While most any large construction project presents challenges, putting up buildings in the middle of the ocean ranks high on the difficulty scale. When one looks at the Atlantis complex on Paradise Island in the Bahamas Islands, its massive scale-at 20 stories tall-surely conjures up questions in the minds of contractors in the wall and ceiling industry: How did they build that way out there, in the middle of nowhere? There’s an answer to that question: In short, it wasn’t easy.
AMAZING CHALLENGESThe general contractor, PCL Construction Services Inc. in Orlando, Fla., faced many challenges in putting form to plans for a massive $200 million expansion of the Atlantis complex, which includes the two largest buildings on any of the 700 islands in the Bahamas. After intense bidding among several large contractors, Miami-based Applitech Inc., was chosen as the EIFS applicator for the expansion of the hotel, and went to work quickly to come to grips with the complexities of the project.
“There was a very tight schedule for the project, and we completed all the work on the Resort and Residence towers in about nine months,” said Jorge Angel, who owns the firm with his wife and the firm’s chief financial officer, Lina. The Angels started the company, which specializes only in EIFS, in 1992, then started work in the Bahamas in 1998. In 2002 they began working exclusively on Caribbean Islands, concentrated on the Bahamas, Bermuda, Trinidad, and Tobago.
Today, Lina boasts confidently that Applitech has worked on most major hotel projects in Nassau and the rest of the Bahamas.” Applitech is able to land these significant jobs year after year," Lina said, “because we make it look easy.”
Applitech was responsible for EIFS in the most recent construction of the Atlantis complex, which is a partnership between Kerzner International Limited and Turnberry Associates. The 23-story Residences at Atlantis is an exclusive condominium-hotel, with 495 units comprised of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom suites. The Cove Atlantis features one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites as well as multiple pools and restaurants.
Aside from the massive size of the project--it required more than 800,000 square feet of EIFS--Angel had to deal with a variety of challenges most contractors stateside never have to worry about:
• Hurricanes and high winds are quite common throughout the Caribbean and safety precautions always require the removal of scaffolding.
• All materials had to be shipped first to Miami, then packed into containers and sent by boat to the island.
• There was very little space on the job site, and that decreased significantly after the first half of the project was finished.
• The availability of skilled labor is always an issue on the islands, and this factor alone disqualifies many subcontractors on the islands.
VALUE ENGINEERINGAlthough most major projects in the islands are covered in EIFS, Lina Angel said, “sometimes the architect has specified stucco,” and they usually change their specifications after learning about the alternative.
“We also do stucco,” she explained. “But we do some ‘value engineering’ with the architect. It’s much better to use EIFS than stucco for a lot of reasons. The maintenance is easier, there’s a lot less labor involved, and in this area (the Caribbean), laborers do not do well with exterior blocks. With EIFS, it always looks like a perfect building.”
She said price was the “deal breaker” in the negotiations for the Atlantis project, “and we had the right price,” largely because Applitech has developed a well-established crew of highly experienced laborers in the nine years since they started working on the islands. Most of the workers are not from the United States, but hail from the Bahamas and countries around the Caribbean, including Columbia and the Dominican Republic. Most of them live on the island during construction, without their families. She noted that the laborers earned significantly more working on the project than they would have in their home countries.
At the Atlantis project, Applitech had 150 workers on the site in peak periods. Jorge also lived on the island to supervise the project, coming home on weekends. “If the work pace accelerates, we can charter in 30 workers, on extremely short notice,” she said.
The Angels chose the Dryvit Outsulation Plus System. Jorge told Walls & Ceilings he has been using Dryvit products for more than 15 years, mainly “because of their reliability and warranty. They also offer good service and we have a great rapport with the sales representative. It’s also cost-efficient and allows us to stick with our construction timeline.”
Dryvit’s Outsulation system is adaptable to meet a variety of specific requirements for individual projects. For Atlantis, according to Lina Angel, the system’s Backstop NT air/water resistive barrier was an important plus in the bidding process. Backstop NT is a flexible, polymer-based, non-cementitious, water-resistive membrane which prevents water penetration and eliminates air infiltration. Because it was new construction, two coats of the Backstop NT were applied to the buildings’ concrete substrate.
A sophisticated flashing system was applied around sills and openings, then a second line of defense against moisture was added with a drainage system (see illustration of the Outsulation layers accompanying this article). Then, EPS foam was applied, and that was covered with a coat of mesh and then a base coat, followed by the final finish coat.
Jorge said the system works well for fast-track projects because it reduces expensive structural requirements needed with conventional construction materials due to the EIFS’ light weight and ease of application. Other Dryvit products he used were AquaFlash, Genesis and Panzer Mesh.
LOGISTICS, LOGISTICS, LOGISTICS“Logistics was a big issue for this project,” said Pedro Fernandez, Dryvit director of international sales and business development for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Jorge and I had to work for hours and hours, figuring out the amount of material and how and when to get it on site. Space on site was extremely limited and the EPS foam has to be kept from sunlight. We had a facility to store some materials, but not much.”
Materials were shipped from Miami on a weekly basis for eight or nine months, Fernandez explained. “Jorge hired a freight forwarder and we shipped truckloads from our manufacturing facility to Miami and that was put into the containers. With all those shapes and polystyrene, you couldn’t put another toothpick in it!”
Fernandez said a big plus throughout the project was cooperation from Mother Nature. “We were blessed with not even one threat of a hurricane. When you even think of a hurricane here you are thinking total chaos, and we were right next to a working resort, so we didn’t want anything flying around.”
Lina Angel sees continued growth in the Bahamas.
“There are 700 islands in the Bahamas, and there’s always a big project going on somewhere.” She and husband Jorge are confident they are going to be a part of many of those projects for some time to come.