Spray foam help protect priceless religious artifacts
The Jain Center of Southern California (JCSC) was established on September 15, 1979, in Buena Park, California, by a group of Jain families living in and around the Los Angeles area. JCSC has one important mandate — to practice, promote, and teach Jainism. Jainism is an ancient religion originating in India, and it emphasizes non-violence, non-absolutism, and self-control.
Recently, a new temple area was built for the JCSC. This additional 13,000-square-foot facility included a main temple worship area, exhibit area, and the Aradhana Hall, where the congregation holds activities.
India’s ancient Jain temples of Delwada, Ranakpur, and Palitana Tirths inspired the design for the expanded Jain Center. The building’s beautiful exterior is constructed of carved Jesalmer yellow limestone, designed and produced by the finest artisans in India, and imported for use in the sacred structure. Windows and roof parapets were locally fabricated using a lighter-weight fiberglass-reinforced plastic material.
The JCSC has a strikingly distinctive main entrance is made out of carved marble with an ornate Jarukha (an overhanging enc
losed balcony), ornamental columns and two Dwarpals (doorkeepers) on elephants. The interior main temple area is made of natural stone, including marble and colorful granite. The immaculate details of the hand-carved craftsmanship leave most visitors in awe.
Two grand domes stand on top of the Jain Center. One is 20 feet tall and the other is 40 feet tall. The purpose of the domes is both religious and decorative. They are unmistakable. Not only do they call out to the devout, they have also become focal points in the community.
In fact, the larger dome is called a shikhara — which is a Sanskrit word that translates to “mountain peak” — and is a dominant feature in North Indian Temple architecture. The shikhara is rectilinear in shape, with projections extending from the base and wall of the temple. Above the shikhara’s truncated top projects a necking on which rests a large grooved disk, called an amalasaraka. Above the amalasaraka sits a pot with a crowning finial.
In actuality, the exteriors of both temple domes are encased with embellished fiberglass panel sheathing. The fiberglass panels are decorative and made to look like the yellow limestone exterior of the building. When viewed from the street, the domes appear to be ornate hand-carved stone towers. During original construction, both domes were made of a steel frame and wrapped with an EIFS system that consisted of four inches of Styrofoam with a reinforcing mesh and stucco coating.
The interior of both domes; however, does not serve a purpose. The shikhara is only accessible from the rooftop through a small removable utility panel, while the smaller dome has a larger doorway cut into it. Steel members, penetrating the roof, mechanically fasten the domes onto the main structure of the building.
As Above, So Below
Whether the building is a shopping center, or a religious center, a penetration in the roof is still a penetration in the roof. Unfortunately, water has no regard for sacred objects.
Not surprisingly, both domes would leak at the penetrations, and during a rainstorm would start to pool water within. Subsequently, the pooling water would start to seep into the interior of the building — right above the temple area.
The domes are located directly above areas within the temple that needed to be protected at all costs. The smaller dome sits above the main temple area that contains ornate carved marble, decorative statues, and an embellished altar.
The shikhara sits atop a teakwood replica of the Palitana Temple from India. This impressive replica is over 100 years old and was hand-carved and painstakingly detailed in India, then disassembled, shipped by boat to the U.S., and reassembled. The entire structure is 10-feet-wide, 20-feet-deep, 35-feet-tall, has nearly 1,600 pieces, and weighs about five tons. The Palitana Temple replica features delicate columns with intricately carved designs, a dome, two curved staircases, and two enclosed balconies. It was donated to the JCSC in the 1980s and is now considered a priceless artifact.
Obviously, wet worshippers and damaged artifacts were out of the question. “It’s very important we fix this; it’s very important water doesn’t come in the temple,” stated one of the Jain Center Board Members. The pooling water; however, was taking a toll.
Multiple solutions had been tried to repair the leaks, but all failed. So, the General Contractor for the facility brought in Rodney Peralta and his crew from Arithane to install spray polyurethane foam to fix the issues.
