Architect: John Graham and Company
Rochester, New York
Constructed: 1973

Lincoln First Bank Tower  Thermal Hysteresis: Stone Panel Bowing, Causes and Solutions

Originally constructed as the Rochester Lincoln First Bank in 1973 by architect Jack Follete of John Graham and Company, the tallest building in Rochester, New York’s marble façade crumbled to the sidewalk by the mid 1980’s. [a]

The skyscraper is located in an area called “Clinton Square” and is a prime example of “late modern commercial architecture” as shown in image 1. The exterior has 24 load bearing steel tubes and 24 hollow columns that transport utilities throughout the building. The original design included marble plating on all the outer columns. [b] The marble covering was thinner than standard “values in architecture reference books” and absorbed more water and pollutants than expected. Marble plates visibly deformed and became a public concern. The added weight of pollutants and water caused the marble façade to “crumble” under its own weight. As the marble slabs fell off the 398 foot structure, the sidewalks had to be closed and painted plywood was fixed to the building while solutions were discussed. Engineers brought in to “judge” the façade condemned it. [c] Interior marble was not a safety hazard and could remain up while the exterior marble was replaced with painted aluminum. [a]

The exterior replacement of 203,000 square feet of marble cost the tower’s owner almost $20 million and the repairs stretched over three years. The marble being torn down had deformed to the point of being unusable for any other purposes and was discarded. The marble sheeting was a new material at the time the Lincoln First Bank Tower was designed. Unfortunately, the effects of the marble under heating and cooling were not known and a few other buildings were clad in the marble sheeting. It was determined after the failure of Lincoln First Bank Tower that the crystalline structure of the thin marble sheets causes unequal, permanent deformation, as shown in image 2. [c]

Since the façade deformation and adhesion failure in the 1980’s, the Chase Tower has undergone a $30 million renovation and caused other office spaces in the Rochester area to become vacant. [d]