A city known for constant rains, dramatic shifts in climate throughout the year, and perpetual moisture, Portland, Ore. provides unique challenges for any construction project. When Hoyt Realty Group hired Bora Architects to design the expansive, 246-foot-tall Block 20 Condominium Tower in downtown Portland, it was clear that novel solutions would be needed if the project was to be completed on time and within budget.
Modern Thinking for Modern Designs
For the building envelope installation, Bora turned to Andersen Construction, who tapped local contractor, Western Partitions Inc. Willing to embrace new technologies in the quest for a better way of doing business, Western Partitions Inc. believed the ideal solution lie in the unique capabilities of the DensElement Barrier System with AquaKOR Technology.
Featuring a proprietary formulation that integrates the gypsum core and the fiberglass mat to form a hydrophobic, monolithic surface that blocks bulk water but allows vapor to pass through, the system eliminates the need for an external WRB-AB. That translates to optimal performance with simplified installation, saving time and money, and reducing potential risks. Still, Western Partitions Inc. Project Manager John Quintrell knew he needed strong arguments and hard evidence to convince his collaborators and the property owners of the value of this relatively new product.
“We are always looking for innovations and ways to build faster, ways to build smarter. And, it just made sense to us. To have the weather resistive barrier integrated into it was exactly what we need. And, it seemed like an inevitable progression for type one construction,” adds Brad Nile of Andersen Construction.
“[It took] four or five months, a lot of hard negotiating, a lot of good professional support from Georgia-Pacific and a very uphill battle to be quite frank with you,” Quintrell reveals. “We would not let it go. We know the potential of this product. We reached out and found out that this product was being used all across United States, not in great volumes, but on enough projects that it was time that the Northwest had this product come to them.”
Fortunately for Quintrell, he wasn’t the only one who saw the potential of the barrier system. “We are always looking for innovations and ways to build faster, ways to build smarter,” says Nile. “And, it just made sense to us. To have the weather resistive barrier integrated into it was exactly what we need. And, it seemed like an inevitable progression for type one construction.”
With Andersen Construction on board, all that was left was convincing Bora Architects and the owners at Hoyt Realty Group. For that, a stress test was devised that would push the system and its direct competitors to the breaking point. “It outperformed both other products in the end, and when that testing doesn’t lie, I think the fears subsided,” Quintrell adds. “Then, the benefits came in.”
The Answer to Unpredictable Weather
Especially valuable for the Block 20 Condominium Tower is the barrier system’s ability to negate the impact of rainy conditions during installation. As it only requires sealing joints, fasteners, openings, penetrations, and transitions with a flashing membrane that can be applied to damp surfaces, excess moisture does little to slow progress. That helped to keep weather delays to a minimum and allowed Western Partitions Inc. to make significant progress in conditions that would’ve otherwise impacted the project schedule.
“We often times are challenged on a project this size to be performing that scope of work for eight, 10, 12 months. All the weather conditions change,” says Quintrell. “DensElement Barrier System can be installed at any time during those 12 months and in any weather conditions. That’s not the case for other systems.”
From Skeptics to Believers
While initially intrigued by the system, first-hand experience using it on a project like the Block 20 Condominium Tower has turned once wary builders into true believers. “We have branches in Seattle, Eugene, Spokane, and Reno with our home office here in Portland,” Quintrell points out. “All four of our divisions outside of Portland, as well as Portland, are looking to use this product on every single project we have. That’s how much we’re standing behind the future of DensElement Barrier System and GP.”