Monday, March 21, 2011


Steel tubes for TPAC support columns were unloaded from a
Boldt Construction truck March 10, and have
since been installed.  (Chapman photo)

-             Main Road, Washington Island, Wisconsin

Washington Island’s Wilson and Carol Trueblood Performing Arts Center, referred to as the “TPAC,” is undergoing repairs at the present time, with a projected completion date of late May, in time for a Memorial Weekend event. 

Remediation is perhaps a much better word than repair to describe the work being done, because collectively this work will remedy, or stop, deterioration of the building from elements over time.  It will also make it a safe and sound structure after the work is completed.  

If you imagine a “repair” as removing a faulty part and replacing it with a new part, as you would with an auto repair, that is not exactly what is being accomplished.   Here at the TPAC the same, essential components will remain more or less in place, but they will be modified, supported, wrapped, better-drained, or in other ways treated so that the final, long term result will guarantee public safety, with a building that will not only be physically sound, but efficient to manage.  This remediation may also serve to greatly improve the outer appearance of the facility.

What are these remediation efforts, then, and why were they deemed necessary in the first place? How will they be accomplished?  Answers to these question will be the topic of this piece.

How we got here

The legal mediation process involving the TPAC, the original architect and original contractors, ended in an agreed upon settlement in October 2010.    Settlement funds were then transferred to an escrow account to be used for structure remediation. The challenge before the TPAC Board moved quickly from the legalities of the mediation process to the remediation/repair process, examining details for solutions that would lead to approvals from the State Department of Commerce, the agency responsible for Wisconsin's public building safety standards. 

A new architect of record, Jendusa Engineering Associates, Inc. of Milwaukee, and a new Owner’s Representative, Terry Patrick of Professional Project Services, also of Milwaukee, were hired.   Patrick had been extremely helpful when hired as a forensic engineer to represent the TPAC during mediation.  

Referring to TPAC safety, Straus said, “This will be one of the more thoroughly inspected structures in Door County.   The State is very interested in this project.” 


There have been misconceptions about the TPAC going back to a time period that preceded the actual closing.  Some of these misconceptions grew from the void of hard information.  Not keeping the public fully informed wasn’t necessarily of the TPAC Board’s choosing, it turns out, but instead a result of the several years of ongoing legal embroilment that required confidentiality.   It can also be said that from the onset, no one knew for certain what the causes or solutions were until experts were called upon,  tests were conducted, and problem sources could be evaluated.  For a time, this list of apparent problems continued to grow, a period of great darkness for both the community and the TPAC Board as pressure increased to resolve the mess.  During this time, and even since, public misconceptions flourished. 

As a way of introducing the problems and their remedial solutions, here are some of those misconceptions:

Misconception #1 -   The TPAC walls were about to crumble due to faulty mortar or lack of re-rod. 

Faulty mortar or lack of steel reinforcement rods are not the case, although it took a while to eliminate elements of this claim. 

According to TPAC Building Committee member John Chapman, at one point the walls were x-rayed to determine placement of steel re-rod in the single-block walls.  The results were positive:  the rebar was where it was supposed to be.  

Then, “prism” samples of intact block and mortar from each wall were cut, bundled, and shipped to an independent lab using state certified methods for testing.

Conclusion:  The mortar between blocks is strong; it met lab strength tests.   

The ability of the mortar to resist water penetration, however, was a slightly different problem. 

Moisture during heavy rains had been observed running down inside TPAC walls, more than could be attributed to condensation.  This mortar deficiency was a problem of a different nature, caused by the lack of a waterproofing additive used in the mortar mix.  Only after attempts to reseal the roof cap joint at the top of the wall proved unnecessary, was leakage determined to occur by means of capillary action, through the mortar joints and not through gaps at the roof line or from other locations.   This elimination process took time to fully determine. 

Knowing then that moisture was finding its way through mortar joints brought suggested solutions such as the application of waterproofing products to the exterior.   But, this type of fix was rejected by the TPAC Board because the product life was relatively short, and it would require re-application every few years.  

The “wrapper system” currently planned for installation was then selected because it was a more permanent solution for waterproofing, and it will boost the R-factor from R-4 to R-24.

The wrapper system will consist of steel “hat-channels” fastened to the building, which creates a ¾” air space.  Then 3” thick, metal-skinned foam panels the height of the building will be stood upright, joined by a tongue-and-groove sealed joint, and clipped and screwed to the hat-channel, a process that Chapman says ought to go as quickly as a crane can set them up.  Chapman also noted that these panels alone are so substantial that some manufacturing structures have used just the composite panels for exterior walls. 

