Friday, December 4, 2009

South Lawn Follies - tales of sloth and ignorance Vol 1 - The Green Roof

Over the eighteen months spent on the UVa South Lawn project many things became apparent, others not so much. That the project is terminally FUBAR became most apparent. Whether the culprit is sloth or ignorance is yet to be determined. One should not entirely rule out malicious intent. Perhaps recognizing the deleterious state of the economy a fore thinking superintendent or architect designed the project to be a disgusting failure with the intention of redoing it all again in a few years - a job security detail drawn on a 100 million dollar scale. That would require a certain genius, thus let's focus on the sloth and ignorance as the guiding principles.

Where to begin.... a bird's ass view of the project immediately recognizes the omnipresent 2000 era architectural detail - The Green Roof. Greening campuses has become a national trend and college ranking metric; the South Lawn Project proudly boasts green roofs on both of its main buildings.

Green roofs are a challenge, not to be entered upon by amateurs. Rouss Hall's recent green roof addition has been leaking since the day it opened.* Several years ago. It's not that it cannot be done. Gently put most architects around here are not builders and across the board they have a poor concept of what works in the lovely place we share called reality.

Indeed, as pencil pushers it seems they have a distant concept of manual labor, or how else do they envision maintaining these poorly hung gardens in Babylon? Access to these soon to be brown scourges is only possible through an approximately 24"x 24" hatch up a 12 foot vertical ladder. I know and have worked beside dozens of gardeners who work at UVa. Across the board they are exceptionally talented and hardworking - maintaining the lovely folly gardens surrounding the UVa Lawn - a national monument and international heritage site. Asking them to haul their tools up a ladder, through a tiny hatch, and on to a "Green Area" 50 feet in the air with no guard rails is probably illegal. At the very least it's ignorant.

So for Volume 1 on South Lawn we'll put a point up for ignorance. From an architectural firm that goes by Moore Ruble.... too many puns to start with... is it really "More rubble?" would a few "More Rubles" have bought a better plan? Jeezy Peezy, who would ever name themselves that??? Who would hire them??? Barton Malow must be somewhere in the mix... I mean, they're the one's who claim to be building and polishing this turd.... ultimately full credit goes to UVa Facilities Management... a team of "management" bobo's like few others on grounds, and by management I presume golf-clubbing, good-ole-boy schmucking, secretary doing all the work kind of "managers...."

I wonder whether Princeton Review requires green space to be green, or if brown is "the new green." Frankly this whole area (with the possible exception of the Albemarle County building, where a verdant green roof does appear to exist) suffers from suck style development, especially the farcical brown-green roof on our Charlottesville city hall... ask anyone with a top level view... the only thing green about it is the dineros spent making it into the suck that it is.

Above - the Albemarle County building green roof... rumored to still be green...

Above - the Charlottesville City Hall roof.... known to be almost entirely brown now...

*note on the link it says "completed," by which they must mean "We gave it the old college try, now time for a fundraiser to fix our preliminary fuckups" - perhaps that's why their "gallery section" is simply a picture with a brownish greenish mess on top.... Nice work Barnes Vanze

Monday, November 30, 2009

the sauna follies - cob oven, sauna, and aspiring hot tub part 1

About three weeks in - chicken wire frame and UVa-Real Tree Camo Busch Beer boxes showing... (someone over there at Busch Beer is a genius) photo courtesy Trevor Cox

about a week later having been fired a few times, Busch boxes gone, now need to coat it in a more lasting concrete + sand mixture + do some decorations

About a month ago my backyard blazing habits caught the attention of the local po-po... with genuine courtesy they asked that large (ok, yeah, 20' plus) flames not be created in the city.

Fair enough... it had been a nice run...

About six months prior Prof. Bill Bennett at UVa loaned me a Bread Oven book and a DVD by Andre Rublev. Before reading these books I thought that cob was some hippie's idea of building with corn on the cob... well anyhow... it isn't, it's a many thousands year old technique, and it rocks.

To begin with I raided some old construction dumpsters and hauled some short rebar sticks. Welded up a frame and began wrapping it in chicken wire. Around the chicken wire old beer boxes covered the wire to keep the cob from falling in. The oven measures about 10' wide x 5' deep x 5' tall from the outside, and the inner cave is more like 8' wide x 4' deep x 4' tall...

