eggshell finish, which has a very slight shine. 

 The next two photos are significant because they show the new and old buildings coming together. The light trough in the old building has been expertly finished where it meets the new square archway into the building.

In this photo, the rear wall of the old fellowship hall is being patched to meet the new. The baseboard, chair rail and lighting trough will soon be extended to meet the corner as if they had always been there.

One of the congregation's biggest challenges is going to be turning this area into the new RE library. With all the pipes, conduits and exposed wires running across the ceiling and walls of different materials and shapes, we will have to be creative to make it a cheerful place for the religious education of our youth.