Profile: University of Chicago - The Oriental Institute
Knickerbocker Roofing and Paving
In addition to being known for the Bulls and Bears (who
did quite well this year), deep-dish pizza, the Magnificent
Mile and extreme weather, Chicago also is known for
its world-renowned museums, such as the Field Museum
of Natural History, Art Institute of Chicago and Shedd
Aquarium. A museum that often is overlooked, despite
its 60,000 visitors per year, is the Oriental Institute
Museum, which is part of The University of Chicago. Read Full Article
institute that focuses on the Near East protects its
by Kate Gawlik
In addition to being known for the Bulls and Bears
(who did quite well this year), deep-dish pizza, the
Magnificent Mile and extreme weather, Chicago also is
known for its world-renowned museums, such as the Field
Museum of Natural History, Art Institute of Chicago
and Shedd Aquarium. A museum that often is overlooked,
despite its 60,000 visitors per year, is the Oriental
Institute Museum, which is part of The University of
The Oriental Institute is a museum and research organization
that focuses on the ancient Near East. The institute's
building was built in 1931 and houses galleries; artifact
storage and museum archive sections; a conservation
laboratory; archaeological study areas; space for seminars,
docent events and public programs; and professors' offices.
Since 1996, the building has been under construction
for renovation and expansion projects, but it was occupied
during the work. In 1999, the building's roof system
began to leak into the museum's reading room and other
areas. Upon inspection by NRCA member INSPEC Inc., Milwaukee,
it was discovered that the problem wasn't the existing
clay tile roof system. Instead, it was determined the
3 1/2-inch- (87.5-mm-) thick concrete deck, which was
bowing, was the source of the leaks.
NRCA member Knickerbocker Roofing and Paving Co. Inc.,
Harvey, Ill., took on this high-profile project. The
company's crew members removed the existing clay tile
roof system and precast concrete roof deck panels that
total 28,000 square feet (2520 m²). The company
modified existing structural deck supports and installed
a new 18-gauge steel roof deck, as well as a tile roof
system. The Oriental Institute also features low-slope
single-ply roof systems totaling 6,000 square feet (540
m²), which Knickerbocker Roofing and Paving removed
Knickerbocker Roofing and Paving Co. Inc., Harvey,
Ill., installed 280 squares (2520m²) of clay tile.
"This is the first building on campus that ever
had to have its complete roof assembly removed and replaced,"
says Barry O'Quinn, supervisor of sheet-metal, roofing,
masonry and recycling facility services at The University
of Chicago. "Removing all the prestressed concrete
panels and installing a new metal deck for the clay
tile roof assembly on a building that houses irreplaceable
artifacts is not your everyday project."
Completing this job meant roofing crews would have
to stay out of the way of museum patrons, students,
professors and researchers—the Oriental Institute
could not close during roof system replacement work
because of financial considerations. And crew members
were happy to oblige.
"The museum staff and University of Chicago personnel
hardly were aware of our presence," says Chris
Cronin, president of Knickerbocker Roofing and Paving.
"Many people commented about how unobtrusive such
a large-scale project was to them."
The 10- to 12-person roofing crew also would have to
take extra safety precautions and, obviously, could
not damage the institute's collection of artifacts dating
back to 6800 B.C.
The Oriental Institute was founded in 1919 as part
of The University of Chicago and headed by Henry Breasted,
the first American to receive a Ph.D. in Egyptology.
Breasted wanted to establish an institute that would
trace ancient people's progress toward civilization—before
Greek and Roman civilizations thrived. John D. Rockefeller
Jr. supported Breasted's vision and funded the start
of the institute.
Since its establishment, the institute has sponsored
archeological and survey expeditions in every Near East
country to document and study the areas' languages,
histories and cultures. Today, the Oriental Institute
has field projects occurring in Egypt, Iraq, Israel,
Jordan and Syria. The institute also conducts research
projects in Chicago, such as developing dictionaries
and lexicons of ancient Akkadian, Hittite, Demotic,
Egyptian and Sumerian.
The institute's collection consists of 110,000 registered
objects, 165,000 photographs, and 250 cubic feet (7.5
m³) of documents and other archival material. To
house the collection, the institute has been under renovation
since 1996 to build a new wing, storage facility and
three new galleries; the work is expected to be completed
by this fall. The Joseph and Mary Grimshaw Egyptian
Gallery and Persian Gallery, which were closed while
being renovated, reopened during 1999 and 2000, respectively.
Three additional galleries will open at the museum and
feature objects from Israel and Palestine, Syria and
Anatolia, and Mesopotamia and Nubia.
The Persian Gallery features objects from 6800 B.C.
to 1000 A.D. from modern Iran. In its exhibit are objects
from the Persepolis ruins (a city that thrived from
520 B.C. to 331 B.C. and was destroyed by Alexander
the Great), glazed ceramics from the early Islamic period,
and evidence of administrative practices and record-keeping
systems from Chogha Mish, Iran.
"The Persian Empire was remarkable," says
Matthew Stopler, a John A. Wilson professor of Oriental
studies and an expert on Persia. "It stretched
virtually over a continent from Greece to Afghanistan
and from Egypt to Libya to western India."
The Egyptian gallery features objects from the Predynastic
Period (5000 B.C.) to the Arab conquest in the seventh
century. The gallery includes 800 objects, such as a
7 1/3-foot- (2.2-m-) tall statue of King Tutankhamen
found in Medinet Habu in 1931.
Roofing work began on the Oriental Institute in June
2000 and ended in August 2001. Because of weather conditions,
work stopped from December 2000 through February 2001.
