Vertical Access Documents Toronto’s Heritage

In the heart of the Toronto financial district is 1 King Street West, a hotel and residential tower that exemplifies both Toronto’s architectural heritage as well as the city’s more recent building boom.  The current building on the eastern portion of the site was built in 1914 as the headquarters of The Dominion Bank.  The 14-story masonry building has a granite base and terra cotta at the upper floors, with neo-classical ornament fitting for a bank building of the period.  In 2005, a 51-story residential tower was appended to the historic building, making it one of the tallest residential buildings in Toronto.


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Vertical Access presents at International Facility Management Association Facility Fusion 2011

Vertical Access Technicians inspecting the tower of Gasson Hall in 2006.

At the end March, Vertical Access partner Evan Kopelson was a co-presenter at the International Facility Management Association’s (IFMA) Facility Fusion conference with Wendall Kalsow of McGinley Kalsow & Associates and Ivan Myjer of Building and Monument Conservation.  The three presenters discussed the team’s systematic approach to Architectural Preservation at the Boston College Campus, focusing on the restoration of the school’s main building, Gasson Hall. The team has worked together on the investigation of five buildings at Boston College, beginning with Gasson Hall in 2006 and continuing with Bapst and Burns Library, St. Mary’s Hall, Devlin Hall and Lyons Hall. With the investigation of each of these buildings, Vertical Access’ role has been to gain hands-on access to all areas of the buildings and perform unit-by-unit documentation of existing conditions using TPAS. The data collected by VA was then evaluated by McGinley Kalsow and Ivan Myjer to prepare treatment recommendations and assist Boston College with prioritizing future capital repair projects.

Mike Gilbert inspecting masonry conditions at St. Mary's Hall in 2007

IFMA is a member-based organization comprised of facility managers and professionals who provide services to them. The Facility Fusion 2011 conference in Boston included three days of presentations, inspiring keynote and power lectures and an exhibition area with product and service vendors.

You can view and download a  pdf of the presentation here: IFMA presentation 8.06 021811

Vertical Access Top 10 of 2010: Project 8 – Milwaukee Federal Building, Milwaukee, WI

Quinn Evans working on aerial platform at Milwaukee Federal Building

In October 2010, Vertical Access performed a hands-on investigation of the tower of the Milwaukee Federal Building to identify potentially unsafe conditions and document existing conditions at the granite exterior using TPAS. VA used industrial rope access techniques to perform its investigation of the tower of the building, while Quinn Evans Architects used an aerial platform to access the lower portion of the building. This project was of particular interest for Vertical Access because it was the third federal courthouse and post office building from the late 19th century that we have worked on in recent years, after Brooklyn Post Office and Courthouse and Erie Community College, which was originally built as the main post office for Buffalo, NY.

Mike and friend on the Milwaukee Federal Building tower

The Milwaukee Federal Building was designed as a United States Courthouse and Post Office by Willoughby Edbrooke, who was Supervising Architect for the United States Treasury Department from 1891 to 1892. The original portion of the building was constructed between 1892 and 1899, with an addition added to the south in the 1930s. The lower portion of the original building is five stories tall, with gabled roofs and dormers and large arched openings at the entrance below the tower. The granite at the tower and other portions of the building is purportedly from quarries near Mount Waldo in Frankfort County, Maine. These quarries produce a coarse-grained, medium gray granite and also furnished stone used in the construction of the main post office in Cleveland, Ohio and the United States Mint in Philadelphia. The 210-foot tall tower rises from the center of the north façade. Like the rest of the building, the ornament of the tower reflects the Richardson Romanesque style of the original design.

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

Register for Free TPAS Webinar April 11 at 12:00 EST – Open to All

Registration is open for the next TPAS University free webinar on Monday, April 11 at 12:00 noon EST.

Vertical Access has developed increasingly sophisticated methods of collecting digital survey data directly in the field during building investigations.  The Tablet PC Annotation System – TPAS – allows for direct digital annotation of building conditions into AutoCAD drawings.

We’ve seen a leap of growth in the software updates in the last 6 months leading up to this new release and are excited to share the new features with you.  This next release will allow for on-the-fly changes to notation specifications, check lists, radio buttons and drop down menus. Most importantly, we have completely revamped the code so that end users can easily create their own block libraries, with no support. Mike Gilbert, the TPAS technical manager,  will provide a step-by-step live demonstration. Licenses for the software are available, please contact Kelly Streeter for more information about the options and benefits of licensing.

This  TPAS University webinar is free and open to all! Our current licensees in attendance will be able to take the floor to ask Mike questions.  So if you have been on the fence for a while, come and listen in to see TPAS in action and find out where it is headed next!

Some of the changes that Mike thinks our users will be the most excited about:

  1. standard TPAS block libraries simplified: e.g. for masonry materials 12 blocks instead of 60
  2. you can easily set up your own input forms with user-friendly dialog boxes
  3. your custom block libraries can now handle length and area calculations automatically



Vertical Access Top 10 of 2010: Project 5 – Mayo Clinic Gonda Building, Rochester, MN

Mike Gilbert investigating the curtain wall of the Gonda Building

At the end of June and early July, Vertical Access technicians Mike Gilbert and Evan Kopelson were in Rochester, MN working with Minneapolis-based Buildings Consulting Group, Inc. on the facade inspection of the Gonda Building. The Leslie and Susan Gonda Building, constructed in 2000 and 2001, is situated at the center of the Mayo Clinic campus in downtown Rochester. Viewed from the exterior, the building consists of two distinct sections, each 21 stories tall. The northern section has a curtain wall system with granite spandrel and column panels. Stainless steel covers with round and square profiles are used to cover the joints between panels and at the window surrounds. A stone-clad elevator bank rises to 22 stories on the north side of the building. There is also a seven-story skyway that connects the north side of the building to another Mayo Clinic building across the street. The southern portion of the building, which has only east and west façades, has an undulating curtain wall system consisting entirely of glass panels. Painted aluminum covers with a round profile are used at the vertical joints of the glass curtain wall and painted aluminum covers with a square profile are used at the horizontal joints. The design team for the original construction was led by Ellerbe Becket and included Cesar Pelli & Associates. Centex Rodgers Construction was the general contractor for the project.

