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The Colorful Themed World Created by KHS&S

The construction industry in general, and wall and ceiling
contracting in particular, is not supposed to be colorful.

The job is to construct solid, safe and functional
buildings; leave the aesthetics to the architects and designers.
A colorful exception to this norm, however, is the
Tampa, Fla.—based KHS&S Contractors. Through its
imaginative use of exterior insulation and finish systems,
KHS&S has become the nation’s leading themed contractor,
completing more than 5.5 million square feet of
themed finishes.

KHS&S provides construction services for a full range
of projects across the country, including gaming/entertainment
facilities, theme parks, hotel/resorts, retail centers,
office buildings, convention centers, health care facilities,
museums, government facilities and industrial buildings.

But, says Senior Vice Resident Peter Costello, KHS&S’
most imaginative EIFS work falls into
three venues that, not surprisingly, require
a lot of pizzazz: the Universal and
Disney themed parks, and casinos.

Costello recalls that when KHS&S first
got into the theming business in 1986, it
was through a somewhat unusual concurrence
of similar jobs done for both the
Universal and Disney parks. Both were
called “New York Street” because, as says
Costello, New York is filled with interesting
architecture. Universal first contracted
with KHS&S to do a mock-up
for the project planned in Orlando, but
the first one to be built was for Disney on
Hollywood Boulevard. “We weren’t used
to cutting the unusual shapes, but we did
so many of them that pretty soon we got
good at it,” Costello says.

The company has also done the main
entry to the Universal Park.

“It’s the grand arch opening, the focal
point of the park and statement Universal
wanted to make,” Costello says.
“It’s close to 30 feet tall and probably
100 feet wide, all compounds, curves
and angles, foam and EIFS.”

Another highlight at Universal is the
Jurassic Park complex of about eight
buildings, including the ride buildings,
and the restaurant with the dinosaur
exhibit that mimics the one in the movie.

One advantage to EIFS in these large
projects, Costello points out, is that
expansion and contraction joints have to
be put in only where true control points
are needed for the building, or perhaps
for aesthetic reasons. However, stucco,
because of its considerable weight in
comparison to EIFS, requires many
more of these joints.

A standout for Disney, Costello says, is
“the Tower of Terror Ride. It’s a tower
with a big elevator. You go to the top of
eight or nine stories and then plunge to
the bottom. It’s made to look like an old
mansion, with parapets blown out to the
side. EIFS was the basic material, and it
has held up quite well.”

EIFS works well in projects like these,
Costello says, because it’s lightweight,
provides good insulation, you don’t have
to paint it, and it’s long lasting. He adds,
however, “You do have to maintain it.
Because EIFS comes with a warranty,
five to seven years, sometimes longer.
Compared to stucco, which averages
one year, people sometimes feel you
don’t have to maintain it. But we make
clear to owners that you do have to
maintain the caulk joints to protect
against mildew and other deterioration.
You can’t just fall back on the warranty”

Bet on the Casinos

Casinos have always been a good bet for
EIFS. KHS&S is currently doing two in
Florida, in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale,
for the Seminole Indian tribe. And
Atlantic City is providing two upscale
projects with the Borgata and Tropicana.

One of the big gaming/hotel projects in
Las Vegas that KSH&S is proud of, says
Dave Suder, president of the Western
region, is Paris Las Vegas. This 150,000-
square-foot project, $150 million over-all
and $20 million-plus for the exterior
skin was, Suder says, “very unique in
that it represented an almost historical
representation of Paris, France. Struc-tures
like the Arc de Triomphe and the
Paris Opera House have a 60 percent
replication. The combination of EIFS,
fiber reinforced plastic, and glass fiber
reinforced concrete gives, Suder says,
“the exact look of French limestone.”

