PaintPRO, Vol. 8, No. 3
May/June 2006
PaintPRO, Vol 8 No 3

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Other articles in this issue:
Washing the Gray Away
Got Rust?
Painting Concrete & Masonry
Business Strategies: Uniforms
Estimating: Attention to Details
Painter Profile: Colin Griffinson
Tech: Biodegradable Paint Removers
Project Profile: Aquarium
Toolbox: Rollers
Product Profile: Spray-Stone
Paint Industry News
Product News
Tackling the mega-job
Here are some insights on how to approach major public projects from Jeffrey Diamond, president of Goodman Decorating of Atlanta, who turned the daunting challenge of the Georgia Aquarium into a stellar success.

The estimate
You must be prepared for multiple pricing scenarios prior to the award. This may require you to use your conceptual intuition as to the intent of the architects and designers. A seasoned estimator can market his or her knowledge and enhance the company's chances for an award by illuminating gaps in the design and proposing solutions. In addition, the estimator should have as much delineation between cost items as possible, hopefully in a spreadsheet, to so that changes can be calculated expeditiously. This will serve the company well in the future as the job unfolds.

Your project manager or project engineer must spend a substantial amount of time handling submittals. Be prepared for this to be an ongoing operation. Submittals should be entered in spreadsheets, broken down into categories like time of submittal, receipt of submittal, return of submittal and acceptance or rejection of submittal. Be proactive about it, because this is a marketing initiative as well. A professionally handled submittal can go a long way to building a relationship with a client who may have similar packages from 15 other trades. Remember that submittals can be particularly cumbersome if neglected and later you add products that have subjective aspects, such as Venetian Plasters or trowel-applied texture coatings. If you don't stay on top of it you can�quickly get yourself behind the eight ball.

Ordering materials
On large projects it is best whenever possible to negotiate billing for purchase of products prior to receipt of materials. This way the actual payment for goods will better coincide with the receiving of materials. Prepare to hold materials at a bonded warehouse, or show some proof of insurance. And keep these materials separate from other products in the warehouse. In addition, digital pictures of the goods in your warehouse, of the receiving tickets and the billing information should make your pre-billing easier to collect when checks are ready 40 to 60 days from your billing.

When it comes to special orders or difficult materials that may be out of stock, it is important to carry extra materials for estimating mistakes or blemishes in the actual product that may cause waste. Many times this may seem impractical at the beginning of a job, but the 5-10 percent extra that you order may be the difference at the end of the job when you are the last trade to complete and a deadline is imminent.

Project management
Pay attention. When you have a job that has many activities going on at one time, your project manager must have daily communication with the superintendent and the foreman. Tracking daily budgets, field reports and changes on the job will make or break you. Plus this up-to-date knowledge will serve you well with the client in marketing future work, because they will recognize someone who is protecting everyone's interest by keeping abreast of dynamic field conditions.

Effective superintendent and foreman
Obviously, you can have the best estimator and project manager in the business, but if your field team cannot back them up you are in trouble. This starts with the superintendent and the foreman. Your field team must be can-do, positive and solution-oriented, and should expect the same from everyone else in the field, including the client. This culture breeds success even with challenging conditions and the inevitable personality issues that tend to erupt on high-pressure time schedules. In fact, building this culture will diffuse these events when they do occur.

Also, a clean paint shop will provide a good working environment for your crew as well as make it easier for your journeyman who may need to find P-19 amongst 500 gallons of paint for the emergency that inevitably crops up.


PaintPRO Current Issue — Project Profile

Inside the Georgia Aquarium

Georgia Aquarium: Painting with the Fishes

The world's largest aquarium makes for a once-in-a-lifetime painting contract
by Mike Dawson

Here's a paint job for you to contemplate: a half-million-square-foot structure plumbed and wired to keep 100,000 creatures happy in 8 million gallons of water, surrounded by artistically designed public areas that must hold up under the hands and feet of 3 million people a year.

A trowel-applied, textured, veneer finish using Duroplex was customized to give these walls a mottled effect.

The roughly 10-acre project, the biggest thing to hit Atlanta since it hosted the Olympics, is a gift to the city by a leading citizen, who's paying for it out of his own very deep pocket. There has never been anything like it in the world, and the world will be watching.

One more thing — the other trades missed their deadlines, so it's up to the painting contractor to pick up the pace of the finishing so the doors can open on schedule.

