The heat is on Featured

8:33am EDT March 28, 2003
Roger Gray peers up to the blue sky as he walks away from his partially snow-covered construction site, his arms extended to his sides, palms facing up.

"Thank goodness the sun is out," he exclaims. "This is wonderful. We finally got a break."

Gray, a project superintendent for Turner Construction Co. in Cleveland, has reason to celebrate. The $26 million natatorium his company is building for the city of Cuyahoga Falls is already two weeks behind schedule thanks to an unusually frigid, snowy winter.

"It's just been a brutal winter," Gray says. "We try to work on Saturdays, if we can, then it gets down below zero, and we just can't work in those conditions."

It could've been worse. If Gray hadn't employed a unique technique for pouring the concrete footings and foundation for the 115,000-square-foot natatorium, the project could've been stalled additional weeks or even months.

Gray and his crew used four 1,500 BTU propane heaters enclosed in galvanized steel pipe to heat the concrete to help cure it faster. The pipe is placed on top of, or next to, the freshly poured footings and walls, then covered with a tarp.

The radiated heat from the pipe helps the concrete cure as fast as it would during ideal weather conditions. Curing accelerants are added to the concrete to speed the process.

"In the past, they would just shut the job down," Gray says. "There's additional money being spent, but it's much more expensive to send people home. We never have the luxury of extending our schedule."

Under such extreme low temperatures as we had this winter, concrete won't cure properly and would crumble once it dried. Thanks to the heat, the footings were able to withstand 2,600 pounds of pressure per square inch (PSI) after three days, which Gray says is strong enough to continue construction.

"After seven days, it's supposed to at least 75 percent of 3,000 (PSI) to continue," Gray says. "We're actually way over what we're supposed to be."

Although no company wants a construction delay, when tax dollars are being spent, the schedule falls under increased scrutiny.

"When you have different contracts being awarded and different contractors coming on board, there's a strict timeframe," says John Olivier, assistant superintendent for the Cuyahoga Falls Park & Recreation Department. "If one phase gets disrupted, it affects that everyone in that chain." How to reach: Turner Construction, (216) 522-1180