Another example of EIFS’s chameleon like
ability to change its colors is represented
in its current project, the Las
Vegas World Market Center,” says John
Platon, vice president, development.
This 10-story building, $150 million for
the first phase, and $20 million plus for
the exterior skin, Platon explains, “has
the outside EIFS panels designed to look
like the red sandstone in the Utah cliffs.
After carving the base coat there are faux
paintings on the outside with blond
streaks through the sandstone as you see
in nature. The samples we have turned
out are very nice. I don’t think this has
ever been done before.”

One difference between projects in Las
Vegas and on the East Coast, especially
in terms of casinos, says Costello, is that
less paneling tends to be done at the latter.
The reason is that the rain and moisture
require each panel to be especially
prepared and caulked around the joints.
The desert dryness of Las Vegas does not
carry these demands. But perhaps more
important is that the East Coast cities
that have added casinos have had previous
histories. The only history of Las
Vegas, however, has been gaming, so, as
Costello says, “Each casino that goes up
has to say, ‘Can you top this?’—Each
new one has to be fancier and more
glitzy than the one before, so this means
more panelization.”

How Do They Do It?

When asked how KHS&S has managed
to maintain its leadership in this large
and lucrative arena of theming,
Suder replies that the company
comes in early in the conceptualization
process for a new
project. Unlike most contractors
who take the plans from
the architects and designers
and then implement them,
KHS&S offers complete construction
services from preconstruction through to project completion.

These services include comprehensive
estimates, architectural collaboration,
detailed drawings, comprehensive
scheduling, value engineering, conceptual
budgeting and product mock-ups.
The company employs more than 2,000
craftsmen (including faux painters, plasterers
and other artisans), architectural
specialists, CADD operators, estimators
and management personnel. The company
has 10 full-service offices throughout
the country.

“One of the exposures the owner of one
of these big projects faces is having to
over-bid,” Suder says. “Different architects
and designers come up with their
plans, which are put out to bid; contractors
try to implement them, and
there are inevitable problems and cost
overruns. By taking control of the entire What Is KHS&S’ Response?
project, we can offer the owner one
price, so he knows it will not cost him
more than that.”

Suder says that EIFS also gives the owner
a lower cost alternative to other materials.
“In some of the hotels we are working
on, we are using EIFS to mimic precast
concrete,” Suder says. “In some
cases, the buildings were designed for
precast concrete, and we provided EIFS
as a lower cost alternative. And, in other
cases, EIFS with the precast concrete
look was part of the original design.

But one of the attractions of EIFS is not
only that it can be made to look like other
materials, it can also be made to look
like what no other material can approximate.
A good example of this is the
Seuss Landing at Universal. This recreation
of the topsy-turvy world of Dr.
Seuss, in which “ordinary circumstances”
can hardly be said to exist, is in
bright and vivid greens, purples,
oranges, yellows and blues.

Moreover, in an industry where quality
is usually judged by how many straight
lines are laid down, this complex of
some 115,000 square feet, in eight
buildings, virtually all crooked. The
eight buildings include the Green Eggs
and Ham Cafe and the Cat in the Hat
building, a gift shop that features a 40-
foot gloved hand “tipping” the building
or “hat” are made up of swirls of lines.
The challenge was not only to provide
a world to delight children, but also to
balance them all to provide a soundly
engineered structure. With all that EIFS
can do, or, at least tries to do, it might
appear that it has invited problems. And
problems associated with EIFS have certainly
been in the news for the past few

What is KHS&S Response?

“We’ve never had an EIFS failure,” is
Suder’s response.

The reason, Suder explains, “is we have
a very detailed quality control program.
For instance, in our panel construction,
every person who works on one,
whether the framing, sheathing, foam
installation or the application of the
base/mesh and finish, we know who did
it. It’s signed off on that aspect, and not
only on stickers. It’s logged in a book so
we can be certain who built it, and who
inspected it. Sometimes on a project we
will bring in an independent third party
to inspect it.

Suder explains: “As a quality company,
we feel it is incumbent on us to take
every precaution. I look at it as a form
of risk management. By making sure we
install EIFS correctly, that is our insurance.

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