In late 2013, Concrete by Design had the opportunity to bid on a project for New South Construction of Atlanta, GA overseeing new construction for the Wesleyan School, a private Christian K-12 school located in Norcross, Georgia. New South focuses on bringing together clients, such as Delta, Coca-Cola, several Universities and many other varied companies with trusted contractors to provide a turn-key service for those clients. Their portfolio spans from criminal justice to sports clubs to educational facilities.
Wesleyan was building an addition for the lower school onto their existing campus and needed extensive concrete work done in what they called the “reading garden” for the younger children. This area is a courtyard that lies between two buildings at the top of a 60 foot hill. After going through a long and tedious bid process, Concrete By Design in conjunction with Dixie Stamped Concrete were awarded the job.
This job was unlike any other we had set out to accomplish. The requirements for the “reading garden” were to create a space for the young children to play, read, and take time to enjoy the surroundings. The architect, HGOR, that designed this concrete vision was brilliant in their dream for this space. HGOR is also located in Atlanta and they too have an extensive portfolio ranging from Turner Enterprises to Mercer University.
The job was to construct a two part decorative sidewalk, one part was a serpentine sidewalk that alternated between exposed aggregate and light broom finished integral colored concrete, the other part was a decorative bookshelf with “A” and “Z” bookends. The pictures speak for themselves as this was unconventional but beautiful and unique. The attention to detail for this job was critical because of that unique transformation from plain concrete to a bookshelf walkway.
Concrete By Design had several options to explore when determining how to approach and execute this project. Some of the varying options and their pros/cons are listed here; an engraving process using concrete impression tooling for the book titles and authors or thick vinyl adhesive stencils with traditional sandblasting techniques to create the impression of the titles and authors. After much investigation and several samples of each option which went back to HGOR and New South Construction for approval, the vinyl adhesive stencils were the approved and chosen method. The L.M. Scofield colors that were used for the integral colored concrete were also purchased and sampled for approval. There were two colors that were denied and replaced with others before the process could begin.
The initial step in the process was the forming and pouring of the concrete for the bookshelf. The formwork posed a challenge in itself because each of the 26 books was a different color and size, as you would expect with a bookshelf. The form boards were placed in the shape of the bookshelf, with a space between each for the varying colors. The books alternated in color so more than one book worth of concrete was poured for each color. Every color required a separate concrete truck and had to be poured on different days, allowing the previously poured concrete to set. Because of the location of the project, the L.M. Scofield integrally colored concrete, mixed by Ernst Concrete of Atlanta, was transported using a Georgia buggy. A Georgia buggy is a mechanical large capacity wheelbarrow used to transport concrete where traditional concrete trucks can’t transport it.
Following this process, the books were ready to have their titles and authors placed on them. For the vinyl adhesive stencils, we used Sign-A-Rama of Fayetteville, GA. Each stencil had varying fonts and sizes that were created to exactly replicate the books. The versatility and cost effectiveness of the stencils were appealing features for Concrete By Design and they kept the overall total cost down for New South and HGOR. During this stage in the project, the weather and timeline for completion collided and created yet another challenge to overcome.
It was late December/Early January and the Atlanta area was experiencing snow, sleet, and other unsightly conditions. When working outside with concrete and vinyl adhesive, the level of difficulty increased. Once the humidity subsided, we had only the cold to contend with. We used a series of space heaters and thick plastic coverings to get the concrete to a temperature that would allow for adhesion between the stencil and the surface. Once the temperature was acceptable, we laid out the stencils in their proper locations just off the concrete to reduce mistakes after the process over adhering them had begun. One at a time, the stencils were placed over the concrete and measurements were performed to guarantee proper alignment. When we were sure the stencils were adhered, we used silica sand for the sand blasting system to etch the titles and authors on the “binder” of the book.
Following the sandblasting process, the surface was blown using a blower and then vacuumed to remove particulates and silica from the surface. The titles and authors were then ready for the concrete staining process. The tree bark color for the lettering was a UV-stable, non-fading, concrete dye and was purchased from Decorative Concrete Institute (DCI) of Douglasville, GA. The stain was applied in two coats using a high volume low pressure (HVLP) sprayer and small paint brushes for any areas that need to be touched up. The stencils were then able to be removed from the surface.
The last step in creating the bookshelf sidewalk was to seal the surface using a clear SurfKoat Acrylic sealer. The sealer was sprayed to ensure that there was no bleeding in the color of the dye, there was a small wait time, 4-6 hours, between the coats which guaranteed proper curing of the last step.
Despite the harsh weather conditions, the timeline with which we had to complete the job, and any other obstacles we faced, Concrete By Design considered it an honor to work with New South Construction and HGOR Architects. This is one of our more sophisticated projects and we are proud to show it off and feature it for our business.