Where is the 13th Floor?

Hubert Crowell
 


Visitors: 147

If you visit Plymouth Harbor Retirement Community in Sarasota, Florida and enter the elevator of the spectacular 25 story tower, you will not find a 13th floor. The building is really only 24 stories high. The 13th floor was shipped back to the factory!

In the mid sixties, I was working for Noble Concrete, Inc. , in Chamblee, Georgia. We sold and installed Post tensioning cables for heavy construction projects throughout the southeast. The cables are made up of 1/4 inch cold drawn steel wire from Japan and cut to the correct length, bundled two or more together for the designed size and wrapped in a lubricated paper at The Prescon Corporation in Corpus Christi, Texas. These cables are placed in the concrete forms at the proper height along the length of each beam and then after the concrete has cured to the proper strength stretched about 6 inches for every 100 feet of cable.

There are two common methods for stretching cables. Stranded cables use gripping fingers to hold the cables at the correct tension. With the 1/4 inch wire, a steel plate and collar is drilled with the required number of holes, one for each wire and a button is formed on the end of the wire to hold against the collars and plates at each end. The sizes of the plates are determined by the number of wires and the area required to prevent crushing the concrete. When the concrete has set for about three days, A hydraulic jack with a hole in the center is placed over a steel- threaded rod with a device on the end that fastens to the collar. A steel chair is inserted between the jack and the steel plate. The cables are then stretched to the proper elongation and monitored by gauges on the hydraulic pump. When the correct tension and elongation have been, obtain, two steel shims are slid into place between the collar and the steel plate, the jack, chair and rod are then removed.

I started working for Bill Noble, sometimes referred to as Wild Bill for reasons I will not go into at this time, in 1964. I had some drafting experience but not much else in the construction field. Bill said that he would teach me all that I needed to know. The first day he showed me the drafting board and laid out a job to start on and went into the other room saying just call when I had a question. Well I did have plenty of questions over the next few years. I learned a lot from Bill Noble and some things that at the time seemed trivial, such as not to wad up trash when you throw it into the trash can as it takes up too much room. I still practice that today.

As I grew more familiar with the construction business, I started doing estimates on jobs that we would bid on in the southeast and one of those jobs was the Plymouth Harbor Retirement Community in Sarasota, I was excited about the job because I meet my wife in nearby Bradenton Florida and was looking forward to visiting the job site. However we now had a full crew to make the installations and my onsite services were not required. I did not see the building until 2005. And after 40 some years it still looked as good as new.

With a large job like the tower, we would study the drawings, calculate the material required for the first floor and multiply by the number of floors. We had the contract for placing the forms, installing and providing the steel and over seeing the pouring and stressing of the beams. I was in constant contact by phone with Jim, our supervisor on location and he would let me know of any problems that he encountered and when to order the next shipment of cables. All was going well until he reached the 23rd floor. I received a call and Jim seemed confused, he said that it looked like we may have too many cables on the site for the job.

I discussed the problem with Bill and reviewed the drawings to see what had happen. Bill was a wonderful person to work for. He always said that we learn best from our mistakes, just try not and make the same ones twice. I had made more than my share of them while learning about the construction business, but this was going to turn out to be my most costly mistake to date.

A lot of buildings use the 13th floor for heating and air-conditioning equipment due to the fact that most people tend to avoid the 13th floor and space is hard to lease there. I had encountered a few projects where the 13th floor was ignored and you have to check very closely to find the notes on the drawings. I had overlooked the note on this tower!

Bill took the mistake I had made very well and we proceeded to contact Prescon to see if we could salvage any of the extra material. They said to ship it back and they could re-cut the cables for other jobs. This was another good lesson that I learned form Bill, to come forward with mistakes as soon as they come to light. Throughout my career I have always brought any mistakes made by me, to my superiors as fast as possible and they always understand, it is only when someone tries to cover up or hide the mistake that the problem grows.

In 2005 we attended my wife's 45th class reunion in Sarasota, and while driving out to the beach, I recognized the tower. We went in and talked with the management, took pictures and read the articles in the hall way about the construction. I told them of my involvement in the construction and promised to share some of it. They were excited and said that they get a lot of questions about the building and its construction but did not have many of the answers. I am pleased to be able to share this article with them and I hope that they will include it in their archives.

I have started writing as a hobbie and plan to write about my life, work, hobbies, region and many other things of interest to me and maybe others will enjoy also.

For more information on caving, improving your service department and many other subjects, please visit my web site at: http://hucosystems.com/

(1105)

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