With the help of Lee French - in town for the weekend, and $19.95 - 1,000 lbs of sand made its way from Allied Concrete to the back yard and the mixing began. Mixing with the clay, and leaves from the yard plus some water, the form of the oven began to emerge. It took about two weeks of slow building plus another 500 lbs of sand (thanks Tim Hazelwood) and then another 500 lbs (thanks Hunter Cridlin) to finish the roughed up structure.**

On average I mixed ~100 lbs of sand + ~100 lbs of clay + a 55 gallon trash can full of leaves at a time on a nice blue tarp. Each batch took ~30 minutes to fully mix and stack on the oven. The walls are on average 6-8" thick, although they get much thicker in some places. Towards the end glass bottles were inserted into the structure to keep the cob from falling off, and to add some extra funkiness.

Over the sessions a sense of mixing readiness emerged... use of straw in the final several batches seemed nice, although not necessarily an improvement over the leaves. More sand than clay might have been better too... all said and done the mixture stacked up fine.

As Mike Kippers at Gaston and Wyatt noted, it's best to burn these slow at first.... I've been lighting fires now for about a week, usually slow and small... meant to get the oven up to temperature and slow baking.... The oven has now received about 40 hours of flame, and it's beginning to harden on the outside.... the inside had a few cave ins where the leave hadn't mixed sufficiently - a few lost inches here and there, otherwise looking nice... last nights flames were still felt on the outside wall this morning... hopefully in another few weeks the whole thing'll bake solid.

**NB - for reasons the author in no way understands always buy 1,000 lbs from Allied at a time. It costs less. 500 lbs'll set you back $26.95, and 1,000 lbs is $19.95... Thanks to Andy at Allied for helping me with this...

next up... the sauna....

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hard as Steel - Buckner Steel on the job at UVa's South Lawn

Although there may be some trouble underfoot at UVa's South Lawn project, there is a glint of hope above ground courtesy of the awesome work of Buckner Steel. These are some badass boys - watching steel go up overnight is no joke. One of the most monumental tasks of the entire project - the laying of the bridge over JPA without ever closing traffic is a fine example of modern construction. Mandated to have no shutdowns on the road between the two sides of the South Lawn - one of the busiest corridors of Charlottesville.

Not surprisingly the crews are almost entirely Hispanic. In this case, however, it is worth noting that their treatment reflected the difficulty of their work. Mr. Lewis - their foreman - paid them very decent wages - most of the fellas were making 40-50K per year, and their perfect safety record on the job earned every crew a "topping off" party complete with a pine tree hoisted on the roof.

Steel work is some of the most dangerous and physically challenging work along with masonry. Highly specialized as well, this crew drove in from North Carolina every week to work, returning to their families on the weekends. Something that would be very helpful, if anyone has suggestions, is a way for these week long residents to integrate in to the community more than hitting the bars.... already outsiders linguistically and culturally it might be nice to see some cultural center for immigrant workers....

For the locals reading this - Zach Buckner, founder of the most lifestyle changing website lives here in town. His grandfather started the company, and also helped start Zach on a life of engineering challenges. Rock on Buckners :)

Something fun I've noticed in connection to this site - given the readership I'm now connecting keywords from any company mentioned in here. As much fun as it is beating those bobo's at Faulconer it is even more fun working to prop the guys at Buckner.

To see the Buckner boys at work check this video...  sums it up nicely

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Soil compaction. plate tampers, rammax machines, and jumping jacks

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.*

Once the holes have been dug up it's backfilling time. Backfilling is no mean art as evidenced by the high dollar radioactive testing equipment used to test the density, moisture, and a host of other factors. soil tester

What's going on top of your backfill determines the degree of compaction required - areas with buildings over top may require 96% compaction, whereas landscaping areas may be in the 80-85% range. Across the board 3-7% moisture is usually acceptable... with particularly dry dirt water may be required, and after a heavy rain it may be necessary to wait a while.

There are many tools in the trade, today we're going to briefly review the three most commonly used for small and medium scale work - the plate tamper, the jumping jack, the rammax.

Plate tampers are awesome. For making temporary sidewalks, working around hills and obstacles. Safe and simple to use for applications requiring 3-5 inches of compaction nothing is better. Most tampers have a water tank attached that serves to moisten the ground beneath and achieve better compaction, especially useful with rock dust used in temporary walkways and such.

When your backfill is less homogeneous and you are adding dirt 8"-12" at a time in a small or sensitive area the plate tamper is no longer sufficient, and a jumping jack is a better choice. The video link goes to the Wacker tamper - and well maintained they are some of my favorite machines in the field. Bomag also makes a great machine. Ultimately keeping the oil levels, fuel mixtures, and air filters correct should keep any of these machines running for years.

