Designing with Texas Limestone

A cost-effective natural product with high durability and many design opportunities
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Sponsored by Texas Quarries – An Acme Brick Company
Peter J. Arsenault, FAIA, NCARB, LEED AP
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Hand Carving

In some cases, unique limestone details are sought for either new or renovated buildings. Those details might call for some specific three-dimensional shapes, forms, or patterns to create a feature item consistent with the rest of the building. In this case, custom hand-carved pieces or panels are possible, which can create dramatic and very artistic results.

Custom hand-carved limestone is available to produce unique, three-dimensional elements that are permanent parts of an overall building, such as the Texas Tech English and Philosophy Building.

Custom hand-carved limestone is available to produce unique, three-dimensional elements that are permanent parts of an overall building, such as the Texas Tech English and Philosophy Building.

Of course, doing this type of carving work requires the availability of artisans with the skills and experience to execute it. Those capabilities may be found at some quarry/fabricators but certainly not all. It is worth investigating this ahead of time and asking to see examples of prior work, either physically or photographically. These skills are important for single, stand-alone carvings, such as statuary, but they will also be important for repeated items along a building frieze or ornamental treatments at windows, doors, etc. In this case, first creating a template that can be reviewed and approved will be important. That template can then be the basis for replicating multiple identical pieces of hand-carved limestone.

Cutting and Setting Drawings

One of the key coordination tools in the process of incorporating cut stone into a building is the use of shop drawings that depict the details of cutting and setting the stone in place. The cut stone supplier typically prepares and submits to the architect, for approval, complete cutting and setting drawings for all of the limestone work under any particular contract. Such drawings necessarily show in detail the sizes, sections, and dimensions of stone, the arrangement of joints and bonding, anchoring, and other necessary details. In short, they form the full, detailed description of the stonework cutting, fabrication, and installation based on the architectural design for the building.

In order to be sure that the building design and the stone-cutting design are working together, one or more meetings between the architect and the supplier during the design phase can definitely help. It is counter-productive for the architectural drawings to show extensive detailing that is contrary to the best practices or capabilities of limestone. It is also not appropriate to provide too little detail, leaving uncertainty or creating surprises when the stone is installed. Rather, in the spirit of an integrated project delivery process, an early discussion can help inform all parties of the best ways to communicate the design intent and the construction details. In cases where the architectural firm is using building information modeling (BIM), it may be possible to incorporate the shop drawing information from the supplier directly into the computer model as well, thus fostering full coordination with the overall design.

Stone cutting and setting shop drawings need to be coordinated with architectural construction drawings to allow all aspects of the stonework to be appropriately detailed.
Stone cutting and setting shop drawings need to be coordinated with architectural construction drawings to allow all aspects of the stonework to be appropriately detailed.

Stone cutting and setting shop drawings need to be coordinated with architectural construction drawings to allow all aspects of the stonework to be appropriately detailed.

The role of each party also needs to be understood and respected in the process. For example, the architect is still responsible for the overall design of the building and the creation of needed stone details to scale or drawn full size. If the contract drawings do not show the intent of the jointing, it will be the stone fabricator’s responsibility to establish the jointing in accordance with industry standards. Each stone indicated on these drawings shall bear the corresponding number marked on an unexposed surface with a non-staining paint. The contractor who is constructing the building that the stone will be placed on is typically responsible for furnishing all field dimensions necessary for fabrication.

 

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Originally published in Architectural Record

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