A HISTORY OF INNOVATION: 1867-2017
The Face® Companies of Norfolk, Virginia have been breaking new technological ground for a century and a half, principally in the construction industry. By any analysis, Face® has changed the global building industry over the last 40 years by dramatically improving concrete floor placement techniques and quality control methodology and instrumentation.
More recent Face® technology developments hold the promise of similar impacts in a wide variety of other industries, including:
self-powered wireless remote controls, and
innovative means of energy harvesting (EH).
Face® will soon unveil new EH advances as the latest of Face®’s Evergreen® technologies.
Before the First Face® Company
The family’s history in Virginia goes all the way back to the 17th century. The story begins in Elizabeth City County, Virginia (now Hampton) in 1690 in the person of an indentured servant born John Facey in Colyton, Devon, England. He had been sold into life servitude (slavery) in Barbados for taking up arms against Catholic King James II in the Monmouth Rebellion. When he was later freed by Protestant King William III, Facey chose to stake his future in the New World rather than return to England – and to change his name to Jacob Face. His son married his “master’s” daughter and, before long, the Face family owned a plantation named “Crocus.”
Capt. Edward Face, who was born in 1724, was an officer in the Virginia Navy in the Revolutionary War. In 1781, he and four hands serving on his sloop John (perhaps named after his grandfather) spent 70 days “for the use of the troops at the Seege of York Town under the Command of his Excellency Gen’l Washington.”
Capt. Face’s great-grandson, also named Edward Face, is the first member of the family who we know was employed in construction. He was the head carpenter at Fortress Monroe near Hampton in the early 1830s, serving under a brilliant young U.S. Army engineer named Robert E. Lee.
Edward Face was sent by the federal government to Chattahoochee, Florida to build an arsenal for the protection of the ammunition there. The Appalachicola Arsenal was used as an arms depot during the Second Seminole Indian War (1835-1842). Edward Face was drafted by the State of Florida to take part in that War, but because the arsenal was still being built, Face put in a substitute, paying $100 and a horse. The substitute got only a short distance away when he was killed by the Indians.
Edward Face’s son, Capt. William Haley Face, served as Acting Master of CSS Teaser in the first day of the Battle of Hampton Roads, better known by the name it gained for the second day of the action: the Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack (CSS Virginia).
Founded as Contractor and Brickmaker
It was around the time of the Civil War that Capt. William H. Face’s younger brother, Edward Webster Face (whom everyone called “E.W.”), founded our company in Norfolk, Virginia.
Our oldest records date to 1867 – so that’s the date we use for our founding. That’s when E.W. won the contract to build the first major hotel to be constructed in Norfolk after the War.
E.W. was devoted to his community, serving as Norfolk’s Harbor Master and Powder Master. He was elected to City Council, where he introduced the resolution giving Norfolk one of the oldest fully professional fire departments in the country. That same year, 1871, he was named one of the City’s first Fire Commissioners.
The brickmaker E.W. Face & Son took corporate form in 1888 and was one of the first to use oil-fired kilns. For decades, Face® was the largest producer of bricks in southeastern Virginia.
Commercial & Industrial Floors and World Leader in Concrete Floor Flatness/Levelness
By the mid-twentieth century, the Face® Companies were general contractors – later becoming specialty contractors in commercial and industrial floors.
They became experts in the installation of urethane, epoxy and cementitious toppings and coatings.
In trying to solve a problem for a large industrial client in the 1970s, Face® started to develop the first understanding of how to accurately specify, control and measure the flatness and levelness of concrete floor slabs.
Face® created a floor flatness consulting division called The Edward W. Face Company (named after the companies’ founder 100 years earlier), which built the first instrument that could accurately measure concrete flatness and levelness – the Face® Floor Profileograph.
Face® floor consultants, working out of the Norfolk headquarters, established the placement and finishing procedures now used around the world to make floors flatter and more level. The senior member of the firm, Sam Face, developed an expertise in the placement of extraordinarily flat floors for high-density warehousing. At first, many people called these “Sam Face floors” but Sam Face coined the term that the industry quickly adopted: “Superflat.”
Sam Face loved nothing more than personally instructing finishing crews in the latest techniques that made concrete slabs flatter and better. He worked side-by-side with crews in more than 20 countries – teaching them how to create state-of-the-art slabs, even when only primitive tools and equipment were available. His contribution to the concrete industry was so extraordinary that he was named a fellow of the American Concrete Institute and he was recognized by a special resolution of the Virginia General Assembly.
