Meson Lab roof repairs aim
to re-engineer art
Workers repair the Meson Detector Building roof.
When Robert Wilson oversaw construction of Fermilab's facilities in the 1970's, he attempted to merge aesthetic appeal with scientific functionality. While most of the lab's structures have fulfilled this mission, the Meson Lab has always been a bit of a troublemaker.
Completed in 1975, the Meson Lab possesses one of the most unusual architectural features on the Fermilab campus: a roof consisting of 12 concave arches designed by Wilson and artist Angela Gonzalez. But while visually striking, the roof falls short in one big way -- it leaks.
"It's an old building with steel joints that tend to loosen with time," said Elaine McCluskey, AD project engineer. "Loosened joints mean leakage."
This isn't a new problem. Water began dripping from the ceiling soon after the building's completion, and all attempts at repair to date have failed. A team of engineers and contractors is currently mounting an effort to fix the leaks. Success is crucial, as the lab is home to important International Linear Collider research, with more to come.
Under the management and oversight of FESS/Engineering, Riddiford Roofing Co. of Arlington Heights, Illinois, began the repair process last summer by cleaning the surfaces. The cold winter months forced a temporary break, but contractors resumed work early this summer, applying a light-blue primer to the arches and epoxy filling to the leaky joints. Concrete and urethane foam are being added to aid water drainage, and two final coats of a special elastomeric coating will finish the seal. In the end, the building will be returned to similar shades of the original blue and orange colors.
FESS and AD are satisfied with the work thus far. "We've made really good progress," McCluskey said. "Despite this summer's rain, we're working quickly and taking advantage of all the time we have. The building roof should be very nice when it's done."
ES&H coordinator Mike Andrews expressed a Meson Lab user's satisfaction. "The lab-space is much more comfortable, and most important, dry. I'm glad we could preserve the historical value of Wilson's design and get rid of the puddles at the same time," he said.
So what happens if the seal doesn't hold? "Riddiford has agreed to a 10-year warranty, so repairs are covered for at least that long," McCluskey said. "Hopefully, they won't be needed."
--J. Bryan Lowder
Once repaired, the roof of the Meson Lab will be blue and terracotta in color, similar to the original roof.