News and Events - "Technical Papers Library"

Welcome to our newsroom! Here you will find the latest information about our company, projects and people. Browse articles published by our engineers and scientists in national publications and conference proceedings, view our press releases and read through news coverage of Terracon.

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Making a Splash! There's more to aquatic facilities than just water

Swimming pool constructionWhen you think of swimming pool design, the first image that might come to mind could be a large pool of crystal clear water. Before putting the first shovel in the ground or upgrading an older center, many factors need to be addressed for these unique aquatic facilities. The programming, planning, and rehabilitation of aquatic facilities for both recreational and competitive use include collaborating with clients, the design team, and even end users to create a plan that enhances and optimizes their vision and goals.

“For the majority of aquatic facilities, project planning for environmental, facility, geotechnical, and material factors is critical,” says Matt Reynolds, P.E., aquatics department manager for Terracon. “By assisting our clients in evaluating sites and identifying goals and objectives, we create a strategy to design new aquatic facilities or renovate existing aquatic facilities, optimizing end-user benefits.”

The importance of balanced environment

Many existing indoor natatorium facilities have poor air quality and moisture migration that are the result of years of deferred maintenance, ill-advised HVAC adjustments, and failing envelope systems (allowing water intrusion). To better plan for project needs, it is often necessary to conduct environmental studies to determine indoor air quality and assess whether the systems (building enclosure and HVAC) are contributors to the moisture imbalance and result in less than desired performance. These factors must be considered to truly rehabilitate a failing facility. The resultant remediation plan should address all of the systems beyond just the water-related pumps and treatment systems.

As an example, a collaborative effort of our building enclosure and HVAC specialists was required for a higher education project in San Antonio, which included a natatorium and gym with a common wall constructed circa 1990. Initially assessment findings identified a myriad of building issues indicating obvious water intrusion; gaps in mortar joints, debonding of Concrete Masonry Units (CMU), missing weep openings, deteriorated sealant expansion joints, unsealed openings at through-wall penetrations, however, the effort required additional review to address staining and mold growth on exterior walls, efflorescence of exterior split face CMU, corrosion of metallic surfaces in the pool building and fouling of mechanical equipment. A truly multi-disciplined team of professionals with expertise in building enclosure, mechanical and aquatic evaluation, testing, design and commissioning provided the university with recommendations followed by a comprehensive remedial design program to renovate the facility to meet the future needs of the growing higher education campus, restoring it as a showpiece.

Minimizing risk – Movement

Aquatic projects have the potential to pose interesting challenges. A unique one is known as a “floating shell.” This occurs when hydrostatic pressure below the pool floor is so significant that when a pool is empty, it pushes the shell upward, creating large cracks, leaks, and destroying pool piping. Once again, several different disciplines are needed to accurately address the related issues—geotechnical study which provides structural engineers with the best information to minimize foundation design issues while meeting applicable building codes and standards. Additionally, design standards to the pool engineering should be developed by a plumbing engineer to ensure that the system provides hydrostatic relief valves in each main drain sump and a sight sump to allow pool operators to view the in-ground water level with respect to the bottom of the pool prior to any pool draining procedures, thereby avoiding movement of the pool shell.

What it’s made of matters

Swimming pool shell engineering is critical component of the overall aquatic design, not only for slab-on-grade pools, but exposed or elevated shells. As an example, on an indoor natatorium project in Pittsburgh, Pa., Terracon was retained to determine the cause of leaking of a pool shell over occupied space below, that was installed only months prior to the evaluation. A pool shell water tightness test detailed leaks from many locations around the 8-lane by 25-yard competition pool into occupied space below the deck. There were obvious indications of design, installation, and materials quality issues. Concrete remediation recommendations and compatible waterproofing membranes were designed and remedial actions taken such that the tile setting manufacturer warranty was not voided. As a result, a water tight pool shell was restored and 25-year tile warranty was provided for the desired result on this new facility.

Making a splash with an aquatic facility is the easy part. Maintaining the facility performance for the intended use and long-term return on investment requires awareness of a myriad of issues to be addressed during the design and construction of any new facility. In addition, due to the complex nature of these facilities and their operational and often hostile environments related to building components, rehabilitation requires a team of multi-disciplined professionals working together to assess and restore the facility for its intended use. This will continue to challenge the industry as owners look to provide even more complicated and sophisticated aquatic facilities in a variety of building settings.

