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Calling all construction geeks

My small town is building a credit union headquarters in the middle of town. Temperamentally -- and I know this will come as a shock to you -- I'm a little skeptical of the project, for all kinds of reasons including a not-so-good siting process. Also, I know for a fact the prime contractor fired its architect and kept the engineers, with the result that the building is ugly, as you see. And ugliness is often a sign of worse things.

I'm hoping that there are enough construction geeks here to dope out the quality, or at least the character of the construction, from photographs -- yes, I know this is like asking a doctor to diagose from a photo, but what can I do? -- and before they sheathe or clad the building, or whatever they do these days. Pray god they don't stucco it. So I went out and photographed two sides of the building today, from the southwest corner to the northeast. Here they are, in the order I took them:

Comments are below each photo.

You can see the drive-through for the ATM machines here. And is that blank wall with no windows and big vent at the top ugly, or what? What's up with that?

Foundations at the southwest corner.

Moving along, the first corner, showing the layers and I hope the kinds of insulation, and other details of the construction.

There's going to be some kind of courtyard with sculpture. As I understand it, the entire area will be an impermeable surface, that is, no substantial garden at all. Fun in the winter!

More details of the foundation. As you can see (and perhaps I should have explained) the building is sited on a bluff sloping down toward the river. The first photo was on the top of the bluff, parallel to the river, and we're moving around the building, and are now turned onto the road the slopes down to the bridge across the river.

This shot shows the brand of window used.

We are now at the back of the building. That giant black shaft with the blue insulation on it is he subject of some speculation, as in why the heck doesn't it have any windows, so as to maximize the view of the river for the whole building?

Another view of the black shaft with blue insulation.

Looking back up the hill. I don't know why they notch the insulation like that. Assuming it is insulation, and not some kinda fake styrofoam construct.

We are now at the back of the building. Notice the cracks in the retaining wall, although, to be fair, it might not be mortared. Already. Above the wall, there is a parking lot. We are looking directly at a second parking lot, which will be entered from the street that slopes down to the river. Fun in winter.

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Well, that's it. If there are more pictures you want, or more detail, please let me know. It would be great if this building were a tremendous success and an asset to the town, but given a lot of givens, I think an attitude of skepticism is fully warranted. Prove me wrong!

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V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

...anything; the framing has already been covered. It's basically a box; pretty hard to screw that up, IMO. As long as the inspector isn't corrupt/bought; it should be okay.
At least it's a credit union and not a fucking bank...

V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

...20 years ago and never looked back. Credit unions (mine) are sublime by comparison...

Submitted by scoff on

From the shape and size of it the blue, windowless area may be an elevator shaft, but that's just conjecture.

The styrofoam "insulation" might be an underlay for tabby or stucco. When I was doing cable TV installation many years ago I came across a number of houses built in this way. It's a flimsy and cheap way to build things, but not unheard of.

The plastic sheeting with the "Tyvek" label is a combination of insulation and moisture barrier.

Submitted by lambert on

Not a lot of oyster shells up here and all the examples are from the South, Also funny how slavery crops up wherever one looks:

The labor-intensive process depended on slave labor to crush and burn the oyster shells to supply lime. They were combined with sand and water in wood forms to hold the shape until the material hardened.

Thinking of Roman feats of engineering, another slave society. One wonders, in general, how the social relation of labor are reflected in architecture and building. Petroleum infused with air is used for insulation to prevent the use of petroleum, petroleum-based windows are used to prevent the use of petroleum, etc.

Submitted by hipparchia on

we do oyster-shell everything down here (replaces gravel, generally), or used to.

on society and architecture, besides moving into the modern age of building materials, we're also killing off our oyster beds with various pollutants, so there's kind of no-going-back even if the labor were to become plentiful.

Submitted by hipparchia on

probably not much, in the long run.

they can help dissipate wave energy, so they do protect shorelines from erosion somewhat, but shoreline erosion is going to be only a tiny part of the problems that sea level rise is going to cause.