By Denise Housler
All of our projects make us proud to be watershapers – but this one stands out among the most satisfying and rewarding of them all.
The Veterans’ Memorial was designed by David Richter of Richter Architects (Corpus Christi, Texas) and sits on prime real estate alongside City Hall in Portland, Texas. Two more Corpus Christi firms – Beecroft Construction and we at Aquaria Services – assembled the monument, which commemorates fallen veterans representing both Portland and San Patricio County.
The fountain includes 12 concrete monoliths, some with emblems calling out a branch of the service. As seen in these images, the memorial is as yet unadorned. Before long, however, it will feature brass plaques listing local service members who’ve given their lives from World War I through to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When we heard that the project was out for bid, we jumped at the chance to get involved. Our role would be to develop the system’s hydraulics, apply the waterproofing treatment, select equipment and install all fountain plumbing. Once we were ready, the monoliths were to be placed by other contractors, after which we were to complete and initiate the fountain.
We’d been asked to develop a slotted weir system to be positioned between a feeder trough on the back side and a catch basin in front, so we started our work by developing a mock-up – partly for proof of concept but mostly to help the architect and city officials visualize what we were proposing to do.
|By design, the commemorative fountain was meant to complement the impressive, sweeping lines of Portland’s City Hall, but it meant working in mucky Texas soil in excavating the space, setting forms and, for us, in placing our plumbing before the first concrete pour. After some new forming and a second pour, the contours of the monument were becoming clear.|
It’s a fairly simple approach, with grooves cut in coping stones flooded by water rising in a trough on the back side of the memorial and flowing through the slots and down into a catch basin. The water in the lower basin flows to the equipment vault, where it is filtered and treated before returning to the feeder trough.
The entire system was oversized to reduce the need for maintenance by the city. We used variable-frequency drive pumps from Pentair (Sanford, N.C.), which allowed us to dial in the desired flow rate with a high degree of precision. In nearly a year since our work was completed, there have been no issues with calcium build-up or any need to adjust the flow.
As it worked out when construction began, we were among the first on the site and found that the soil, affected by stormy weather, was a heavy, mucky mess. This didn’t influence our work directly, but the adjacent viewing area, situated below grade, was prepared by another contractor with an extensive sub-grade drainage system. All we really faced in our work was the need to find breaks in a spell of unusually wet weather to keep things moving.
|The masons did a marvelous job of inserting the panels, cladding them front and back with stone and then setting reflective metal panels in the gaps. When they finished, we came back and set the weirs at precise levels so the flow from the feeder trough would fall evenly into the catch basin. While the masons were wrestling with the panels, we worked nearby to set up our equipment vault.|
The folks at Beecroft Construction took care of the concrete placement, working with us to ensure proper penetrations for our pipes within the structure. We completed the waterproofing using Flexcrete (Valcon Industries, Sarasota, Fla.) It was all pretty straightforward: The system contains about 2,000 gallons flowing into a basin that had enough capacity to handle the full volume without any need for a separate surge tank.
Although the system was not intended for human interaction, we specified and installed a chlorine erosion feeder in case of incidental contact – but mostly to avoid the potential for algae infestations, which are inevitably a consideration given our region’s hot, humid climate. That climate, and our often intense rainy seasons, led us to include both an autofull system (Kona Labs, Kailua, Hawaii) and an overflow outlet in the catch basin. The rest of the equipment set was provided by Pentair.
In all, construction took nearly eight months, with no major bumps along the way. To be sure, we had to deal with delays related to foul weather, but all of us on the project team – including master technician David Price and project manager Teri Nelson – kept our focus and were determined to meet the Veterans’ Day deadline.
Once we were ready for placement of the 12 large panels, Smith & Sons Masonry (Corpus Christi) stepped up and assembled the monument. Once the panels were in place, we set the slotted weir stones and the fountain was ready to go.
|The fountain’s flow highlights a wonderfully contemplative space, with the soft splashing of the water contained within the sweeping arc of the panels. Day and night, it’s a special space that will take on even greater meaning and solemnity when commemorative brass plaques are added to the composition.|
Getting involved with this sort of project is always an honor and a pleasure, but in this case it was a particular source of pride for us at Aquaria Services. Many of us come from military families or have friends in the armed forces, and it was an emotional experience for all of us – our way of expressing gratitude and appreciation for the many sacrifices made in service to our country.
It also gave us the opportunity to give back to our community – a true team effort for everyone involved in the design, planning and completion of the project. When it was unveiled to the public and the honor ceremony took place, there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd and we could see how much the memorial meant to members of fallen soldiers’ families.
Projects this special don’t come along very often: It was an experience none of us will ever forget.
Denise Housler is co-owner and director of administration at Aquaria Services, since 1988 a women-owned/operated specialist in the design and installation of aquariums, ponds, waterfeatures and lake fountains based in Corpus Christi, Texas. For more information, visit www.aquariaservicesinc.com.