Exterior Conditions Investigation at the Fire Island Lighthouse

The week of October 5, 2015 was a busy one at the Fire Island Lighthouse on the Great South Bay of Long Island, NY.  In addition to several 4th grade school groups climbing the 192 steps to reach the top of the lighthouse each day, a team of consultants working with the National Park Service and Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society were on site to perform an investigation of the exterior. The team led by John G. Waite Associates, Architects with Old Structures, Atkinson-Noland & Associates, and Vertical Access was tasked with assessing the exterior concrete coating of the lighthouse.

The current Fire Island Lighthouse was built in 1858 to replace an 1826 lighthouse on a nearby site. At 168 feet in height, it was twice as tall as the previous structure, and its Fresnel light was visible for at least 21 miles. The lighthouse is circular in plan, with load-bearing brick walls tapering from about 11 feet thick at the base to about 2 1/2 feet near the top. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1974 and management of the structure was transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard to the National Park Service in 1979 when it became part of Fire Island National Seashore. A major restoration in 1985 removed and replaced the exterior concrete coating over the structural brick. The lighthouse is operated by the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society.

As part of the field work performed over three days under perfect weather conditions, Vertical Access performed a hands-on investigation of the exterior of the lighthouse, documenting the conditions and sounding the concrete coating with acrylic mallets to help in the assessment of its condition. During the site work, team members from the National Park Service and JGWA participated in a live-feed video discussion with Vertical Access. While Vertical Access partner Kelly Streeter, P.E. performed a drop from the balcony level of the lighthouse to the ground, the rest of the participants could view on a nearby monitor the conditions as Kelly described them and ask questions to facilitate an understanding of the observations.

Fire Island Thermography01

Infrared thermographic images were used to identify moisture and underlying metal elements.

As part of the investigation, VA also took core samples for testing by others, performed borescope probes to better understand the condition of the concrete coating as well as the underlying brick masonry, and took infrared thermographic images to identify moisture and underlying metal elements. During the same week, Shan Wo of Atkinson-Noland was on site performing ground penetrating radar (GPR) and other instrumental investigations as part of the non-destructive evaluation of the lighthouse. VA assisted ANA with full-height GPR scans at the exterior of the lighthouse. The information collected on site by Vertical Access and others is now being analyzed by the project team as part of the assessment of the Fire Island Lighthouse.

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Vertical Access Top 10 of 2010: Project 10 – Popolopen Creek Bridge, Fort Montgomery, NY

Now that spring has arrived and flowers are starting to bloom in upstate New York, we can look back at one of our interesting winter jobs with some fondness. On the last three days of 2010, Vertical Access technicians Mike Gilbert, Keith Luscinski and Evan Kopelson found themselves working below the Route 9W bridge over the Popolopen Creek, a tributary to the Hudson River near Fort Montgomery, NY.

Poplopen Creek Bridge from north

The bridge is a steel truss bridge supported by concrete piers and abutments, built in 1915 and widened in 1935. VA was retained by WSP Sells to take core samples from three faces of the 1915 portion of the concrete pier at the north end of the bridge. As part of the sampling, VA also performed in situ carbonation testing. Following removal of the samples, VA packed the openings at the sample locations with non-shrink grout.

Working on the bridge in the middle of winter posed several logistical challenges. Two days before work was scheduled to start, a storm left 12 inches of snow in the Fort Montgomery area, one of a string of snow events that passed through the northeast last winter. Although the road deck had been plowed the day before site work started, the sidewalk on the east side of the bridge had not. We had planned on using the sidewalk area for staging, and needed to cart a generator, rigging gear, the coring tools and other equipment 100 yards down the sidewalk to get it into and out of place each day. Heroically, Keith spent the evening before the coring work started shoveling the sidewalk to clear a path to the staging area.

North Pier of the Popolopen Creek Bridge

Another challenge was working with a water-fed coring drill in temperatures that fell below freezing each night. Two fifty-five gallon containers were rolled along the bridge sidewalk each day and hoses were lowered from the barrels to the coring drill. To prevent water from freezing in the hoses, nozzles and fittings, this equipment was brought into the hotel room at the end of each day.

Keith core drilling at the north pier of the Popolopen Creek Bridge

Although the weather and site conditions seemed daunting at first, the days became warmer and the coring work progressed over the three days. Finishing up as dusk settled into the Hudson River Valley, we were able to get back to Ithaca before the turn of the new year, and Keith was able to celebrate the last few hours of his birthday at home.

Sunrise over the Hudson River

Read about Project 1: Union Theological Seminary Brown Tower
Read about Project 2: University of Buffalo Alumni Arena
Read about Project 3: United States Capitol Dome
Read about Project 4: Boston College Burns Library Tower
Read about Project 5: Mayo Clinic Gonda Building
Read about Project 6: Convent of the Sacred Heart School
Read about Project 7: The Galleria
Read about Project 8: Milwaukee Federal Building
Read about Project 9: Toronto Union Station