The last compactor for this post is my personal favorite, the Rammax. Like xerox the Rammax is a brand of drum roller... and across the board these diesel machines are the workhorses of backfilling. Many of them now come with remote controls - this is essential for backfilling deep trenches where human safety is a concern. A modern Rammax may compact soil up to 30" deep, although in practice lifts of 8"-12" are recommended. Although remarkably simple to use these machines are extremely top heavy and prone to rolling over. For steep hills jumping jacks are often required.

Soil compaction and backfilling is one of the most important and time-consuming part of underground utility work. It is often a management headache because of the dangers associated with trenches, however with proper testing the backfill should remain steadfast for years to come.


*For anyone keeping score this site is the good, the bad, and yes.... the very ugly of construction. As most of the libel and slanderous speech has dropped and now that Faulconer Construction has sent me the majority of the $$'s that they owe me (except that check for ~$300 from the first week of work that they seem to want to hold on to... all in good time, fellas) I'm excited to get back to informative postings rather than dogging Faulconer. Oh yeah, and lay off Ole Fitz. He may be a jackass, however he's a lovable jackass and one of the best Superintendents Faulconer has.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fair and Balanced...'cause it does get worse

Picking on Faulconer is not entirely fair. Meeting dozens of men who have worked for some of the other pipe companies in the area it is probably fair to say that Faulconer actually better than many in regards to safety. This is dismal news.

On several occasions new hirees said stuff like "Ya'll use trench boxes?" or "What are those things?" when speaking of shoring jacks.

Basic trench safety left unchecked leaves the worker unsafe. It's business as usual with these guys - cut every corner, weasel your way out of legal stuff, and screw anyone to make a buck.

One fella recalled being lowered 25' into a trench holding on to a knotted rope attached to a trackhoe bucket because no one had a ladder handy.

So what is it that keeps these folks in line? Experience shows it requires a well informed and active management process... Barton Malow and Faulconer have worked together for several dozen years, and know eachother's tricks pretty well. The level of supervision and resulting quality of work on the South Lawn project dwarfed the epic fiascos of CAS and ITE buildings overseen by WM Jordan. Is WM Jordan less of a management company? Perhaps, although my suspcision is that they are simply not used to dealing with the likes of Faulconer, and were essentially railed.

At the end of the day full responsibility should land squarely on the shoulders of UVa's Facility Management - headed by Charles "Sack" Johannesmeyer, right? And where have they been? If I had one beer for every insight received from the "engineers" at UVa I would be a very sober young man. I have NEVER met an engineer from UVa with ANY experience in the field - much less interest. While many of their technicians and labor people are exceptional, my experience around the management was battle between arrogance, ignorance, and a general bearuocratic malaise. These loser birds are much of a feather.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Guest Constructors - welcome to the new Great Escape

Several folks have asked about contributing to this site - seems a lot of workers in the area are sick of the sickness, however they can't afford to lose their job over the BS.

So to anyone wanting to anonymously add photos or videos from their cell phones send me a note here along with your phone number - then with the push of a button you may help keep these crooks in line. Folks like Faulconer Construction are not going to listen to any one of us, however with their massive egos and wallets on the line they may listen to all of us.

To all of you still in the trenches - go check out The Great Escape - it's got Steve McQueen, and a badass young Charles Bronson - every minute of the film is amazing, and the tunneling they did... well... when it's life or death you gitter done. Compare that to risking your life for the commodes of some bratty puds at UVa and that's about the size of it...

Oh yeah, and there's a new group here on facebook for cleaning up the whole mess also known as UVa construction.... feel free to join up!

Friday, August 28, 2009

remember the good times we had

Well it has been an exciting couple of weeks here at Famines Follies, and thank you to everyone for getting this site up on the net - #3 in google with "Faulconer Construction" - Also thank you to the EPA and OSHA - both agencies independently contacted me and are on the case.

The REALLY good news is that Faulconer is now starting to take credible action (rather than trying to discredit this site as a terrorist effort) by taking all of their foremen and superintendents to trench safety courses... of course that probably should have been done to begin with.... whatever...

So on a lighter note for the weekend - let's remember all the good times - here's a photo gallery of some friends rocking recycled* aluminum jewelry we made from worksite scraps.

Speaking of recycling - South Lawn is a LEEDS compliant work, and Barton Malow has done an awesome job of making it that way (with all due credit to Smitty at Prestige for his amazing talent...)

Sir Mike Rockin' an awesome recycled aluminum armband like only a real rock star can - gitter done dude! Click on photo to see the gallery.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Faulconer Construction, UVa, W. M. Jordan - Ship of Fools?