Dream job or job from hell?
Ask Jeffrey Diamond, president of Goodman Decorating Co. Inc. of Atlanta (, who landed this whopper. His firm is accustomed to high-profile commercial jobs. But the new Georgia Aquarium, built for the people by Bernie Marcus, founder of The Home Depot, is a first.

"I will probably never see another job like it in my lifetime," Diamond said from his office in Atlanta. The design changes, technical challenges, and compressed deadlines were no sweet dream, he said. But neither was it a nightmare.

Latex paint from Sherwin-Williams was applied to the Atrium walls. The stairs were finished with DuPont Nason Finishes to imitate the look of stainless steel.

"The reason it wasn't a job from hell is that I have such a good relationship with everyone I work with," Diamond said of his own personnel and the design team. Sure, there were conflicting ideas, he said, "but we all knew that everyone was focused on doing it right."

The Georgia Aquarium opened its doors in November of 2005. The entire project, from groundbreaking to grand opening, took only 27 months. The aquarium's exterior is designed to look like the prow of a ship cresting a wave. The interior walls are coated to give the feeling of moving water. The numbers, like the fish, get the public's attention. Viewing windows cover 12,000 square feet and contain 328 tons of acrylic. The main tank is more than 100 feet long, 35 feet wide and 33 feet deep, holding two whale sharks and tens of thousands of smaller animals.

A Duroplex textured veneer product was trowel-and-sponge applied to provide a tropical feel.

Behind the scenes lies a complex infrastructure of pipes, ducts, and conduits. "You will never see in all your life a more intense (mechanical-environmental-plumbing) environment," said Diamond of the jungle of apparatus covering the ceilings, sometimes 150 feet above the floor. Getting to the structural steel beams with Carboline Hi Performance 133 and 134 was like a mountaineering expedition. "It was a challenge for our people just to rig it safely."

At eye level, conditions were safer, but applications were no less challenging. In the viewing areas, the designers wanted all of the decorative coatings applied vertically. Diamond's painters used Duraplex Wash DS II in many of these areas, using hand trowels to lay the water-based acrylic around the profile contours of simulated stone structures and atop ornate designs.

Top: The blue backdrop is latex paint applied to drywall. The doors are routed MDF to simulate fish scales and painted with Zolatone "Kinesis." Four or five passes of spray are required to give the intended chameleon look.
Center: A small retail store shot illuminating the use of colors and materials for a special effect.

"It was incredibly labor intensive, but it turned out beautiful," Diamond said.

Duraplex is one of the many products supplied to the aquarium project by Triarch Industries Inc., a maker of architectural finishes and a distributor of imported Venetian plaster.

Bruce Wingate, vice president of the Rhode Island-based company, said that the formula of each application of Duraplex was worked out with the design team in advance, even before his company was assured of getting the job. Such is the nature of specification-driven work. Wingate depends on the Triarch sample department to impress prospective clients. It took more than 70 samples over a year's time before Triarch was ever assured of seeing a dollar from the project.

"It's all betting on the outcome," Wingate said. In large public projects, the risks are that a budget shortfall could lead designers to cut costs on finishes, or that a competitor could copy your designs late in the game and underbid with cheaper material.

None of that happened in this case, and the Georgia Aquarium was a big success for Triarch, which supplied large volumes of its Duraplex and Duraplex Dimensional Metals, as well as its imported Venetian plaster called Spatula Stuhhi.

Creativity at the fore
One of the pleasurable aspects of such a job is the demand for innovation. When the designers wanted the stringers and risers of a monumental staircase to shine like stainless steel (without the cost), Goodman Decorating had the answer. They applied a metallic coating offered by Nason to achieve the desired look for the price of paint.

In all, Goodman used more than a dozen types of coatings on the Georgia Aquarium, and most applications were customized. The paints ranged from high-performance products from makers like Triarch and Carboline, to basics like Sherwin Williams' Series 200 flat, eggshell and semigloss latex. A close inspection would also find low-VOC products, direct-to-metal, various sealers on walls and floors, industrial enamel on doors and frames, and latex dryfall on places like exposed ductwork.

Beyond the paint, the company also installed a wide range of highly decorative coverings on walls, ceilings and pillars. When it was over, the company had more than 10,000 man-hours in the project, Diamond said, and none of it involved casually waving a brush. This project, after all, was the client's gift to the city, and he was spending $200 million on it.

"We felt it incumbent upon us to make it look as good as possible," Diamond says. "At the end of the day the people are there to see the fish, but they are going to be in a beautiful environment."


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