The new Commons Building at Mesa College in San Diego is anything but common-looking. To complete this unusual LEED Silver project, the tile contractor had to pull out all the stops—including installing exterior tile from a 60-foot boom lift. Plank tile was set vertically throughout to emphasize a pair of solar chimney towers while integrating with the paver layout. Successfully installing these striking, technically challenging tile assemblies required an experienced team and high-performance products. NTCA 5-Star Contractor Christian Brothers Flooring used a full system from CUSTOM to meet these challenges at Mesa Commons, which won NTCA’s Commercial Project of the Year in 2018.
To bring this specification to life, installers had to overcome time constraints caused by weather conditions, change orders and soaring heights. A high percentage of the tile was set on walls located outdoors. However, there was no scaffolding in place to facilitate tiling towers reaching 52 feet high. Instead, two fearless installers applied membrane, set tile and grouted from a small platform atop an articulating boom lift. Using the boom complicated the tile setting process and created a bottleneck, solved by a carefully planned assembly line of product and tile. These are just some of the obstacles that Christian Brothers had to overcome to complete the project on time.
Summer temperatures over 100°F affected each phase of the exterior work. A liquid membrane was applied to the walls for a few hours in the cool of the morning. The charcoal black tile got so hot in the sun that it was difficult to handle and steam rose as it was sponged. Mortar and grout were mixed frequently in small batches to help prevent flashing off in the heat and wind atop the boom. Then, unseasonal rain fell in this Mediterranean climate, impacting the grout application.
Heat is also a crucial element in the long-term life cycle of this tile project. To support campus sustainability mandates, tiled solar chimneys in the towers provide passive heating and cooling. The mass of dark tile is baked by the San Diego sunshine and the resulting heat flow can be vented out the top of the chimney. These glass enclosed, black tiled chimney walls and tower exteriors required extra preparation during installation to stand up to intensified thermal cycling.
Installation began with an application of RedGard® Waterproofing and Crack Prevention Membrane. RedGard is a ready-to-use, liquid-applied elastomeric membrane that meets ANSI A118.10 and A118.12. RedGard® creates a continuous waterproof membrane barrier with outstanding adhesion to protect against moisture and in-plane movement in the substrate.
Though a change to tile with a high recycled content caused delay, this lighter weight material could be direct bonded to the substrate which recouped some time. Crossville supplied a porcelain tile custom cut to 3″ x 18″ through their Get Planked program. The highly textured planks were installed with a one-third offset, using an 80% black to 20% gray pattern.
Christina Brothers’ installers used ProLite® Premium Large Format Tile Mortar, which offers high bond strength and excellent handling characteristics. ProLite exceeds ANSI A118.15TE for non-slip, thixotropic performance on walls and extended open time in the hot and windy conditions at the top of the towers. Formulated with post-consumer recycled material, ProLite is 40% lighter than traditional mortars, making it much easier to carry, mix and apply. With 48% recycled content by volume, ProLite also contributes towards LEED® certification on sustainable projects like Mesa College.
“When we look at installations, we are looking at efficiency and quality,” said Brian Boek, vice president at Christian Brothers. “We need a product that performs and installs quickly so we can have maximum efficiencies. ProLite meets that need perfectly.”
Grout joint widths were modified to mirror the complementary concrete paver installation and filled with PolyBlend® Sanded Grout. PolyBlend is a polymer-modified, cement-based grout formulated for durability that produces hard, dense joints to resist shrinking, cracking and wear.
Soft movement joints were placed both vertically and horizontally in accordance with TCNA EJ171. Permanently flexible CUSTOM Commercial 100% Silicone Sealant was used to fill soft joints to accommodate expansion and contraction in all tile assemblies. This is a critical element where tile is used a solar panel and will be subject to higher than normal temperature fluctuations.
“Kudos to CUSTOM’s field and tech support teams for their help,” added Boek.
The 73,000 square foot Mesa College Commons houses restaurants, shops, lounges and the Culinary Arts program. Areas receiving tile include exteriors and solar chimneys, lobby and meeting room walls, restrooms and locker rooms. Even the pizza oven is tiled on this sizzling and award-winning project!
San Diego, CAYear Completed:
SGPA Architecture & Planning, San Diego, CAContractor:
Balfour Beatty Construction, San Diego, CATile Contractor:
Christian Brothers Flooring, Lakeside, CACBP Architectural Consultant:
John Diaz, CTC, CSI, commercial architectural services coordinator; Brian Swann, territory managerCBP Regional Technical Representative:
Chris Vombaur, regional technical sales representative