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Scope of Work

• Repair or replace deteriorating portico
• Repair or replace skylight, which was deteriorated and leaking
• Repoint brick on all four sides of the four-story condominium
• Replace damaged brick
• Repair or replace damaged window sills, lintels and other cast stone elements

The portico at 15-17 James Street, Brookline, had become a safety concern. Replacing it with a similar portico would have been expensive and difficult to accomplish, but it was too worn down to be repaired. Work was completed in tight quarters, primarily during the cold winter months.

Finding a Better Alternative

The stately portico at 15-17 James St., Brookline, was no longer stately. An analysis from Copeland Building Envelope Consulting, Inc. (CopelandBEC) found that the portico masonry had “seriously deteriorated.” With age and exposure to the elements, it had become unstable and created a safety hazard.

CopelandBEC was retained by the condominium association in January 2020 to inspect the portico and skylight. Matthew Copeland, Principal at CopelandBEC, and Statewide RM Principal Kieran Fitzgibbon had worked together on other projects over many years. Given their previous experience, Copeland brought in Statewide to assist in an analysis of the masonry.

“Statewide does great work and is a pleasure to work with,” Copeland said. “There is a lot of trust between us. I can be confident that work will be implemented properly and that if any issues arise, we will discuss them. We have a strong relationship.”

During their inspection of the roof, portico and skylight, which was aided by the use of an aerial lift, they found that the portico masonry had numerous large cracks and spalls, several loose pieces of mortar, crumbling mortar joints, missing balusters, moisture within the masonry, peeling masonry coatings, and deflection and settlements (i.e., movement of pieces of masonry).

The roof of the portico was covered with a single-ply rubber membrane made from ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) that had deteriorated. In addition, several inches of head joints on a water table at the third-floor level had not been sealed with EPDM and were exposed to the elements.

“The roofing is terminated at the face of surrounding masonry with termination bars,” according to CopelandBEC’s report to the condominium association. “The sealant at termination bars is failed and the membrane is pulling away from the surrounding masonry. The membrane is loose and tented at inside corner transitions.”

In its report, Copeland concluded that, “The level of deterioration at the portico is such that repair or restoration of the existing materials appear to be impractical. The existing materials have deflected and settled, and there is insufficient sound material left to serve as the base for repairs.”

The skylight, likewise, was “in poor condition with failed or missing glazing seals and broken glass.” Interior finishes around the skylight were stained and the paint was peeling.

Copeland and Statewide determined that the portico and skylight weren’t the only sources of leaks. The roof, which had recently been replaced, was in good condition, but there were numerous leaks throughout the building, as masonry had deteriorated on all four sides of the condominium. Cast stone (e.g., precast concrete) elements were cracked and spalled, mortar joints were crumbling, masonry coatings were peeling, and debris was collecting on window sills.

A Collaborative Plan

After the inspection, CopelandBEC and Statewide collaborated on a plan for the portico. While they found that the portico had deteriorated to the point where it could not be repaired, building a new, similar portico out of precast concrete was cost prohibitive.

They settled on building a fiber-reinforced cornice – a cornice made from fiberglass. The deteriorating portico was removed, and Statewide found a manufacturer for the new cornice and coordinated construction.

The new cornice is “visually appealing, with less weight and a lower cost” than a new cast-stone portico would have been, Copeland said. Aesthetically, the new structure is designed to rejuvenate the entrance, making it welcoming and safe, while retaining its historic character.

In addition, the skylight was replaced and Statewide repointed the masonry on the entire exterior, replacing brick that had severely deteriorated. Lintels, window sills and other cast stone elements were repaired or replaced and resealed. New flashing was also installed.

The $1 million project took more than a year to complete. The building is no longer leaking and its stately appearance has been restored.