Deft Planning and Skillful Moves Play Out on the Reroof of the World’s Largest Water Filtration Plant

Reroofing the 10.3-acre surface of Chicago’s highly sensitive James W. Jardine Water Filtration Plant posed logistical challenges on par with the building’s magnitude. Phasing to ensure the plant continued to supply fresh water to its 5 million customers in the city of Chicago and its suburbs, the need for complete containment areas, roof-load restrictions, unique stainless-steel expansion joints and the Department of Homeland Security’s onsite presence all made for intricate operations. But John Cronin, president of Chicago-based Trinity Roofing Service, says Mother Nature was his toughest challenge.

The James W. Jardine Water Filtration Plant arguably was the largest and most complex roofing project in Chicago during the past decade.

The James W. Jardine Water
Filtration Plant arguably was the largest and most complex roofing project in Chicago during the past
decade.

“Conducting construction on the Lake Michigan waterfront during Chicago’s harshest winter in 30 years [2013-14] was by far the hardest part of this job. Driving rain, wind, black ice and snow—it was unmerciful,” asserts Cronin. “Constant communication had to be our priority, because we could go to the site in the morning and discover that weather made impossible the sequence of work we had planned. Senior Project Manager J.J. Matthews, Job Superintendent Rob Reno and I had to be incredibly flexible to keep the job moving.”

Water Protection

The water-treatment plant’s 50-year-old coal-tar roof and concrete roof deck had been leaking, which created potential health concerns. The plant supplies approximately 1 billion gallons of clean water a day, which meant many concrete filter beds had to remain operational and free of contamination during construction. Filter beds beneath the phased work area were drained. To protect the drained beds, Trinity cut a hole in the roof and erected a specialized watertight “shoe box” work zone, extending 6-feet down. These shoebox areas consisted of a plywood scaffolding platform blanketed by a 60-mil membrane. Inside the box, existing structural steel had to be sand blasted free of lead paint, inspected and replaced in some spots. At any given time, the team had two 56,000-square-foot scaffolding platforms in place.

Winter winds blew snow across the flat roof and down into these protection zones carrying multiple forms of contamination. Rooftop bird droppings were one source. Asbestos from the original 1960s roof was another. The team had to bring in heat torpedoes (portable forced-air or convection heaters) to melt the snow and divert it through custom-made gutters into cisterns to be hauled offsite so workers could access the steel.

Protecting materials from the elements was also paramount. More than 1,000 rolls of fleece-backed membrane had to remain completely dry. In addition, cellular glass roof insulation (specified from Belgium for its proven 50-year track record on the facility) had an eight-week timeframe for production and overseas delivery, making critical that each square of insulation stayed in pristine condition. Chicago rain can fall in isolated pockets, so every load had to be fully secured with tarp, even on seemingly sunny days.

The harsh Chicago winter of 2013- 14 didn’t stop Trinity Roofing Service from completing the twoyear project on schedule. Seven miles of backer rod are being laid between seams of concrete roof channels despite snow and ice.

The harsh Chicago winter of 2013-14 didn’t stop Trinity Roofing Service from completing the two-year project on schedule. Seven miles of backer rod are being laid
between seams of concrete roof channels despite snow and ice.

“It was an ongoing job to impress the importance of covering all the materials that came to the site, especially at the slightest hint of rain,” Cronin says. “It worked, though. We fully inspected every material load that came to the job site. Out of more than 712,000 board feet of new insulation, none of it was rejected thanks to our strictly enforced quality-control program.”

Despite the snow and ice accumulation on staging areas, no salt was allowed on the property for fear of water contamination, which meant Trinity also dealt with slippery walking and driving surfaces.

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Collaboration

This morning I awoke to our first real snowfall of the season—about 7 inches. I typically enjoy watching the snow flutter down, but as it fell yesterday afternoon into the night I began to dread shoveling my long driveway. As I was brewing my coffee this morning, I heard a motor outside my window and spotted my next-door neighbor walking up and down my driveway behind his snow blower. I immediately went outside to thank him. I plan to bake him cookies today and offer him gas for his snow blower to show my gratitude. And, in the future, if he needs me to walk his dog or check his mail when he’s away, I’m more than willing.

My neighbor’s kindness reminded me of this issue of the magazine. The concept of “having someone else’s back” came up again and again as I edited the contributed articles. For example, our editorial advisory board member Thomas W. Hutchinson, AIA, FRCI, RRC, CSI, RRP, principal of Hutchinson Design Group Ltd., Barrington, Ill., writes in his regular series, “From the Hutchinson Files”, about how communication and collaboration between roof system designers, installers and manufacturers will lead to roofs that withstand high-wind events. He shares two examples of roof system failures that he notes would not have occurred if all parties had collaborated—and taken care in their work.

You can read an example of extreme collaboration in this issue’s “Tech Point”. Contributor KJ Fields describes the reroofing of the 10.3-acre James W. Jardine Water Filtration Plant in Chicago. Not only did Chicago-based Trinity Roofing Service’s crews have to contend with a phased schedule to ensure the plant continued to supply fresh water to its 5 million customers, but they also dealt with roof-load restrictions, unique stainless- steel expansion joints, the Department of Homeland Security and Chicago’s wild weather. Constant communication between Trinity Roofing Service and the membrane manufacturer, Flex, ensured a successful project.

If you’re looking for tips to ensure quality on your next roofing project, Richard Biosca, vice president of operations and general counsel for McHenry, Ill.-based Metalmaster Roofmaster, shares insight into his contracting company’s processes in “On My Mind”. The firm ensures quality as early as the pre-award, bidding and estimating phase of the project. Metalmaster Roofmaster’s estimators, submittal department, project managers, crews and service department are encouraged to discuss and address issues and concerns. Biosca points out in his column, investing time and resources to collaborate all the way through a project has led to many returns for his company, including repeat customers, profitability and awards. Who doesn’t want that this year?

May you have much success in 2015!