Thin Tile – March 2015
The G. Fred DiBona Building, located at 1901 Market Street in Philadelphia, serves as the headquarters of Independence Blue Cross (IBC). The iconic glass and steel building, built from 1987-1990 and opened in 1990, has been home to Blue Cross as its major tenant for almost 25 years. Starting in 2010, IBC launched a new brand campaign, and an important part of the new identity was the renovation of the 45-story building. The corporate facelift included rejuvenation of all 45 office floors and a full-floor cafeteria for its 3,400 employees, as well as a complete refit of the three-story lobby.
Local architectural firm Myer Design of Ardmore, Pa., redesigned the lobby inside and out. While the work was in progress, employees were redirected to a second entrance for their convenience and to provide an unobstructed work flow. A major project in the lobby featured the installation of Crossville Laminam 1 meter x 3 meter x 3mm thin porcelain tile. The thin tile – Laminam by Crossville®’s Filo collection in Mercurio – was new to the architects, who found it a novel material with which to work.
The original granite on the 30-foot-tall walls was left in place. Thanks to MAPEI’s ECO Prim Grip bond-promoting primer, the thin tiles were able to be set directly over the granite. ECO Prim Grip enhances the performance and adhesion of mortars to existing ceramics, natural stone and other difficult-to-bond substrates.
Installations with large thin porcelain tiles present special challenges that the installers from Belfi Bros. and Co., Inc. resolved with well-coordinated teamwork. Belfi Bros. is a very reliable Philadelphia-based contractor that has pioneered thin tile installations in the area. The thin tile was laid out while MAPEI’s Ultraflex™ LFT mortar for large-format tiles was being mixed. Then, while one team applied the mortar over the ECO Prim Grip on the walls, another team back-buttered the large thin tiles a few at a time. Working from bottom to top, the installers lifted the tiles into place on the walls. As the installation moved up the wall, the installers used a scissors lift to hoist the tiles up to each new level.
It is essential for the tiles and wall to be mortared at the same time to ensure that full coverage can be achieved and that the mortar does not dry out before placement is complete. Ultraflex FLT met all the requirements of the 10,000-square-foot job.
MAPEI’s Ultracolor® Plus grout provided the perfect complement for the thin tile joints. A tile-leveling system is a must for large, thin tile installations, providing a clean, even grout space that enhances the monolithic look of the finished project. This premium, sanded grout can be used on joints from 1/16” to 1” (1,5 mm to 2,5 cm). DropEffect technology reduces surface absorption to help repel water, dirt and grime from penetrating grout joints. Ultracolor Plus is specially formulated with MAPEI’s High-Hydrated Cement Technology (HCT) to eliminate the common problems related to Portland cement grout, such as color consistency and efflorescence.
It took about three months to install the wall tile and another 10,000 sq. ft. of floor tiles in the IBC lobby. The general contractor had no issues with the work, and the owners loved the results. Together with Crossville, the thin porcelain tile supplier, the contractors, designer, owner and MAPEI distributor all worked together to produce a novel installation that gained honors for the project. The G. Fred DiBona Building received two TOBY (The Outstanding Building of the Year) Awards from BOMA Philadelphia (Building Owners and Managers Association) for 2014. The project was named the Best Renovation of the Year and received a TOBY Best of the Best Award for its lobby.