With a damaged masonry façade, active leaks, and corroded steel lintels, this historic building required a complete retrofit and seismic upgrade before it could be occupied. Read on to find out how RDH stepped in and provided solutions to repair the enclosure and improve building performance, while honoring its historic character.

The Challenge

In 2009, the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine (OCOM) launched their plans to move into the historic building that was previously occupied by the Globe Hotel in Portland’s Chinatown district. The original building was constructed in 1911 and consisted of solid, unreinforced, brick masonry, and a heavy timber frame. Because the building remained unoccupied and unmaintained for a long period, the masonry façade was seriously deteriorated. The owners of the College knew that a complete retrofit and seismic upgrade would be necessary before the educational facility could be occupied.

The Project

RDH was retained to complete a condition assessment as well as to determine what repairs were required. Because of the age and delicate nature of the masonry façade, RDH had to carefully choose exploratory opening locations in order to confirm conditions of hidden components, materials within the assemblies, and window interfaces. Following the assessment, RDH uncovered numerous cracks in the exterior masonry assembly and around the window sills, damaged paint, and active leaks to the interior, consequently recommending that the deteriorated assemblies required immediate attention.

Of particular concern was the condition of the old steel lintels over the windows. The lintels consisted of two parallel steel channels spaced several inches apart to support the mass masonry wall above. Steel angles were connected to the bottom of the steel channels with rivets and these angles supported the outer wythe of brick masonry. The original construction lacked flashings at these lintels. Years of corrosion and rust flaking off the steel caused a build up of debris behind the brick. In addition, the expansive forces of the corrosion pushed up on the outer brick wythe. The combination of upward forces from the flaking steel angles and outward forces from continued accumulation of corroded steel on the back of the brick resulted in an unsafe outward bow in the brick. Left much longer, the brick could have failed suddenly, creating an impending life safety danger.

As part of the design team, RDH assisted in providing a solution that not only mitigated the ongoing corrosion, but also significantly improved the water penetration resistance and drainage characteristics of the masonry at the lintels. The cavity behind the brick veneer at the lintels was turned into a drained rainscreen cavity while the masonry above the lintel remained a mass wall assembly.

During the construction phase of the rehabilitation, RDH assisted with the design and review of window rough opening detailing to improve water penetration and airtightness around the windows. RDH also performed general building enclosure field review throughout the construction stage.

The Result

The OCOM was successfully retrofitted and the project was completed in 2012, achieving LEED Gold certification with a durable and safe outer rainscreen veneer that looked identical to the original brick head.

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Our Leaders

Marcus Dell, M.A.Sc., P.Eng.

Senior Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist

Marcus is a professional engineer who specializes in practical solutions to building enclosure problems. He combines his academic training with over 20 years of work experience to offer all-around knowledge of the application of building science principles to buildings around North America. His focus at RDH is on existing buildings and repair, renewal, and rehabilitation projects.  In particular, he has advanced expertise in roof design and assemblies. He serves as a Director with RCI Inc, Western Canada Chapter and has published many papers and conducted research on a variety of roofing topics.

Paul Kernan, Architect AIBC, LEED AP

Managing Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist

Paul is a registered architect with a wide range of working experience in North America and Europe. For the last 15 years, Paul has specialized in building enclosure design and construction. Paul leads the building enclosure Repair, Renewal, + Rehabilitation (3R) service area at RDH.

Michael Aoki-Kramer, B.A., J.D., LEED AP

Managing Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist

Michael leads building enclosure projects for both new construction and rehabilitation. Michael’s experience as well as his knowledge of Washington State and Seattle Building, Mechanical, and Energy Codes are an asset to any project. He co-manages RDH’s Seattle office.

Sarah Gray, M.Sc., P.Eng., CAHP

Principal, Building Science Specialist

Sarah Gray brings her North American and international expertise to RDH’s Toronto office. Her work includes heritage rehabilitation, existing building condition assessment, and new construction enclosure consulting. Sarah previously served as a Board Member with the Canadian Association of Heritage Preservation (CAHP) and is currently a volunteer for the Association of Preservation Technology. With over 18 years’ experience in the building science industry, Sarah has worked on many historic buildings, including terra cotta rehabilitation at the 1 King West Hotel and Condo in Toronto, and the brick and sandstone repairs at Toronto’s Confederation Life Building, which won a Craftsmanship Award from CAHP. Recent work includes collaborating with RDH Building Science Labs on the testing and assessment of masonry buildings to receive interior insulation retrofits.

Chris Schumacher, M.A.Sc.

Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist

Chris Schumacher is recognized as an expert in the field of building monitoring, as well as enclosure and building systems testing. He has led the design, installation and analysis of monitoring systems for a variety of research programs and demonstration projects, both in the lab and in field locations around the globe. Chris’ formal education in architecture and engineering is balanced by almost two decades of experience in design, computer simulation, physical testing, and forensic investigation. Chris was the lead consultant on the development of the Historic Masonry Building Retrofit Guidelines for the US Military Academy and has consulted on several historic buildings including the Halifax Armoury Building in Halifax, NS as well as the Google Building in New York NY (in collaboration with BSC).

Dave Young, P.E.

Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist

Dave specializes in building enclosure consulting for both new and existing construction. His experience and expertise in historic building enclosures spans close to 30 years and includes work on the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa and the University of British Columbia Main Library.

One of Dave’s focus areas is to make historic buildings better by incorporating new enclosure technologies without changing the original aesthetics.  This includes implementing moisture control, thermal improvements, and air tightness strategies, while reinstating original materials. This approach was used on the 100 year old Oregon College of Oriental Medicine building in Portland, where corroded steel lintels above the windows were removed. The steel lintels were cleaned and protected, then reinstalled to create a new rainscreen cavity behind the brick veneer over the windows. The 3-wythe mass masonry wall above the lintels remained intact.