The copper-colored Rotunda roof will remain that way through final exercises at the University of Virginia.
Mother Nature is to blame for a unique graduation backdrop this year. The plan was to have at least the south portion of the newly installed Rotunda roof painted white like everything else. But sporadic spring rain has become a challenge.
UVA's Historic Preservation Projects manager, Jody Lahendro, says they needed two separate dry days to get the work done ahead of final exercises on May 19: one day to apply a primer coat, another to apply a finish coat.
But with a chance of rain in the forecast for the foreseeable future, UVA has called off the painting so the scaffolding can be removed in time for graduation.
"While it's a disappointment not to have this aspect of it done and it makes it a little harder for the contractors to paint it using ropes instead of the scaffolding here, still we're not completely disappointed that this will be a unique opportunity for the graduates in 2013," Lahendro said.
The paint needs about six hours to dry. If not it would have to be stripped off and then applied again. UVA says that would be too difficult and costly. Lahendro says they haven't cut corners to this point and they won't start.
Work will begin again after graduation.
University of Virginia MEDIA RELEASE
Inclement Weather Leads to Unique Distinction for Class of 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., May 8, 2013 — The newly rebuilt Rotundadome at the University of Virginia will remain copper-colored for Final Exercises.
Crews from E. Caligari & Son Inc. of Norfolk planned to paint the dome white this week, using a fluoropolymer mixture from PPG Paints, but this week's rain is preventing it. The painting plan calls for two coats – a primer coat, then a finish coat.
"We need dry weather for about four to six hours after the primer is applied," said Jody Lahendro, historic preservation projects manager for Facilities Management. "The weather forecasts call for 40 percent chance of rain every day this week."
University officials, on the advice of construction managers Christman-Gilbane, agreed Monday not to attempt to paint the dome before the May 19 Final Exercises.
"This is too complicated and intricate to try and rush through it," Lahendro said.
That means that this year's graduation photos will be the first to have a copper-clad Rotunda dome in the background since before the last round of major Rotunda renovations, completed in 1976.
Crews have spent the past year replacing the roof on the University's centerpiece Rotunda, the first phase of an extensive $50 million restoration and repair project. The roof work, which involved replacing the steel dome with a copper one, is completed – several months ahead of schedule – and the scaffolding that has bracketed the Rotunda for the past year has been taken down, leaving the final touch of painting the dome.
The copper roof must be specially prepared for the paint, including being gone over with a fine-grit sandpaper.
"They finished all the sanding on Sunday," Lahendro said. "So when we do paint it, that is already done. We will need to scour the metal to clean it again, but that should be all."
Lahendro said the painting crews plan to be back on the roof assessing the situation the day following graduation.
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