Before crews could begin the tear-off process, safety
precautions had to be taken. According to Cronin, the
entire building was surrounded with scaffolding and
a safety net was assembled in the attic. The safety
net was erected not only to protect workers but also
the institute's library ceiling, which is made of hand-painted
plaster. Unfortunately, this delicate area was the site
of pre-existing leaks.
The tile roof system tear-off process began by removing
existing tiles, membranes, sheet-metal flashings, gutters
and precast concrete deck panels to the sloped steel
structure. Knickerbocker Roofing and Paving's crew members
removed 1,800 precast concrete roof deck panels. To
accomplish this job, a 60-ton (54.4-Mg) crane was used.
"Typically, we took off 6 squares (54 m²)
a day," Cronin says. "The tile and underlayment
came off fairly easily, and we used a crane to pull
off the concrete slabs."
Because the museum still was open and university traffic
swarmed around the building, crew members were confined
to a restricted work area and roof access. In addition,
they had to protect a landmark—and rather unique—university
tree that partially grew perpendicular to the ground.
The tree has become a symbol for university alumni;
those who return to campus often have their pictures
taken sitting on it.
After the tear-off was complete, new 1 1/2-inch- (37.5-mm-)
deep 18-gauge galvanized steel deck material, 12-gauge
galvanized iron metal angles, and ASTM A36-approved
steel channels and plates were installed.
Next, one layer of 5/8-inch- (15.6-mm-) thick Dens-Deck®
and one layer of 3/4-inch- (18.8-mm-) thick plywood
were mechanically attached. Then, one ply of self-adhering
Grace Ice and Water Shield was installed followed by
two plies of No. 30 asphalt felt that was secured by
1-inch (25-mm) diameter head disk nails. Finally, interlocking
Ludowici Classic™ Tiles in Clay Red were laid
The Oriental Institute, Chicago, features a new Ludowici
Classic™ Tile roof system.
Once the roof system was installed, new steel angle
gutter supports and dimensional wood blocking that was
tapered to provide a 1/16-in-12 (0.3-degree) slope were
installed. Then, lead-coated fascia, caps, gutters and
flashings were installed at the eaves.
Additional plies of self-adhering underlayment were
installed at the vertical transitions as an additional
membrane flashing to the metal flashing. To finish the
drainage system, new 4-inch (100-mm) diameter copper
pipes were sealed into existing cast-iron drain leaders
with liquid hot lead and soldered into new gutters.
At the end of each day, completed work was made watertight
with temporary tie-ins.
The Oriental Institute had a unique idea for raising
additional money during tile roof replacement work.
The institute allowed 250 of the new 15,000 clay roof
tiles to be inscribed with a message to the ancient
gods written in ancient languages, such as Babylonian.
Oriental Institute faculty, friends and university
staff could write a personal message, such as "Anna
wants the gods to heal her back," as one inscriber
wrote. Others could choose from three suggested ancient
blessings, such as "Come, O Storm God of Nerik,
bring down from heaven your gentle rain!" The message
was written in Hittite. All messages were written on
the face-down side of the panels so they do not affect
the roof's aesthetics.
Tim Cashing, director of development for the Oriental
Institute, told the Chicago Tribune, "The exact
placement of the tiles will remain a mystery known only
to the [roofing workers] and, perhaps, the ancient deities
invoked in the blessings."
The Oriental Institute building also consists of low-slope
roof areas. After materials on the areas were removed
to the roof deck, a new insulation system was installed.
The system consists of a base layer of 1 1/2-inch- (37.5-mm-)
thick polyisocyanurate and 5/8-inch- (15.6-mm-) thick
Dens-Deck, which was taped at the seams. The insulation
and Dens-Deck were set in Insta-Stik low-rise foam adhesive.
To accommodate the system, new dimensional wood blocks
were added to the roof areas' perimeter edges.
The new two-ply Stress Ply E membrane was set in Weather
King cold-applied asphalt. The asphalt was allowed to
flash off before the membrane was rolled in place. Next,
a modified aggregate cap sheet was installed.
Some areas of the low-slope roof systems were small
(about 200 square feet [18 m²]) and difficult to
access, and the roof system designer was concerned about
asphalt displacement from foot traffic in these areas.
To eliminate this concern, the two-ply membrane, cap
sheet, base flashings and aggregate surfacing were not
installed on the same day.
Nick of time
Staying on schedule is an important part of every project.
But Knickerbocker Roofing and Paving had to finish its
work before some tombs came rolling into town. An exhibit,
Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur, took place at
the institute during October 2001. Because roofing work
was completed on time, the Mesopotamian artifacts could
be prominently displayed in their new temperature-controlled
and leak-proof home.
"I know it sounds as if they paid me to say this,
but the reality is that for this project to have been
completed on [The University of Chicago's] campus and
for me to only have [received] minor complaints in the
project's two-year time period is a miracle in itself,"
O'Quinn says. "[The project] could not have gone
better and has become the blueprint for how other major
roof assemblies will be replaced on campus."
Looking back on the project, Cronin is proud of his
"The level of pride experienced by everyone involved
in this project from our roofing and sheet-metal workers
to our support and office personnel [is rewarding],"
But Cronin and Knickerbocker Roofing and Paving's personnel
acknowledge that the job was successful because they
received full cooperation from everyone involved.
"The extent of cooperation among the building
owner, architect/engineer and our employees made this
project unique," Cronin adds.
Kate Gawlik is associate editor of Professional
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