This huge step forward resulted from the close examination of walls which were then found to be sound, but admitted moisture through capillary action.  In the end, a major gain in function and appearance will be achieved. 

Misconception #2But, isn’t the building sinking into the ground?   Can it withstand snow loads and high winds? 

There was great concern for the stability of the TPAC structure, especially the potential for heavy winter snow loads.   That’s why, given the uncertainty, the TPAC Board elected to close the building in the fall of 2009 and cancel future events until the issue could be properly resolved.   This is also why, several weeks later, the State Building Inspector placed the red-tags on the entry doors, forbidding access to persons other than specifically authorized contractor or TPAC representatives. 
It should also be stated that during the investigation of water through the walls, a second major problem that was a major design flaw was discovered as each responsible party reexamined structural design and engineering. 

This design flaw concerned undersized bearing plates that supported the two, deep-webbed steel trusses that divide the chamber roof roughly into thirds.  When these trusses were installed, their ends were set into the block walls and then secured with steel plates that carried the roof loads to footings.  It was the undersized steel plates that were determined to have potential for failure.  These would require remedy prior to State approval for reopening the building to the public. 

For a structure that ought to last a lifetime without need for drastic engineering changes – perhaps 100 years and more - this finding was a major setback.  But, to the credit of the responsible engineering firm, the error was reported as soon as it was discovered, and costs associated with repairs are being picked up by that firm. 

Boldt worker at bottom of excavated foundation,
measuring for installation
of tubular steel column.  (Chapman)

In order to remedy the undersized bearing plates, Oscar J. Boldt workers cut through the thick interior concrete walkways adjacent to the seating area and stage to reach the foundation below. Piers of high-density concrete were poured, tied by heavy steel bars to the foundation, upon which 8” x 8” tubular steel columns were erected.  Those tubular columns were set by Boldt ironworkers during the week ending 3/18 and welded to the trusses, prior to the transfer of partial roof load from walls to foundation.

This shifting of load from walls to steel columns was actually accomplished on this date, March 21, and was witnessed by the State Building Inspector.   With the steel columns in position, jacking screws raised the columns ever-so-slightly, just enough to take pressure from the sidewall fastenings, then shims were placed under the supports.  Later, a non-shrink grout will be poured under each column base to complete that phase of the project.

Detail showing one of four steel tubes
in place prior to being secured.

Below, the support at north side of stage has
been welded to the truss.  (Chapman)

Chapman has been duly impressed with the work done by Boldt, their rapid progress as well as their attention to detail.  Stage curtains were removed prior to the start of foundation work (the curtains will be cleaned, then treated with a fire retardant product);  the tall, red wing curtains were not removed, but were instead wrapped in plastic to keep them from dust;  all cement saw cuts inside the chamber were done using a concrete wet-saw and a vacuum;  seats were wrapped in protective plastic, and before welding and cutting took place, that material was replaced by another spark-retardant covering.   Soil excavated from beneath the floors, piled on tarps, was later backfilled.  Nearby floors were swept and mopped afterwards.  In many respects, according to Chapman, it was a cleaner building than when Boldt had arrived on scene.
Misconception #3 – The TPAC sits atop a swamp, or at least, active springs.

While this area might indeed be mushy, especially in the spring, no evidence of springs are to be found.  

When the Boldt crew excavated inside the TPAC foundation in four different locations, soils underneath the building were found to be completely dry.  There was no indication of moisture emanating from beneath the building floors or seeping under the foundation walls.   This was very good news, given the fact that public opinion had the TPAC sitting over active springs, or in a swampland.

Said Chapman, “In springtime and in late fall there is definitely a rivulet of moisture that can be seen on the parking lot pavement, running from north to south, coming from the direction of school.  So there is runoff of some kind going on there.  But springs on the TPAC property aren’t the cause, and none of that moisture appears to be found under the building.  There, it was perfectly dry.”  

John Chapman checks for water in the inspection pipe
on the TPAC north side as Dick Clancy looks on.  (Purinton)

[I might add that when the school was built in 1986, it was determined that a thin layer of clay-like material, post-glacial deposit, lay several feet under the surface.  This acts like an impervious membrane which surface water seems unable to penetrate, and because of this the grounds have a very soggy feel following spring thaw or after very rainy periods.]

A further proof that the soil beneath or near the TPAC structure is not a source of water can be found at the inspection tube on the building’s north side.  Chapman noted that this six-foot deep culvert pipe, in which a sump pump is located, was installed in November 2010 when water diversion from the saddlebag roof and along the foundation wall perimeter was being addressed.  Until this recent March thaw, the tube hadn’t exhibited signs of significant water at its bottom, and then still not enough to reach the level of drain ducts, or enough to activate the sump pump.