Of the roughest days on the job perhaps the most brutal came courtesy of an engineer. As many of you perceive there was some real shady work going on. Honestly as messed up as it is at the end of the day any craft or tradesman wants to believe that they've done something helpful. Even if the sum of some days meant that chemistry students would have a potty to poo in - well, at least it's not in the street. This is my home, and my neighborhood, and I would rather see it go down a magical ferry ride to poo paradise where it may be meet its brethren.

So after digging 150 under four steam tunnels (yeah, the poorly shielded ones), experiencing several collapses, and watching gallons of raw sewage flood what is essentially my back yard, there was still that sparkle of redemption.... it was finished, and it needed to be done, and it wasn't perfect, but.... well whatever.

Along shows this engineer, and I just had to ask him - "Why did we have to replace the existing line, and install a new one 2/10's of an inch lower?"

To which he replied "Because that old terra cotta line really needed to be upgraded."

To which my colleague and I winced "WTF!!! Are you kidding?!?! That was a ductile iron line we just replaced with cheap PVC!?!" NB: for those tender readers not versed - ductile iron is a heck of a lot stronger than PVC plastic.

To which he replied "Oh."

So in other words that entire exercise could have been prevented had anyone just looked in the man hole to see what was there. Several $$$$$$ thousand+ with lives risked and it was entirely pointless. The complete and utter lack of effort on the part of everyone involved is astonishing. Facilities Management at UVa, could have poked there heads in there, someone at WM Jordan might have wondered about lowering a line that little, and anyone at Faulconer could have stepped up... c'est le pee - ship of fools for real.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

to whom it may concern - this is not a terrorist website.

whoever is running around the South Lawn project spreading libel and slander bs that this is some a terrorist website - one thing to say - cut the crap. Word is out and that is a serious accusation that no one around here takes lightly. To whoever is behind this... an additional Admiral's Response to you. anyone with information regarding this rumor is encouraged to step forward.

oh yeah, and google "faulconer construction" this site is now at number 8 and 9 3... get some kids, you've been pwned.

Trench safety techniques a la Faulconer Construction

The dangers in this photograph may not immediately be apparent. This is the view from around 11:00AM after we escaped two z-forms collapsing in our ditch. Actually it was a collapse of dirt that fell from beneath the sidewalk that knocked over the 24' steel z-forms. Anyhow...

Credit where it's due - our good fortune owes to the quick reflexes of the track-hoe operator, whose bucket crashed through the ladder in place to block the falling steel forms.

Here's the video from 8:30 that morning (and yes, those are folks working in an unshored tunnel under the steam tunnel...) where the forms are all "in place."

Look forward to an update on this - I don't have a copy of the International Building Code that gives actual numbers for setting z-forms (those long narrow steel plates) however the rule of thumb we were told was approximately one foot in the ground for every two feet above it... These are 24' forms in a 21-22' ditch and in many places the forms are sticking out ABOVE the trenchline.....

Setting z-forms may be a difficult process, and occasionally requires additional machinery. Moreover it is not uncommon to lose pieces of steel into the ground - retrieval being near-impossible. I guess the good news is that no z-forms were lost in this dig...

The other puzzler to me is that here after the collapse we now have a completely undermined sidewalk for a span of fifteen feet.... I guess it's like they say "watch for cracks in the sidewalk..." Had any of that fallen into the ditch there is no question that it would have demolished what little shoring was there.

Additional credits - Faulconer Construction on the ditch, WM Jordan general contractor, and Dear ole' UVa is to thank for bringing them together to build the CAS building.... maybe tomorrow we'll talk about how absolutely unnecessary this entire ditch line was to begin with (and how grossly incompetent the engineers were)... another story for another day...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Randy dies on the South Lawn project - hope ya'll like the Air Conditioning

Hope you Politics and Religious studies majors enjoy the air conditioning. A decent man died for it. Randy got crushed between a track hoe and a concrete barrier working for your air conditioning. While going from a size 50 to size 15 did not kill him on the spot, six weeks later he was six feet under. Insurance reports claim that the death was unrelated to the accident so... you guessed it - to my knowledge his family never got so much as a nickle from Faulconer Construction.

Fuck'ner construction strikes again. And there is the blood on your hands, UVa.

Faulconer construction, destruction, whatever.

With due respect I bestow upon you all the Admiral Pennington Response*:

"Fuck you. Strong words to follow."

*The Admiral was a fixture of Lexington, Virginia for many years. When irritable he would promptly drop a letter in the mail with what became known as the Admiral's Response. The Response is used to this day in some circles as one of the most delightful, direct, elegant, and efficient responses available in the English vernacular.

the company Faulconer Construction keeps?

