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  • Mary Kremposky McArdle

Butcher & Butcher Helps Remake the Motor City

Terra cotta angels – one holding a pike and the other an ax – stand guard over the entry doors of the historic Detroit fire Department (DfD) headquarters in downtown Detroit. Originally built in 1929, this massive brick building, along with its delicate terra cotta details and its arched, fire engine-red doors, is being transformed into the boutique Detroit foundation hotel located on prime real estate across the street from Cobo Center. Rather than a pike and ax, Butcher & Butcher Construction Co., inc., Rochester Hills, is using its own tools of the trade in roofing, metal panels and glazing to aid in the re-invention of this grand old building located at the northeast corner of Washington Boulevard and West Larned Street.

Both site and building have stories to tell. the site had continuously supported a fire-fighting facility of some type from 1840 until 2013, according to At the time of the building’s original construction, the DfD had only recently retired its horses to a farm in River Rouge Park and switched to the use of a motorized Packard motor Company fire engine, according to the Detroit historical society’s encyclopedia of Detroit at on April 10, 1922, more than 50,000 people lined nearby Woodward Avenue to witness the horses’ ceremonial last run to an arranged false alarm at the National Bank Building.

As a specialty trade contractor, Butcher & Butcher has joined forces with a select team dedicated to honoring the building’s history. A first-floor restaurant in the 95,000-square-foot building will even be named the Apparatus room. moving into the future, this vintage building is part of an exciting new chapter in Detroit’s history as building after building is re-imagined and revitalized. 21st Century holdings llC, Southfield, teamed with the Chicago-based Aparium hotel Group llC to form 250 West Larned llC, the owner and development entity driving the revitalization of this $34 million project. the project team for the rejuvenation of this Detroit gem includes Sachse Construction, Detroit, construction manager; Mcintosh Poris Associates, Birmingham, architect of record; and Kraemer Design Group, Detroit, historical consultant on the five-story building.

Butcher & Butcher recently worked with Sachse Construction on two other landmark projects in Detroit, including the Scott at Brush Park, designed by Neumann/smith Architecture, Southfield. The Scott is a luxury apartment dwelling in an iconic Detroit community on the brink of wide-scale revitalization. Broder& Sachse Real Estate co-developed the property with Woodborn Partners, LLC. Butcher & Butcher’s roofing and glazing division also joined forces with Sachse to tackle construction of a rooftop addition, designed by SmithGroupJJR, Detroit, for a long-established Detroit institution: the Detroit Athletic Club. “Detroit is going through an incredible resurgence right now,” said Butcher & Butcher President Pat Butcher. And it is made possible thanks to the talents of a host of construction companies capable of turning dollars and design plans into the 21st Century version of City Beautiful.

From DFD Headquarters to Boutique Hotel

Three out of five of Butcher & Butcher’s divisions are involved in the building’s transformation from working fire station and administrative headquarters into a contemporary hotel:

• The commercial low slope roofing division’s meticulous repair of the existing roof and a third-story courtyard/light well will shield the ex-headquarters from water penetration. On the building next door,Butcher & Butcher is installing a new Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO) roof on a newly constructed penthouse ballroom addition built on top of the former Pontchartrain Wine Cellar. Sachse Construction is joining the interiors of both buildings to create the 100-unit hotel.

• The company’s metal panel division installed high-performance wall panelson the penthouse addition.

• Its glazing division, B & B Glass, is installing massive 500-pound windows in the openings of seven deeply recessed and arched fire station doors. The historical doors will be retained, but the doors will open to reveal the newly glazed windows of the Apparatus Room restaurant and the hotel’s lobby.

The Roofing Brigade

This ex-fire station once kept the city safe from flames; today, Butcher & Butcher is keeping the station itself safe from water. The work involved repairs to the existing Durolast roof, as well as modifications and extensive flashing to accommodate new mechanical units and other equipment.

“Our work involved opening up the existing roof and flashing all the new stanchions and equipment,” said Butcher & Butcher Estimator/Project Manager Kristi Polinski. “Our job was to make sure that the existing roof was cut out properly and that all modifications and renovations to the building are done in such a way that the building remains watertight and without any water infiltration issues.”

The division also repaired the interior courtyard or light well roof in the building’s center. This area, along with the roofing above an existing stairwell, has a built-up roof on concrete decking. “For the courtyard roof, we rebuilt a gutter and liner area where the existing roof sloped down,” said Polinski. “We rebuilt the gutter in wood and then flashed it correctly with new rubber Firestone products.”

