|CSX’s corporate headquarters, located on Jacksonville, Fla.’s downtown Riverwalk, upgraded its outdated façade to project a fresh, modern image.|
Thousands and thousands of 1960s-era buildings clad in ugly tiles and inefficient, outdated façades are sprinkled throughout the U.S. Practically every major city has at least one of these what-were-they-thinking anomalies sticking out like a sore thumb.
That's the kind of white elephant—well, more a blue and green elephant—that CSX Transportation found itself stuck with when the Fortune 500 transportation company relocated from Virginia to downtown Jacksonville, Fla., in 2003.
In April 2003, CSX management brought in RS&H, a national facilities and infrastructure consulting firm, to find some way to revamp the exterior without breaking the bank.
What the RS&H experts found was a building envelope in an advanced state of deterioration, with evidence of unsuccessful attempts at repairs and unsightly waterproofing over the previous decade. The tiles that might have been high-technique in the 1960s were falling off, especially in areas exposed to direct sunlight, and water infiltration and leakage problems were becoming more frequent during big rainstorms.
There was one more problem. The Super Bowl was scheduled to be held in Jacksonville in January 2005, and CSX officials were cringing at the idea of panoramic camera shots of the city being beamed around the world with the curtain wall of its 48-year-old headquarters right in the middle. Something had to be done, fast.
Previously commissioned studies of the building façade had yielded two options for CSX: either tear down and replace the existing curtain wall for an estimated $8-10 million or apply a monolithic waterproof coating over all the tile spandrel panels and operable window frames for $800,000. The first option was deemed too costly, and the second would not improve the appearance of the exterior. RS&H had to come up with a reasonably priced solution that solved the aesthetics problem once and for all.
Working with manufacturer and installer Crawford Tracy Corporation, RS&H developed an innovative method to fasten structurally glazed panels over the existing concrete spandrel panels. First, however, they had to get the OK from the city's building department that a new curtain wall would still meet the wind-load requirements of the building, which of course was located in a hurricane zone.
Chuck Fritts, RS&H's VP of commercial programs and CSX's project manager, says getting that approval was the single most important factor in moving the project forward. Once they had clearance from the building department, they could start securing the new curtain wall over the existing one.
After performing in-situ core sampling and strength testing through a materials testing laboratory, they developed a pattern for new aluminum curtain wall frames to stack on top of the original five-inch precast panels by using stainless-steel fasteners. “Once we established the pattern, it was very repetitive from a construction standpoint,” says Fritts. “They could work their way up from level two to level 16 and then work their way around the building. You could sit along the riverfront and watch the building transform before your eyes.”
The renovation of the south side—the side facing the TV cameras—was completed just in time for the Super Bowl; the north side was finished in May 2006. Over a 20-month period, the Building Team completely transformed the exterior of the building, making it much more consistent with contemporary downtown Jacksonville architecture. The limestone panels on the windowless east and west sides of the building were recaulked by Advanced Coating and Caulking of Jacksonville to eliminate further water intrusion. The work was done with minimal disruption to CSX employees.
The final design cost approximately $5 million, half the previous high estimate, with an additional $1.7-2.4 million in energy savings over a 25-year period. The life cycle savings coupled with the positive image created for its corporate headquarters made the project a success in CSX's eyes. “The RS&H and Crawford Tracey combination was the only way the project could have happened,” says Peter Trolle, director of corporate services at CSX. “They came up with an innovative, lower-cost approach that provided the best solution.”