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Silica Exposure Limits: Changing the Way You Work

Silica is one of the most common, naturally-occurring elements on the planet. It is everywhere and, unfortunately, also known to present serious health hazards to people, especially those working in and around construction sites. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has passed a new silica exposure rule which takes effect June 23, 2016. Companies have one year to meet compliance guidelines, and if you are in the construction industry, this rule will probably change the way you work. Full Story

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Selecting the Construction Materials Consultant with the Systems That are Right for Your Project Needs

At Terracon, we are continually looking for opportunities to provide more value to our clients and improve the way we do business. Hiring and training qualified people to work in construction materials is the most important investment we can make. In addition to having the right people in place, companies must invest in innovative systems that help deliver critical information to clients with speed and efficiency. Terracon’s Seamless Service Delivery approach gives us the ability to do just that. Full Story


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Air Barrier Testing Reveals Cost Reduction Solutions for School System

DSCN5239Ever notice a breeze in older buildings, even when it is not windy? Many buildings are leaking air, which means the owners are losing money. The Charlotte Mecklenburg School System (CMSS), one of the largest in the United States with a $1.3 billion operating budget, decided to take action to identify buildings in the school system that might be exhibiting air leakage. Full Story

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Just Testing or Real Teaming

The article discusses how advances in construction materials engineering testing and using advanced collaboration methods, can help achieve better results.

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Elevated Engineering

Roof top pools and other similar elevated swimming pool structures present a very unique set of considerations that must be thoroughly incorporated in the design and construction of these features. It is common that these elevated pools are constructed inside a concrete vault or on top of a concrete slab. The two-part article discusses the very unique structural loads exerted on these structures and the need to substantially increase the rebar schedules used in construction. The article also discusses the importance of waterproofing the interior of the concrete vault, and installation of a comprehensive drainage system between the vault and the shotcrete swimming pool structure. Several case histories are be presented as examples.  Full Article

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Gridiron Materials Testing: Preparing for Kickoff

Walter KrahlThe Minnesota Vikings have a new fan. Walter Krahl might not be sitting in one of U.S. Bank Stadium’s 65,400 seats next year when the NFL team hosts its season opener, but this Terracon materials inspector has been thinking about the Minnesota Vikings 2016 kickoff every day for more than two years.

Walter worked closely with the stadium’s owner representative, Hammes Company Sports Development Inc., providing structural steel inspections and testing at Alberici’s steel fabrication facility in St. Louis, Hillsdale Fabricators. This specialty fabrication shop, subcontracted by LeJeune Steel Company, created the heavy shape components (AISC) including the massive ridge truss, supporting columns and the thrust blocks installed as part of the stadium foundation system and entrenched in concrete to support the ridge truss. Full Story

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Here’s how to improve environmental health and safety

Don’t blame an employee for an unsafe behavior; instead look at the factors behind the act.

Proactive organizations recognize that adopting a “systems approach” to their environmental, health and safety (EHS) management creates a stronger, more sustainable platform for success. Full Story

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Securing the Facility: Historic Data Center Roof Reconfiguration

Data Center Roof ReconfigurationWhen you’re responsible for housing the data center operations for the Southeast’s largest concentration of telecommunications companies, the words “leaky roof” are likely to cause you more than just a little anxiety. So when a renovation contractor requested that Terracon provide a roofing evaluation and specification to reroof the 10-story, 103-year-old 56 Marietta Street building in downtown Atlanta, it was clear that this project would require special attention. The historic brick hotel built in 1912 is now home to a 160,000-square-foot data center. The U-shaped building has four different levels of roofing which cover approximately 13,000 square feet. The third floor was Terracon’s particular focus and proved to be an unique opportunity for roof consultation.


The project’s challenges began to mount early in the discovery phase. Terracon began by conducting destructive testing which identified that the building actually had two roofing systems – one of which was coal-tar pitch that dated back to the original construction. Coring roof samples then revealed that water had been running under the most recent roof system – a 15-year-old modified bitumen system. A subsequent moisture scan showed the third floor roof to be 100 percent wet. Full Story.

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ASHRAE Level 1 Energy Audit: A Tool for Success