Like a fire-fighting crew, Butcher & Butcher’s commercial low slope roofing division has essentially worked on call throughout the renovation. If a roofing condition is discovered or the roof needs to be opened, the Butcher & Butcher team is on the roof making it happen.

On the penthouse addition, Butcher & Butcher installed approximately “35 squares of new Firestone TPO roofing over a base layer of tapered insulation,” added Polinski. “A cover board is on top, and every layer has Firestone insulation adhesives.” Butcher & Butcher also installed a paver pedestal system for a patio lounge on the new penthouse addition.

A Rooftop View

The penthouse ballroom will offer a wonderful view of the Detroit River, the night glitter of downtown and the excitement of Cobo Center events. Butcher & Butcher’s metal panel division installed approximately 3,000 square feet of metal panels for this rooftop addition. “It is a high-performance, energy-efficient commercial insulated wall panel,” said Butcher & Butcher’s President of Steep Roofing and Sheet Metal Operations Mark Dalrymple. “The three-inch-thick panel gives the wall an R value of 22. The panels are set on a track attached to a waterproof gyp board. This creates an air cavity in between the panels and the interior layer composed of the gyp board and wall insulation.”

The whole wall system eases the heating and cooling load on the building’s mechanical system. Kingspan manufactures the high-performance panels with a core of continuous, rigid insulation to achieve industry-leading R- and U- values. According to Kingspan, “The insulated wall panels are exterior to the building structure to provide the best thermal envelope by reducing the thermal bridging typical of cavity wall systems.”

The metal wall panels are durable, attractive and in alignment with the Detroit Historical Commission’s directives. “It is not only built to last and comes with a 30-year finish, but it is also an architecturally pleasing panel,” said Pat Butcher.

The Commission didn’t want the wall panel system to visually overpower the appearance of the existing building. “For this reason, the selected panel is a dark bronze that blends in with the window trim and the rest of the building, including the older brick,” said Dalrymple.

Working among the architectural treasures of downtown Detroit is an added perk for the trades and other connoisseurs of craftsmanship. “Many of the buildings in downtown Detroit have incredible architecture on the upper floors that you just don’t get to see up close when you are walking at street level,” said Dalrymple. “Because we are on a high roof, we can see the other buildings from a different vantage point.” the DFD building itself is a visual feast both above-grade and at-grade. the terra cotta roof edges have an elaborate fringe of floral shapes and other decorative forms, architecturally called anthemion cresting. At street level, the terra cotta “eye-candy” includes decorative rosettes and a DFD shield featuring a fireman’s hat and a series of axes.

A Window on the Past and Future

Butcher & Butcher was responsible for the glass and glazing of the penthouse addition and the lower-level windows of the former DFD headquarters. for the penthouse, “the architect designed some large units of glass, and we worked with our glass manufacturers to make the largest possible pieces capable of handling the wind speeds at five stories in the air,” said Matt Butcher, head of B & B Glass. “We still met the architect’s vision and the engineer’s requirements for these large panes of glass. the end result is some very large and attractive trapezoid pieces of glass.” John Trenkamp, estimator and project manager for B & B Glass, worked closely with Butcher on the project.

Minus the arched transoms, sizeable pieces of glass were installed in the ex-fire station’s bay doors. “We installed two, extremely large, 500-pound pieces of glass in each of the door openings,” said Butcher. “each piece is 5-by-11-feet; two pieces completely fill each 10-by-11-foot opening.” this unique arrangement of preserved fire station doors on the exterior, opening to new glass windows on the interior, is an inspired part of the adaptive re-use of this vintage building.

Working in Close Quarters

Logistics proved challenging for all three divisions working in downtown Detroit’s tight grid of streets. “Just getting the glass into downtown Detroit was a feat,” said Butcher. “We had six people on site guiding the parking of a large flatbed truck in a busy downtown area and safely offloading each piece of glass.

“All six people rolled the glass units off of the truck and onto the ground and then wheeled it in front of the opening. We placed suction cups on the glass, and then positioned two people on the inside and two on the outside to set each piece of glass.”

Transporting glass, roofing materials and metal panels to the roof via crane compounded the difficulty of working on a downtown building sandwiched between a narrow alley and a sidewalk flush to the street. transporting the material to the roof involved closing several lanes to traffic, because closing only one lane would not allow sufficient space for properly setting the angle of the crane’s boom, said Dalrymple.