This shows both the effectiveness of the drainage measures taken around the building foundation, as well as the lack of moisture from underground sources. 

In addition to the installation of foundation insulation (4" of blue foam board), the 26” diameter supply and return ducts that run underground from the HVAC units to the building were retroactively insulated with foam board, too, providing an R-20 value.   Chapman also noted that the air supply and return tubes directly below the HVAC units need further insulation, which will be added later this spring. 

Building Committee members Dick Clancy (L) and John Chapman
examine one of two HVAC units that supply heat and ventilation to
the TPAC facility. (Purinton)

The excavation work to install the plastic drain pipe and foam board insulation around the foundation and over air ducts was relatively inexpensive, and those costs were assumed by the TPAC apart from state requirements and the settlement agreement. 

Misconception #4 Frozen walls? 

It has been said that if the TPAC walls were soaked through during heavy rain, surely the pockets inside the blocks had filled with water, and if they’ve been frozen, they will begin to deteriorate.

This one may be a bit harder to disprove, because visually we can’t see into each pocket, but the observations of two people regularly on the scene, Emmet Woods and John Chapman, help to dispute this viewpoint. 

Had the walls actually been “filled” with water, and had the heat been turned off, this could indeed lead to a disastrous consequence.  However, painstaking measures were taken to ensure this would not be the case.  Heat was kept at a sufficient level within the TPAC at all times, so that any moisture absorbed by the blocks and mortar would be drawn out. 

In a measure of economy, the building heat had been turned down in past winters to save on the LP and electrical bills.  However, meters were installed by Emmet Woods that measured and recorded temperature and humidity hourly, and readings were observed regularly to better monitor the building.   The winter building temperature has been maintained between 40 and 45 degrees F, and recently a bit higher with Boldt people working inside.

What about mildew and molds?  Will they be a problem? 

Here is a response from John Chapman:

  “Mold is an ongoing concern, and it is being dealt with.  Last summer, the building had been closed for ten months.  Mold was visible on the bottom of some backstage curtains and on bathroom and furniture surfaces.   An environmental company was hired to evaluate the TPAC for mold.  Interestingly, the first stage of the evaluation was a survey of moisture levels through the building.  The levels were high, likely because of water passing through the walls.  Mold needs moisture to grow.  The mold test was straightforward.  A known volume of air is drawn through a filter, which is then evaluated for the type and quantity of mold present.   The types of mold found are common to the island.  They are the same inside as outside the building.  However, the level inside the building was elevated.  The building was opened and aired out for several days in July.  The bathrooms and furniture surfaces were cleaned.  The AC units continued to run through the summer.  To date, no further mold deposits have been observed, possibly due in part to the low humidity of the winter months.

   “So, the first step is to reduce moisture levels in the building.  The wrapper system will do this.  Heat and dehumidifiers will accelerate the drying-out process.  The second step is to clean the building for a fresh start.  Funds from the settlement have been designated for building clean-up, which will begin shortly after the interior structural work is completed.  Air quality will be reevaluated before reopening.”

Also, as a part of their contract, Boldt will clean the entire building interior surfaces (likely to be subbed out to another party), for both construction dust and debris.  It is believed this thorough cleaning process will further aid in the restoration of the interior spaces to that of a highly functioning public space.

Misconception #5 – The TPAC is broke.  It can no longer function, given the cost of these many remedial items. 
Well, this is false, too, although Doug Straus admitted that this facility, like all similar facilities, must and will perpetuate itself through significant financial support from its community.   Receipts from the various performances are a part of balancing operating costs, but they don’t begin to offset long-term capital expenses of building management and upkeep. 

The TPAC funds remain, more or less, intact.  They are sufficient, according to Straus, for this non-profit organization to move ahead with what the TPAC Board believes is resuming an important role in the community, including activities with the Schools.   A sum from the TPAC endowment was used to help defray professional legal and engineering costs. The TPAC Board is anxious to put this phase behind them and again emphasize programming and use of their space. 

There will likely be more to add to this ongoing story.  But for now, public knowledge of the fact that there is quality work being done, and public confidence that there are skilled and dedicated people working in the best long-term interest of the TPAC, should go a long way toward restoration of the facility and its importance to the community. 

Although the dollar figures can only be guessed at, it is difficult to deny the economic impact this facility makes to the island’s economy when it is fully functioning, much less the cultural contribution it is capable of making through its offerings. 
-  Dick Purinton


Marlee Sabo said...

Thanks, Dick, for this truly informative article, answering many questions.

B. A. Young said...

Well written article, and isn't it amazing that the Island attracts talent like John Chapman and many others?