Project Detail
  • Cleveland Aquarium

    Cleveland, Ohio, USA

    Xypex products used: Concentrate, Patch'n Plug, Admix C-500

    *Please download Project Sheet for more images*

    When local developer Jacobs Investments proposed to create the 70,000 ft2 (6,053 m2) Greater Cleveland Aquarium in the lower level of the vintage FirstEnergy Powerhouse (fig 1) on the west bank of the Cuyahoga River, it posed multiple engineering and logistical challenges.

    One of the key concerns was how to protect the critical concrete bases and walls of the more than 40 separate aquarium tanks (fig 2) to be built in the basement of the nearly 130-year-old building. About 1,100 yd3 (841 m3) of ready-mix concrete were needed to create the assortment of fresh and saltwater tanks.

    The tank designers, New Zealand-based Marinescape and structural engineer, Cleveland-based Leinweber Engineering, needed a way to protect the concrete aquarium structures from leakage as well as the effects of the simulated seawater to be used in the saltwater tanks. Given the tight confines of the aquarium and 7-day-per-week public access, any waterproofing treatment that might require future followup or maintenance was ruled out.

    Don Leinweber, founder and principle engineer of Leinweber Engineering, worked with Marinescape designers and the local Xypex representative to develop a concrete specification that would solve this puzzle. Ultimately, the team chose to use Xypex Admix C-500 for all water holding structures, providing integrated and life-time waterproofing and chemical protection. The use of Xypex Admix C-500 saved on installation time and cost less than the cost of coatings or membranes, which would need periodic maintenance and restoration.

    Admix solves multiple challenges
    Xypex Admix C-500, which was added to the concrete at the time of batching, consists of Portland cement, silica sand, and various active, proprietary chemicals that react with the moisture and the by-products of cement hydration to cause a catalytic reaction that results in the formation of non-soluble crystals that fill the natural pores and capillary tracts in concrete. This crystalline formation prevents the penetration of water and other liquids from any direction.

    Admix C-500 becomes a permanent and integral part of the concrete structure and continues to work to prevent the ingress of water and other liquids for the life of the structure. Admix C-500 not only permanently seals the concrete and can heal hairline cracks up to 0.4 mm, it also provides chemical resistance properties that mitigate the attack of chlorides, sulfates and the effects of carbonation and alkali-aggregate reaction.

    The aquarium designers chose to preserve as much of the character and structure of the original Powerhouse as possible. Built in 1892 as a power plant for Cleveland’s electric streetcars, the Romanesque revival style structure was closed in 1920 due to the rise in popularity of automobiles.

    The Powerhouse was extensively renovated in 1987 (fig 3) and evolved into the Nautica Entertainment Complex (fig 4), which includes the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, several restaurants and banquet facilities, the Jacobs Pavilion, the Nautica Queen river cruise ship, and the IMPROV Comedy Club.

    First-time Xypex user
    The aquarium construction project took place throughout 2011 (fig 5), enabling the new aquarium to open in January 2012, the first standalone aquarium in Cleveland since the Gordon Park aquarium closed in 1985. The general contractor for the aquarium concrete work was Cleveland-based The Albert M. Higley Co.

    Rockport Ready Mix, located just 3.5 miles from the aquarium site, was selected to supply the 1,100 cubic yards of 4,500 psi concrete needed for the project (fig 6). More than 11,000 pounds of Xypex Admix C-500 was used to enhance the concrete mix. The Admix C-500 was added to the concrete trucks during initial loading using 15-pound water soluble bags. Xypex Concentrate and Xypex Patch’n Plug were used by the concrete contractor during the project to seal joints and make repairs where necessary.

    “It was our first experience using Xypex Admix,” recalls Rockport chief operating officer John Sarrouh. “We worked with the local Xypex representative to understand exactly how to incorporate the Xypex product in the mix with the proper dosage and deliver it to the job. Once the Xypex Admix was added to the concrete mix in the truck, we mixed it for five to seven minutes. Since the aquarium project, we have used Xypex many times as a waterproofing admix on other structures. In fact, we used it very recently on a NASA project.” Delivery and placement of the Xypex-treated ready mix to the aquarium construction project was especially challenging due the enclosed (fig 7) and relatively inaccessible Powerhouse structure. “We made deliveries to the aquarium project over a six-month period in 2011,” Sarrouh says. “Due to the tight spaces inside the building, getting the mix into the job was very demanding and time consuming. Two methods of placements were utilized, concrete pump and powered buggies (fig 8).”

    Sarrouh noted that adding Xypex Admix C-500 to concrete mixes has very little impact on the mixing process or the consistency of the mix. “It typically does not change the characteristics of the concrete mix or its workability,” he says. “Now that we understand the product, its application, and the benefits it provides, it is a value-added product we can offer to our customers for the proper projects.”

    Aquatic dreams realized
    Since opening in early 2012, the Greater Cleveland Aquarium has drawn an estimate 1.5 million visitors, including more than 250,000 in 2017 alone. A recently completed $250,000 renovation and enhancement project has helped enhance the visitor’s experience. The historic brick building, located in the Flats along the Cuyahoga River, features nine reimagined galleries that afford up-close, eyelevel and 360-degree views of more than 300 species (figs 9-12).

    The themed galleries—Ohio Lakes & Rivers, Asia & Indonesia, Tropical Forest, Industry & Habitat, Giant Pacific Octopus, Coastal Boardwalk, Tropical Reef, Shark Gallery & SeaTube and Imagiquarium—feature 2500 freshwater and saltwater animals from nearby Lake Erie and from across the globe.

    “We were excited that Rockport Ready Mix played a part in the Greater Cleveland Aquarium project,” says Sarrouh. “It not only provides a high-quality experience for thousands of visitors every year, but it offered us a chance to learn how Xypex can be used to protect and enhance the properties of concrete. It’s now part of our tool kit and we’re comfortable providing it and recommending it when appropriate.”


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