To load the roof, Butcher & Butcher had to coordinate its activities with other trade contractors, with the City of Detroit for street closures and with the adjacent parking lot management, because Butcher & Butcher had to maintain access for the continual stream of cars entering and exiting the lot. At one point, the parking lot was available for rent for one week. “During that week, there were five lifts on just one small side of the building,” said Pat Butcher.

Interior access was also challenging. Because the elevators had to be restored, they were not available to haul construction materials. Both the roofing and glazing divisions hand-carried some of the materials up the stairway to access the roof. on the interior, the glass division was responsible for the grayish-etched glass shower doors and for the bathroom mirrors in all units. “We carried 70-to 80-pound pieces of glass up five flights of stairs,” said Matt Butcher. the company loaded the floors with glass products on Saturdays to ease the congestion of multiple trade contractors using the same stair.

The excitement of rebuilding a city’s architectural treasures offsets the inherent obstacles of working in a tight urban grid. “it’s great to work on buildings like the Detroit foundation hotel,” said Dalrymple. “We are preserving a building; it is not a tear-down and a complete rebuild. it is rewarding to see the building’s transformation and the end product of our own work.”

A Neighborhood’s Rebirth

Butcher & Butcher has a bird’s-eye view of Detroit’s transformation, having worked the rooftops of both new and historical buildings in the motor City. in the category of new, ground-up projects is the Scott at Brush Park. Applying 50,000 square feet of a fully adhered firestone 60mil EPDM roofing system, along with several balconies to the Scott gave the crew a roof-side seat to a historic neighborhood being rebuilt before their eyes … and below their feet.

The roof’s firestone high-performance insulation has a high density and a high R Value, said Pat Butcher. Butcher & Butcher also installed cover board under a paving system of four different rooftop patios areas, paving system being installed by another contractor. “the cover board is a very high-density isoboard that is extremely condensed,” said Polinski. “it is only half-of-an-inch-thick, but the Psi is in the range of 120.”

The story of Brush Park can be pieced together from this rooftop perch. once called little Paris, Brush Park was a grand neighborhood of Victorian mansions in the late 19th Century. in modern times, sections of the Park had become a wasteland of empty lots and worn buildings. recently, the neighborhood has seen the welcome restoration of some Victorian mansions and infill townhomes and lofts. located along Woodward Avenue and erskine street near the new QLINE and little Caesars Arena, the scott is in the vanguard of a coming tidal wave of building projects on the brink of completely transforming this historic neighborhood located between downtown Detroit and Midtown.

“The Scott is one of many buildings,” said Polinski. “As of right now, we have already bid three additional buildings in Brush Park, and i believe there will be three more coming out for bid this year.” Dalrymple adds, “it is going to happen quickly. in my opinion, the whole Park will be built within five years, if not closer to three.”

A Well-Crafted Roof for the DAC

DAC members now enjoy a glass-wrapped aerie in the form of a new rooftop addition with a direct sight line into Comerica Park. A host of companies made it possible, including Butcher & Butcher as roofing and glass and glazing contractor. Polinski explains the sub-layers of the addition’s firestone 60 ml reinforced EPDM fully adhered roofing system: “After priming the concrete deck, we installed a firestone V-force vapor barrier, followed by a complete tapered insulation system and an additional overboard of quarter-inch Dens Deck prime. All layers were set in insulation adhesive.”

But the roof was no ordinary layering of materials. “the installation was very difficult, because of the sheer number of roof modifications needed for the mechanical equipment,” said Polinski. “the roof had penetration after penetration.” President Pat Butcher adds, “this meant there was an exorbitant amount of flashing work on the roof. it also has an engineered tapered roof system, which created the drainage for the roof system.” Butcher & Butcher’s glazing division, installed yKK aluminum curtain wall systems with NanaWall aluminum folding panel systems around the exterior of the rooftop addition. the company also installed a glass handrail system around the perimeter of the rooftop terrace that offers grand views of Detroit and open-air dining. “the glass sets in a structural aluminum extruded base shoe or track,” said Butcher. “We inserted a device down inside this track that puts pressure on the glass and gives the handrail rigidity and stability. it is basically a very high-performance base shoe system, and a very beautiful job.”

From the DFD’s historic headquarters and the scott at Brush Park to the DAC, Butcher & Butcher Construction is bringing its in-depth knowledge of diverse specialty trades to the motor City. “Being part of the movement that is going on in Detroit makes the work interesting and enjoyable,” said Dalrymple.

Original Article printed in the June 2017 CAM Magazine. (Vol. 38 • No. 6)

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