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Our Lady of Angels Cathedral
Los Angeles, 2001

   Welcome to the 24th century.
   There are nuclear reactors on the moon. The sea is dotted with floating cities. Industrial teleportation of inanimate objects is a reality. Automobiles long ago took to the sky.
   And Our Lady of Angels, the angular, fawn-colored concrete cathedral built to last 500 years in Los Angeles, 2002, still stands. Designed by architect Jose Rafael Moneo of Madrid, it's expected to stand at least five more centuries.
   Fantasy?
   Not at all, says Reg Hough, the project's architectural concrete consultant. Mr. Hough, of Reg Hough Specifications, New York, wrote the concrete specs for the cathedral. He knows as well as anyone, and better than most, how durable concrete is.
   "The archdiocese wanted a cathedral that would last at least five centuries," Mr. Hough explained, "and they wanted architectural concrete. Since no one really knows how long our modern reinforced concrete can last - it's only been around 140 years - I had to ask myself 'what is it that deteriorates concrete?'
   "The answer, of course, is water and weather."
   Mr. Hough pointed out that sometimes within years, let alone centuries, repeated water penetration can corrode a concrete building's structural steel. As water evaporates out of the concrete, it can cause efflorescence, which degrades the surface appearance.
   Repeated wet-dry cycles can crack and spall the concrete.
   Keep the water out, Mr. Hough reasoned, and the concrete's natural durability will do the rest. He specified PROSOCO's Stand Off® SLX100 Water & Oil Repellent and Sure Klean® Weather Seal SL100 Water Repellent for the cathedral's nearly 500,000 square feet of exterior colored concrete. Because it resists oil, grease, fuel and other contaminants in addition to water, Mr. Hough specified SLX 100 from ground level to 12 feet. SL100 covered the higher reaches.
   Both are breathable silane systems that protect concrete without altering surface appearance. Their small molecular structures let the treatments penetrate deeply into the substrate.
   Once in, they line the concrete pores and chemically bond to the concrete. The treatments let moisture evaporate out of the concrete, but won't let liquid water in.
   Project Manager Tom Puett and his crew from Anaheim, Calif. - based Techno Coatings Inc. applied the treatments.
   "It took us 35 days, working 6 a.m. to dark, mostly on weekends," Mr. Puett commented.
   During the days, the crew sandblasted to rid the concrete of lingering construction residues. Techno Coatings Inc. used union painters trained specifically for the delicate abrasive blast required to not damage the concrete color, said Mr. Puett, who supervised the blasters
   "Specially blended sand, exact air pressure and an abrasive blast talent you are born with gives the Cathedral a look that will never be duplicated," Mr. Puett explained. "When the morning sun hits those walls, they look like travertine."
   The workers waited until evening to apply the protective treatments. Under the hot Southern California sun, the concrete's surface temperature rose up to 120 degrees, Mr. Puett said - too hot to apply liquids.
   Each evening, as the concrete cooled, the crew sprayed the treatment on the concrete, let it penetrate for a few minutes, then sprayed on a second coat - a technique known as "wet-on-wet." They used lifts, scaffolding and a power crane to treat the cathedral's high walls. Its highest point, the bell tower, is 176 feet tall.
   As the treatment approached completion, manufacturer's representative Mike Davis of Innovative Concrete, San Clemente, splash-tested the treated concrete. The splash-test is one of several post-application tests PROSOCO performs to ensure its products work as promised.
   "Mike came out with one of those high-powered 'super soaker' water guns," Mr. Puett laughed. "He went all around the building, blasting it with water. There were virtually no spots that didn't shed water."
   Though the protective treatments are warranted for 10 years, plans are under way for a continuing maintenance system, Mr. Hough said.
   "I believe the archdiocese is looking at a plan to re-treat the exterior every five years," he explained. "With that kind of care, I expect the cathedral will last just as long as God wants it to last."