You've got to be careful quoting Ronald Reagan, because when you quote him accurately it's called mudslinging.-- Walter Mondale

In a break from the field let's take it up the ladder a notch and rap about Faulconer Construction's management team... To call it exceptional is to denigrate the term. Truly these are the few, the arrogant, the bar lowered to the level of the sewer.

The first real lightbulb moment with Faulconer came the day I received a notice in my mail. In summary it alerted me that a percentage of my wages were to be deposited into a Faulconer account and that it was my responsibility to OPT OUT of the program. Furthermore at the end of a specified period unused money might become property of Faulconer.

More than a bit shocked I returned the notice signed opting out - asking what type of dumpkopf would propose such idiocy. To my horror many men fall prey to this ploy.

The inverse of a 401k matching - it's finance Faulconer style, and yueah, it's a dying horse, but it ain't dead enough so it bears repeating - "Faulconer Construction = Fuckn'er Construction".

Friday, August 21, 2009

It's the Faulconer Construction way for Dear ole UVa

Well it has been a fun and exciting week, and I personally thank all of you for your visits... all 170 250+ of you that have visited in the last three days - it's very encouraging.

!!! #1 and #2 in Google with "faulconer construction osha" and "faulconer construction epa" !!!

So for Friday and in keeping with OSHA, EPA, OSHA EPA.... today we'll look at another EPA violation.

Whether it is sloth or stupidity may never be known... however when removing sewer pumps the excess fluids DO NOT BELONG IN THE STORM TUNNELS!!!!
The correct way to remove sewer lines often requires a track hoe to lift the pump and the connected tubing to thus drain it before it spills into our rivers and streams.... However if no one from UVa's facilities management is watching it's a lot simpler to just disconnect the thing and let the caca strew about the streets and in to Charlottesville's Rivanna.

Also in the news - have had several inquiries from 3rd parties - if you have anything to say feel free to mouth off on the blog or email me - Got some great photos you want posted? Send them along :)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

camping in trenches

Technically camping in trenches is hardly a crime. after digging through terrain with picks and shovels it may be the only sensible thing to do. Sometimes, however, it's probably not a great idea. Especially when the bossman doesn't feel like running to Lowes to pick up some extra 6x6's for shoring.

Probably something I should have done a long time ago - figure out what the legal requirements for shoring are...

More on that later.... here from the trenches for your viewing pleasure - my favorite unshielded or poorly shielded trenches....

First up we have two pieces of shoring set up on an 8' long trench set 23' in the ground. This tunnel, as the ones to follow, were carved under steam tunnels.
But really, that's awesome compared to this pretty picture... absolutely no shielding whatsoever and a man in the tunnel... (yeah, folks - 20+ feet in the ground, no shielding, no safety, nothing....) And now thanks to the OSHA website and code 1926.800(o)(1) it is no doubt..... there's no shoring above the entrance (unless you count an existing water line) = violation #1.
And while we're at it...
Shafts and wells over 5 feet (1.53 m) in depth that employees must enter shall be supported by a steel casing, concrete pipe, timber, solid rock or other suitable material.....

And lastly, this is how it SHOULD look.... see all the pretty 6x6s in a row? See all the twox4's holding them in place? WTF - well the other guys probably saved an extra hundred or two hundred dollars on the lumber and perhaps an hour or two of work.... I'm still not certain whether it is sloth or incompetence that breeds these errors.... hard to say.... and here in Charlottesville no less on the Grounds of the University of Virginia...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Massive EPA + OSHA violations at Faulconer Construction and UVa in Charlottesville

I'm still looking for the code on the EPA There's a great website where it explains in common legal terms what anyone should know anyway.... spilling thousands of gallons of raw sewage into the ground is NOT COOL. It is also NOT COOL to work in a ditch line that is filled with caca water... although the level went down before we got in there look at homeboy's pants legs to see where it got up to.... up to your ankles in caca ain't no jive kids.... and yes, it's just flowing right on down into the ground...

Great thanks to Ms. Degen at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for turning me on to the Legislative Information System website - what a resource!

To get to the meat of the matter go to "Code of Virginia - statutory law" -> "Table of Contents" -> "Title 62.1 WATERS OF THE STATE, PORTS AND HARBORS." -> "Chapter 3.1 State Water Control Law" -> "62.1-44.5 Prohibition of waste discharges or other quality alterations of state waters except as authorized"

Perhaps I am mistaken, however I do not recall anyone asking about dumping a couple thousand gallons of raw chemical sewage into that ditch, then again, perhaps I'm just a dumb construction worker and they did get permission...

That's enough for today, tomorrow we'll get in to Virginia Administrative Codes including my new favorite "9VAC25-790-360. Water quality and public health and welfare protection"