Since 1870, the Mount Washington Observatory has been using science to help the U.S. Weather Bureau understand the Earth’s weather and climate. Because of its longstanding presence, there are very few in the New England area who are not familiar with the incredible and fascinating weather changes associated with the summit observatory—including Hascall & Hall. When we received the request to bid on this project, our own longstanding history in the concrete repair industry ensured that we were able to properly analyze the challenging aspects associated with such a difficult work site.
Some of the roughest wind and weather in the country had taken its toll, resulting over time in the deterioration of the concrete pillars that are integral to the entry canopy of the observatory at the top of Mount Washington. The deterioration had reached the point where the safety of visitors had become a concern.
After taking considerable care in preparing the bid, we knew that the one thing we couldn’t control on the job would be Mother Nature, and she proved to be the one of the most challenging aspects in completing the project successfully. The cold and often extreme temperatures, even in the summer, did not make for the best of working conditions for our project team.
In addition to the obvious effects of the outdoor working conditions, requiring full winter gear in even the “heat” of summer, the client required that all equipment and site personnel arrive at the site prior to the observatory opening, and departure down the mountain after the observatory closed. This may not seem excessively burdensome in August, but there was already frost on the road in the mornings and again at night, and we always do our very best to accommodate the special needs of our clients.
We were given a very small window of time to complete the project selected by the client because historically, this window had proven most likely to provide the favorable weather conditions needed to best support the project timeline. This being said, the client guidelines for the presence of Hascall & Hall at the project site meant intense project management was needed to ensure that the delivery of pallets of concrete, forms, mixers, and all other equipment needed for the successful completion of the project arrived and departed seamlessly around all the tourists and through the inclement weather.
The project parameters consisted of the removal of the deteriorated concrete from the outermost concrete columns of the walkway canopy, preparation of the structural steel within the columns, re-pouring of the columns, and then coating of the concrete, along with some miscellaneous repairs to the concrete foundation of the main building.
We needed to rebuild the structure’s legs to their original size and shape. Once the measurements of the legs were taken the concrete was removed, then all the waste was transported to the base area of the mountain and disposed of properly. After removing the concrete debris, the steel had to be cleaned of all rust in preparation for the proper coating and repair. All the steel was sandblasted and sprayed with a rubberized coating.
We built all of the required forms back in our main office and then transported them to the site. The forms were installed, and concrete batch-mixed on site and poured into the forms through scuppers until full, all the while making certain that the concrete had been fully vibrated and consolidated so as not to leave any open voids in the columns.
Once the forms were stripped the new concrete was coated with a breathable and flexible coating. The repaired areas now have optimal protection from some of the harshest weather seen anywhere in the country—Mount Washington holds the world record for a recorded land gust, at 231 miles per hour. The project was started and completed in the summer of 1997, and continues to stand the test of time.