SPF: The Answer To Prayers
The unique design of the domes pushed the construction envelope to a point where traditional materials such as built-up roofing systems, EIFS wall systems, and other options just did not prove to be practical. These older methods for waterproofing were never designed to handle such an unusual application. Given that spray foam can be easily applied and conforms to any shape, it was determined to be the only logical long-term solution for this project.
The roof of the building was a built-up roof (BUR) and the penetrations of the steel members of the domes were the main cause of the water leaking into the temple area below. Compounding this was the fact that the dome’s steel structure was oddly shaped and proved difficult for the BUR to maintain its effectiveness.
The central issue was fixing the leaking and ponding BUR roof area on the bottom of the interior of the domes. The solution was to provide a seamless spray foam roof system on the interior floor of the domes.
Peralta and his crew wanted to foam the domes at night when worshippers were not in the temple area below, so as not to disturb them. However, there was a sense of urgency to get the job done as soon as possible. With rains forecast in the coming days, the facility manager was adamant about getting the job completed as quickly as possible.
So, Arithane quickly and methodically put a job plan together. The contract was signed, and work began the following day.
In spite of the haste, each of the applicators was careful to be quiet and respectful while on the grounds and completing the job.
In fact, the team took extra care not to make excessive noise while on the roof. One of the crew notes, “We slowed down our pace of what we would have done on a normal project, just so we wouldn’t make too much noise. It definitely slowed us down getting the job done, but it’s important to be respectful in a place like this.”
Foaming The Domes
The interior of the shikhara is 30 feet tall, while the smaller dome is approximately 12 feet. In order to access the top of the dome walls inside these high areas, the Arithane crew used ladders and scaffolding. However, because the interior of the shikhara was only accessible by a small crawlspace, getting the scaffolding into the dome became a challenge. It all had to be disassembled into individual pieces, passed through the small hole, and then reassembled inside the dome. And remember, they were trying to be quiet so as not to disturb the worshippers below. Talk about going above and beyond! Once the scaffolding was assembled, the crew observed proper PPE requirements — tying off at all times while working at heights above six feet.
Working inside the domes meant that the crew was working inside confined spaces. Since they were working in a confined area, supplied air was of utmost importance to keep the crew safe. They wore full-face supplied air respirators with a portable breathing air compressor.
The domes were sealed and had no built-in ventilation, so the crew utilized a two-fan ventilation system to ensure that contaminants were not forced into other areas of the building.
Because the domes had caused such problems in the past, it was decided that fixing the roof are around the domes was not enough. The domes themselves were still full of leaks and needed to be fixed to provide an additional protective layer. The solution was to foam the inside of the domes with closed-cell spray foam to completely seal the walls of the domes.
Using their Graco 33:1 Bulldog and GX7 guns, the crew spray-applied three inches of SWD’s Quik-Shield 125 2.5 lb. closed-cell spray foam onto the interior walls of the domes. The application was done in two lifts to ensure the foam’s exothermic reaction did not exceed the manufacturer’s heat limitations.
Normally an inch to an inch-and-a-half application would have been adequate to fix a leaky roof. However, because of the importance of protecting the priceless artifacts below, the contractor installed four inches of 2.5 lb. roofing spray foam on the floor of the domes. The foam was then coated with SWD’s 1929F acrylic coating.
The applicators built up the foam to a greater depth in the center of floor, adding small scupper holes in four sides of the each dome. This provided a drainage slope so that if any water managed to get into the interior of the domes, it would be channeled to the exterior scuppers and released onto the roof for drainage.
In total, it took five days to complete the two domes. The Aritahne crew installed 2,000 lbs. of closed-cell foam onto the walls and floors of the domes.
The newly foamed domes are now leak-free, durable, and should last — protecting the priceless temple artifacts and the worshippers — for many years to come.
The JCSC building manager was so pleased with the results he is now looking to add a spray foam roofing system to the rest of their asphalt roof.
“Most other materials you have to maintain in some fashion,” explains Peralta. “Even if they did do some sort of rubber coating, they flex and peel and lose their elasticity over time, where spray foam does not. Spray foam was the perfect solution for this job.”
Photos courtesy of Arithane
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