2012 APEX Award – Site Construction/Landscaping

Houston, TX (Sept., 2012) – The Houston Chapter of the Associated General Contractors presented Camarata Masonry Systems, Ltd. with the APEX 10 Site Construction / Landscaping Award for the MD Anderson Cancer Center – Mid Campus One Building.

MD Anderson Cancer Center – Mid Campus One BuildingThe University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Mid Campus Building One is comprised of a 25 story tower, an 18 story tower and a 3 story meeting center. The new facility will provide office space for departments currently located on the Main Campus and various lease sites in and around the Texas Medical Center and totals approximately 1,414,000sf. The hardscape project consists of two fountains (Bertner and Braeswood) made from massive split-faced Texas Pearl granite blocks, slabs, steps, wall panels and copings ranging in weight from 1,275lbs to 25,500lbs.

The relatively random and straightforward look of the fountains belie their complexity. Camarata Masonry Systems, Ltd. engineered and installed the stones utilizing a 160 ton hydraulic crane and specially designed lifting devices. Since the fountain stones are “keyed” into one another, they have split faced exposed surfaces but sawn faced abutting surfaces with extremely tight joints. This “keying” condition also created a specific order of installation (since one piece is dependent on the next) and necessitated that the massive blocks be “dropped in” from above. Thus, the lifting devices could not be on the sides of the stones and had to be on the tops. However, since the top surfaces were to remain exposed, any indication of anchoring devices needed to be completely removed from view. Camarata employed extremely large self tapping wedge bolts which passed through specially designed lifting plates and into holes drilled into the stones. These plates were attached to slings that were attached to the crane hook. Once the stones were installed, the bolts were backed out leaving a threaded hole. These holes were core drilled and split faced stone plugs were fitted into them and affixed with matching color epoxy. The end result is seamless with no evidence of any tampering.

The Bertner fountain consisted of twenty seven stones; including eleven blocks weighing from 3,000lbs to 20,400lbs, eight wall panels and eight coping/curb pieces. The Braeswood fountain consisted of sixty seven stones: including ten blocks weighing from 1,275lbs to 25,500lbs, four large granite slabs weighing in excess of 4,800lbs each, twenty six granite steps weighing from 550lbs to 3,200lbs, seven wall panels and twenty coping/curb pieces. Three of the blocks on the Bertner fountain and six of the blocks on the Braeswood fountain had a 4” hole cored through them to accommodate plumbing for the cascading water. Camarata had to precisely locate the massive blocks such that the cored hole in the stone aligned with the female fitting at the base of the fountain foundation. This facilitated the threading of the vertical pipe through the block. All of the stones required careful coordination with the previously placed concrete structure that left little margin for error. Each stone’s bottom was prepared with a sawn finish to make shimming and leveling less difficult. Once the blocks were installed, all joints between them were sealed to ensure that the water flow was relatively uniform over the rough exposed surfaces.

Due to the proximity of the fountains to the busy medical center sidewalk and street and the size of the crane required to lift the massive blocks; two lanes of the street were blocked off and the fountains were installed at night. Extreme care was used during the erection process since the building was in place. Many stones were very close to the structure, inclusive of the steel awning which projected out from the façade. Most importantly, extreme care was exercised due to the extraordinarily dangerous work of lifting, shimming, fitting and adjusting such heavy and unwieldy stones at night.

Camarata Masonry Systems, Ltd. achieved its ultimate goal of skillfully installing these unique fountains, juxtaposed with an existing modern façade, efficiently and safely with no injuries or accidents.

Architect: WHR Architects, Inc.
General Contractor: Vaughn Construction

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