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may 2013 | by peter reedijk | show project

Temperatures below freezing, snow up to our thighs, bone-chilling winds, and fifteen dark buildings greeted us as we rolled into the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge campus. Even though it was May, record low temperatures had kept the lovely site locked in a winter deep freeze. With a team of four, we were prepared for the worst, but when it hits you in the face, you wonder if maybe you should have packed one more layer of clothing.

Our next ten days would be spent installing 665 room signs, 21 building signs, 120 pedestrian directionals, and map kiosks. We would tread across the frozen landscape, peel layers of clothing as the sun warmed the air, and eat... and eat (there's something about cold weather that gives you a voracious appetite).

Installation in the bitter cold has its own challenges. Because most adhesives need room-temperature conditions to cure - and conditions at our installation sites were far from room-temperature - we had to redesign our installation method on the fly. We began by conducting a series of "cure" tests. The first were done in optimal conditions, with tools, materials, and adhesives at at least 60 degrees for eight hours before subjecting them to the outdoors. Next we tested them in less than desirable (but more realistic) conditions: materials and adhesives placed outside for six hours and then adhered and "cured" in below-freezing temperatures for another 24 hours.

The results: our caulk-based construction adhesives (which turned into solid cylindrical bricks when left outside) needed indoor temperatures to cure successfully. But specialty acrylic adhesive tapes cured outdoors, even in freezing temperatures - a pleasant surprise, and a good solution to a big challenge.