2 posts categorized "On the Job"

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Adding Up the Real Benefits at a Big Hospital Project

We all know that going green is good for the environment. But sometimes the higher price can cause customers to pause. In such cases it helps to weigh in the many other benefits of low- and zero-VOC paints. Nowadays, with Aura and Natura paints, you can have better indoor air quality and plenty of color choices plus superior performance and durability. Long-term, this can add up to real savings. For homeowners, for government and private sector agencies, architects, designers and painters alike, these benefits are good things, of course, because green paint is here to stay. In cases where the client is a health care facility, its customers especially benefit by the incorporation of green products.

In early 2009, the University of Virginia Hospital, was planning a large renovation project that needed to follow green guidelines. Naturally, cost, durability, deadlines, color selection and the need for continual service had to be factored into its choice of finishes. Everything (except the higher price tag) led to the selection of Benjamin Moore's Aura paint. But that looming dollar sign was overcome when Moore's regional representative, Bill Farmer promised "two coats, any surface, any color"--which meant no money spent on primer or on numerous applications (even over new drywall). The savings in time, labor and materials significantly lowered the overall cost.

Did you catch that? The part about any color? That's ANY color. And there were at least six of them, many pretty intense, including Mystic Gold (HC 37), November Skies (2128-50), Manchester Tan (HC 81) and a few custom colors. Thanks to Moore's zero-VOC Gennex colorant system, a gallon of any color--regardless of intensity--has less than 50 grams per liter of VOCs. (For comparison, Moore's Regal Pearl has 150 grams per liter without colorants. The addition of the traditional universal tints will bump the numbers higher.)

Considering a two-coat application, one-hour drying time and low odor, the painting phase of the 1,000-plus-gallon job was done with little disruption to the hospital and its patients. Clearly, Aura was the right choice for this customer. Of course, it helped that the folks at the Blue Ridge Building Supply store followed the number one rule of customer service: take time to determine the customer's unique needs and priorities. Number one: a hospital needs to be dark green--meaning products must be healthy for the environment and for the people it serves. Add in the scrubability and durability needed in this setting and Aura became a perfect fit. The finish's immediate functioning as well as its longevity will help the hospital to save money in the long run, despite a higher price tag. When it came to choosing this green paint, the decision was pretty black and white.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mauna Kea: Working on Top of the World

 Every professional has at least one story they like to tell of an exceptionally challenging project. The job typically involves one or more of the following: scaffolding, lifts and tall ladders, unpleasant and unpredictable weather conditions, extremely rough substrates, super-size surfaces, awkward reaches, poor access, environmental restrictions--and sometimes, unusual requirements of the property owners. Sound familiar? Well, contractor Gerald Yamada faced all of the above (and at an altitude of more than 13,000 feet above sea level) to paint two observatories on the summit of Mauna Kea on Hawaii's big island. If you think you've had some rough days on the job, read on.

Keck Observatory  

The W.M. Keck Observatory domes are perched near the summit of one of the island's five dormant volcanoes, almost literally on top of the world. According to the observatory's 2008 annual report, the twin, 10-meter telescopes housed inside the domes are "the most powerful and productive telescopes on Earth." Much credit for their exceptional performance is owing to the high location amid clear, still air and away from any light pollution. Unfortunately, an ideal spot for viewing the outer limits of the universe is one that is also exceptionally harsh on exterior finishes--with its exposure to harsh winds (as high as 150 mph), extreme temperature drops, intense UV exposure, etc.

The steel-skin domes, each 101 ft. high and more than 120 ft. in diameter, were built in 1992 and in 1996. Before they were 10 years old, their exterior finishes were peeling, and rust was forming; conditions that threatened the delicate environment in that area, as well as the longevity of the structures themselves. After researching a number of industrial coatings and interviewing potential contractors, observatory officials recruited Gerald Yamada Paint Contracting, and they selected Benjamin Moore finishes to handle the job.

Yamada and his crew had the gear (including a 132-ft. lift) and the experience for painting round structures; they had worked on some of the other (smaller) Mauna Kea observatories. They were familiar with the effects of altitude sickness and had the needed rock-climbing (rappelling) skills, which gave them an edge on the job's unique physical demands. Nonetheless, winds can exceed 100 mph (work stops at 25mph) and temperatures can drop to below freezing in a matter of minutes--even in summer--while the crew also had to contend with condensate forming on the steel surface due to changes in humidity.

You might wonder what coatings could endure such conditions. For a lasting finish, the job required primer and top coats that were two-component epoxies--another aspect that complicated the work. Benjamin Moore's Epoxy Mastic P45 is a high-build primer with tenacious adhesion, making it ideal for the not-quite-perfect substrate. The Aliphatic Acrylic Urethane P74 film creates a durable (almost baked-on) finish coat. To be that tough however, both products have strict requirements, such as limited open times and sensitivities to humidity and temperature. As a result, Yamada's crew would sometimes have to redo portions of their work, which involved abrading the surfaces again and waiting for better weather conditions.

Amazingly, given the obstacles, four guys managed to complete the job in just four months--nothing in a place that measures time in billions of years.