The roof on the Oriental Institute was leaking, and there was no room for error. Housed in the institute's museum on the University of Chicago campus are more than 100,000 artifacts collected during 100 years of archaeological and survey expeditions to every country in the Near East. To make matters worse, the library's hand-painted plaster ceiling lay directly below one of the leaky areas.
The clay tile roof was an artistic product of Italian craftsmen who shaped a water-clay combination into roof tiles and colored them with carefully mixed glazes. When the leaks were inspected by Inspec, a consulting engineering/architectural firm, it was discovered that the concrete deck was to blame, not the roof. The 3½-inch concrete deck had begun to bow.
The museum was closed in 1996 when a new wing was added. During that time, all the artifacts were moved and re-cataloged while major renovations, including a climate control system, were undertaken. Therefore, a second museum was unthinkable.
In most of the buildings there is a floor between the roof and the museum, so except for some scaffolding, the staff and visitors are not aware of the work on the roof. Inspec and the University of Chicago turned to Knickerbocker Roofing to replace the roofing. Every day the crew removes only as much of the roof as can be replaced that day. A steel deck, fireproofing, underlayment and then the tile were installed.
The company is installing 280 squares of Ludowici Classic Tile in clay red. These smooth-surfaced tiles have side interlocks and smooth, square butts. The smooth surface provides a simple, tailored appearance to the Gothic, steep-pitched roof, and the interlocks make installation faster. Copper gutters and cladding complete the roof.