Justin Pitman, Sales Director at Proteus Waterproofing, discusses two projects which show just how quickly even the best planning can go out of the window and why this is when experience and expertise must come to the fore…
Costs and the need to remain competitive affect every part of the construction industry and waterproofing is no exception. It’s a simple fact of life that every client expects and wants a “Rolls Royce” job, but most are unwilling or unable to pay the going rate.
In spite of this, contractors strive to deliver exceptional quality at all times, even when margins are cut to the bone. This means going that extra mile to deliver best practice on every contract – and in many cases that also means being ready to deal with the unexpected.
At Proteus we go to huge lengths to survey and accurately report on every new project before handing it over to one of our approved contractors. We try to cover everything from thermal shock to wind uplift and more, but it is the unseen problems that are always hidden from view and are never discovered until work starts that really test teams.
Every building has its own story and each one is in its own way a tale of the unexpected. This is when best practice really comes into its own and contractors and suppliers with the experience and ability to overcome unforeseen problems shine.
Case studies: adapting to challenges
Nothing is really typical as we can see from the two projects that follow. The first features the House of Detention in central London, which by the mid-19th century was used as a holding prison for those awaiting trial with an estimated 10,000 people a year passing through its gates.
The prison was demolished in 1890, but an entire underground section survived and lay undisturbed until the bombs of the Blitz saw it reopened as an air-raid shelter. After World War II it was again largely forgotten until, in 1993, it became a museum and remained as such until its closure in 1999.
When Proteus became involved, together with its approved contractor MJ Rooney Construction, it at first seemed like a simple, straightforward project to waterproof a car park that had since been built over the old prison.
Such was the case until the old decking was removed to reveal the roofs of the cells and the short-term work which had been used to waterproof them in earlier years. It was a tale of the unexpected which turned into protecting a Grade 2 listed building still being extensively used for film work and events. To make things more difficult, the project was time sensitive and in a heavily populated area meaning hot molten materials could not be used. New concrete also had to be installed to protect the ceilings within the barrel-vaulted cells and these had to be quickly waterproofed.
Our exclusive Proteus Cold Melt system which can be used to waterproof green concrete after just three days was used to overcome the problem. This meant that a permeable tarmac could be used to finish the job which would allow water to drain through to the waterproofing and not into the building below.
Not so daunting, but equally challenging, was the Maggie Centre at the Royal Marsden Hospital. The new building, designed by A.B. Rogers Architects, involved the use of some distinctive terracotta bowls which were used as part of the cladding.
This meant that what first appeared to be a straightforward waterproofing job on the roof by contractor Rhino Exteriors was complicated by the fact that a guard rail needed to be installed after the membrane had been laid.
This tale of the unexpected involved the contractors working closely with the cladding specialist to re-waterproof around each guard rail following each installation. Some would say this is best practice, but I prefer to think of it as excellent back up and support from a trusted and reputable contractor.
It involved working closely with the design team to ensure that the rainscreen cladding fixings and waterproofing would work together and keep the building watertight until the cladding was installed. The systems used on this contract were our Pro System Plus and Proteus Pro-Therm Thermal Protection Board.
So, what really is best practice? In construction that does mean keeping to the regulations to ensure that materials are installed in the proper way with no short cuts. But it really is a lot more than that and ultimately comes down to the right experience and expertise.
A competitive price will, of course, always remain an issue, but as every roofing professional will tell you – because every building has its own story, you must always expect the unexpected – and that is when best practice really comes into its own.