Building Ascent: Chapter 5
February marked a big milestone for the Ascent Innovation construction site: all of the structural concrete work was finished, leaving the foundation ready for steel, which began arriving as the month wound down. “I always sleep better at night after we get through that phase,” job site supervisor Thom Palm admitted.
Prior to that, some 6,000 tons of engineered fill was delivered. Once again the weather proved to be challenging; Robert Snyder with Site Work Specialists said, “It’s cold in the morning and hot in the afternoon. Everything is frozen in the morning and then it turns to mud afterwards. As we’re working we’ve gotta keep an eye out, make sure Scull’s not getting in the way, make sure the masons stay out of the way. We’re going to bump heads here and there, but we all have to work together in the end.”
To help combat the cold, a ground heater was brought in. This consisted of a 3,000-foot long hose filled with glycol and heated to 180º in order to keep the ground warm and prevent frost when it came time to backfill. The hose was unrolled and covered with blankets until the dirt company was ready to backfill. Zach Bunker, a part-time concrete laborer and full-time South Dakota School of Mines & Technology civil engineering student, marveled over the efficiency of the whole process and felt proud to be a part of it. “I’ve worked for Scull for a couple of years and gone to the School of Mines for a couple of years,” he said, “so being a part of something that ties the two together is cool.”
Another milestone occurred when the first block was laid. Colby Davis with WD Masonry talked about the difficulties in doing block work on an elevator shaft in the middle of a snowstorm. “We start out by building scaffold. In temperatures like this you have to completely enclose it and cable it off. It’s very important to get the first course plumb and level. I have a lot of faith in the guys I have out here.”
The weather was on Thom Palm’s mind, too. “February’s been an interesting month,” he said. “We’ve had 60º days and this morning it was six below. All the snow’s been gone, and now—February being February—we had 12” overnight.” Still, he was pleased with the progress and excited for warmer weather as spring approaches.