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Composites Help Miami's Freedom Tower Shine Again

02 February 2001

The Freedom Tower, a 75-year-old architectural landmark and enduring symbol of resilience in the face of adversity, looms large over the Miami's skylne. Built in 1925, the sixteen-story stucco office tower is a prime example of Spanish Renaissance revival style, and is said to be modeled after the Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain. In later years the structure became Miami's "Ellis Island," where 400,000 Cuban refugees were processed between 1962 and 1974. In 1997, the Cuban American National Foundation acquired the building, with plans for a complete renovation to serve as a museum and library commemorating the Cuban refugee experience. But by then, both the building's aesthetics and its structural elements were in severely degraded condition. The engineering firm of Donnell Duquesne & Albaisa was selected to deal with the many structural challenges faced by the building. Early, primitive concrete construction methods had sowed the seeds of destruction within the building's columns, beams and soffits. An improper mix of ingredients in the structural concrete had resulted in a high degree of cast-in caustic chlorides, exacerbated by the ravages of the prevailing saltwater air. The resulting delamination, cracks and spalled concrete created an environment where the reinforcement steel rebars were exposed to the elements and corroding. DD&A tapped Structural Preservation Systems, Inc., a national contractor specializing in structural concrete repair and strengthening, to perform the challenging structural repairs required. Column, slab and beam repairs were required throughout the Freedom Tower structure, including concrete-encased I-beams on certain floors. As with the columns, many beams required full-depth replacement. Some were enlarged to withstand the additional load-bearing requirements via the use of MBrace(R), a composite strengthening system made up of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic. The Freedom Tower restoration is expected to be completed in Fall 2001. For further information on the project, e-mail bgallagher@structural.net.





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