Stone World

Latin America:<br>Mexican travertine brings life to office design

September 18, 2001
Durango Rojo ImperialTM red Mexican travertine provided a striking look for the exterior of a new commercial building set in Rancho Bernardo - an upscale corporate area of San Diego, CA. The unique color of the travertine - complemented by a bluish/gray limestone trim - established a distinctive tone for the four-story structure that sits atop the hillside, with panoramic views of nearby mountains and valleys.

"As far as the building itself, we wanted to create a fairly simple design, but with a lot of interest in the stone," said Project Architect Robert Bodenhamer of Vasquez + Marshall & Associates in San Diego, who worked on the project along with Principal-in-Charge Michael Marshall. "We also wanted a timeless stone."

According to the architect, selecting the stone for the 54,333-square-foot building - referred to as West Ridge - was rather involved. "It was actually a long process," he said. "We probably went through a series of three months, [before choosing the travertine.] We went to several different outlets, and then actually went through a local supplier and saw the product. We liked the stone. It really had a lot of life to it."

Bodenhamer explained that the owners, Brehm Communications, also took part in the selection process. "They were quite involved," he said. "We had several trips with them to the suppliers. San Diego Brick & Tile was very helpful." According to the architect, San Diego Brick & Tile, the local distributor, built an 8- x 10-foot mock-up wall several months before installation. This offered an opportunity to display the wide variations of shades within the travertine so that there were no surprises.

In addition to the travertine, Nova Blue limestone from Portugal was chosen for the base and trim as accent material. The limestone, which is a real dense bluish/gray color, offered a more subtle look. "It offset the more exciting red travertine," said Bodenhamer.

Installing the stone

Because the office of Vasquez + Marshall & Associates was near to West Ridge, the architects were on site often to oversee the installation of the stonework. "We had a really good working relationship with the installer," said Bodenhamer. "Even in the design portion, we had worked out some of the detailing. We had the contractor on board in the design phase, which made it a smooth process."

In total, 11,000 square feet of Durango Rojo ImperialTM red Mexican travertine, which was custom produced by World Wide Stone's wholly-owned Mexican subsidiary, Sociedad Piedra Sierra S.A. de C.V., was employed for the building. The pieces were primarily 20 x 36 inches, which is the maximum allowable size for adhered veneer in Southern California. A total of 2,000 square feet of Portuguese limestone was also employed.

It took about six weeks for a crew of 10 to 12 workers to complete the installation, according to Field Superintendent Kevin Klaser of Klaser Tile in National City, CA. Because of the travertine's wide range in color, the installation crew did do some final sorting of the pieces to make sure that each one had some red or orange in it.

"Sociedad Piedra Sierra had already completed considerable sorting prior to shipment; as customer service is our primary concern," said Mike Nafziger, director of sales at World Wide Stone. "This project was very important to us because it was one of our earliest efforts in commercial structure veneer. Even though, at that time, we had very limited experience with our red quarry, we were still able to meet the client's needs. We worked very closely with Ken Hobbs at San Diego Brick & Tile to make sure that the selection and top quality were as desired. It was great being such an instrumental part of such an extremely aesthetic and exciting project. The building speaks for itself."

According to the Klaser, Tec Specialty Products' Full Flex thinset was used to install the stone. And because it was decided that the travertine would be filled on site, Klaser and his crew were also responsible for that. Straw Amber grout - also from Tec - was used for the job. "On a veneer like that, the grout is smeared on the stone, then sponged, with the final step being cheese clothed," he said. "As it started going up, it really took on a good look quickly. I was really happy with the job." In addition to the exterior, the travertine and limestone were also employed for the interior lobby area.