Evan Kopelson documenting conditions at the skyway of the Gonda Building

The primary focus of VA’s partial façade investigation was to identify any conditions of immediate safety concern and document conditions of deterioration for planning of maintenance and capital planning projects. A total of 32 inspection “drops” were performed, including the two swing stage drops, allowing hands-on access to cover approximately 50% of each façade. The drop locations included areas on all façades of the building, including the skyway that connecting the Gonda Building to the Charlton Building across the street. As part of the partial façade investigation, the location, severity and quantity of conditions such as loose curtain wall cover pieces, failed gaskets at the covers and windows and cracks and spalls in the stone panels were recorded on elevation drawings using Vertical Access’ Tablet PC Annotation System (TPAS). Deliverables for the project included a condition survey report with photographs, annotated AutoCAD drawings and a spreadsheet of condition quantities. The Mayo Clinic, in commissioning the hands-on investigation of their building that was just 10 years old, demonstrated a proactive approach to facility management.

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

Vertical Access’ Top Ten of 2010: Project 3 – United States Capitol Dome

Lantern of the United States Capitol Dome

In May 2010, Vertical Access documented the existing condition of all of the cast iron ornament and panels at the exterior of the United States Capitol dome. As with a similar investigation of the cast iron ornament that VA did in 2007, VA performed the work for the Architect of the Capitol, which is managing a phased rehabilitation of the dome. Hoffmann Architects is the associate architect for the rehabilitation project. One of the challenges of working on the dome was dealing with the 50 plus mile per hour gusts of wind. Fortunately, Vertical Access technicians were able to work on the leeward side of the dome for part of the investigation. In the end, the wind conditions grounded the VA crew for a half-day over the four days of site work.

Kelly Streeter using TPAS at the United States Capitol Dome

For the recent survey of the cast iron dome, VA customized TPAS to include drop down menus with fields for each type of cast iron element and longitudinal and latitudinal location on the dome. The customized TPAS blocks automated the process of naming photographs with building location and element identification information. The customized TPAS blocks also included information about the conditions documented in 2007 so that changes from the previous survey could be evaluated.

Read about Project 1: Union Theological Seminary Brown Tower
Read about Project 2: University of Buffalo Alumni Arena

Vertical Access’ Top 10 of 2010: Project 2 – University of Buffalo Alumni Arena

The second project Vertical Access completed in 2010 and would like to highlight is the exterior investigation of Alumni Arena on the north campus of the University of Buffalo. VA performed the work for DiDonato Associates in April, focusing on the exterior masonry walls.

Alumni Arena, also called the Health, Physical Education & Recreation Building, was designed and constructed in two phases. The main field house on the south side of the structure was constructed as part of Phase I in 1982. This portion of the building was designed in 1978 by a project team including architect Robert Traynham Coles and structural engineer Sargent Webster Crenshaw & Folley. Phase II was designed by Robert Traynham Coles with consulting engineer Ammann & Whitney in 1982 and constructed in 1985. The Phase II project comprises the north half of the building and includes pool facilities, ball courts, locker rooms and other physical education spaces. Overall, Alumni Arena is over 500 feet long in the north/south direction and 426 feet wide in the east/west direction, with the highest exterior walls reaching nearly 80 feet at the field house. A distinctive feature of the building is the space frame truss employed in the field house. The general wall construction at both the Phase I and Phase II portions of Alumni Arena consists of concrete masonry unit (CMU) back-up separated from the face-brick by an air cavity.

Vertical Access used a combination of aerial platforms and industrial rope access to perform the hands-on investigation of Alumni Arena. As part of the investigation, VA used a wall tie locator to map out the location of wall ties at representative areas. VA documented existing conditions using TPAS. The annotated drawings produced with TPAS helped to identify fault patterns. Quantities collected during the survey with TPAS were used to produce repair budget costs. After analysis of the initial survey data, VA performed additional investigative work using borescopes. The purpose of the borescope investigation was to confirm the presence of wall ties and connections between relieving angles to the back-up masonry at representative areas. See video footage from two borescope probes here.


Read about Project 1: Union Theological Seminary Brown Tower.

Vertical Access’ Top 10 of 2010: Project 1 – Union Theological Seminary Brown Tower

As we start 2011, Vertical Access would like to thank our clients with whom we have collaborated by in the past year by highlighting ten projects completed in 2010.

The first project, performed in January 2010, is the Brown Tower at Union Theological Seminary in New York, NY. Union Theological Seminary (UTS) was constructed in 1910 and is comprised of a quadrangle of connected structures. It was designed by Allen & Collens, who later designed nearby Riverside Church, in a Collegiate Gothic style. The Brown Tower rises from the southeast corner of the UTS quadrangle. Like the adjoining buildings of the seminary, the exterior masonry is Manhattan schist with limestone trim and ornament.

Working for the New York office of Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Vertical Access performed a hands-on investigation of the tower’s four facades. Because of concerns about the attachment of cast stone pinnacles at the four corner spires and other projecting elements, hands-on access was critical to perform the investigation. Vertical Access documented existing conditions at the pinnacles and other areas of the exterior masonry using TPAS. Three VA technicians were on site for two days, to complete the work.

Union Theological Seminary Brown Tower, photography by Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.