Soon Face® was the leading authority in the field of floor profile technology. Its consultants, now headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky, have worked on more than 8,000 projects on six continents.
Creator of the F-Number System and the Dipstick®
At first, Face®’s flatness and levelness measurements could be made only on what Face® would later call “defined traffic floors,” such as the aisleways in warehouses. But the market wanted a way to accurately describe the profiles of all the other floor surfaces, which Face® termed “random traffic floors.” To accomplish that, Face® developed Face Floor Profile Numbers (the “F-Number” System), which was adopted in 1988 by the American Society for Testing & Materials and in 1989 by the American Concrete Institute. F-Numbers are now an industry standard and have been used on billions of square feet of concrete floors around the world.
Also in the 1980s, Face® Construction Technologies introduced the Dipstick® Profiler – which for the first time allowed the industry at large to measure concrete flatness/levelness without the need of highly specialized technicians.
Dipstick® is the instrument of record for floor and pavement profile measurement and is used by contractors, testing labs and government agencies in 65 countries.
Presenter of the Golden Trowel® Award
Since 1990, Face® has presented the annual Golden Trowel® Awards at the industry’s premier annual event – the World of Concrete® – to recognize the flattest and most level floors placed in the world each year. The Golden Trowels have become the most prestigious and sought-after award in the international concrete flooring industry.
To date, 306 Golden Trowels have been presented to 119 different contractors from four continents.
Maker of Thunder® and Lightning® Piezoelectric Actuators and Sensors
It was in the development of specialized concrete vibrating systems that Face® acquired three exclusive and non-exclusive licenses from NASA for its Thunder® piezoelectric actuator and sensor technology.
Thunder® moves more distance with more force than other piezoelectric actuators. It can be used for motion control, to drive pumps, as a switch … and in hundreds of other applications.
In the early 2000s, Face® trademarked its piezo sensors and generators “Lightning®.”
Inventor of an Entire New Class of Transformers: Transoner® Piezoelectric Transformers
Perhaps the most unexpected development came while Face® engineers were testing a circuit for a vibrating concrete tool. They noted strange behavior in the circuit and they investigated. What they discovered led to the revolutionary Transoner® family of piezoelectric transformers (PTs). Transoners have already demonstrated six times the power capacity of other PTs. (80 watts vs. 12 watts).
The patented Transoner® technology has been validated by leading experts at the National Science Foundation Center for Power Electronics.
Advantages include overall size, flat profile, weight, power density, low emission of — and high resistance to — electromagnetic fields, efficiency and, in many cases, cost.
Inventor of the Lightning Switch®
The Lightning Switch® is a wireless remote control switch for lights and appliances that works without batteries!
It uses a Lightning® piezoelectric generator, a Face® Evergreen Harvester® technology, to transform the mechanical energy of pushing the light switch into enough electricity to make its battery-less performance possible.
Lightning Switch® is particularly economical in renovation projects where it eliminates the need to cut into plaster, sheet rock, tile or even old, asbestos laden walls or ceilings.
It also saves systems labor costs in new construction.
Creator of the PulseStar® Lighting System
This lighting system combines Lightning Switch® transmitters and proprietary controls installed in lighting fixture grids in commercial and industrial applications. PulseStar® also incorporates cutting edge, energy-saving lamps. These systems provide immediate energy cost savings, ease of installation and unlimited control over otherwise inflexible systems.
And Now: The Evergreen® Energy Harvesting Technologies
Face® will be unveiling its latest Evergreen® harvesters in the months to come, which are some of the most exciting technologies we have ever developed. Like the Lightning® piezo generator, which harvests energy from vibrations, these new Evergreen® technologies harvest energy from the ambient environment. Depending on their design, Evergreen® components can harvest from a few microwatts to tens of kilowatts. This makes them useful in a wide variety of products – including important applications in the IoT.
They do it as no other harvesters ever have. Face® has more than 30 patents and patents pending on these technologies.
Achievements, Awards and Recognition
The Face® Companies’ development of flat concrete technology is generally considered to be the most important advance in the concrete floor industry in the last half of the 20th century.
Since their introduction, the specification systems, placement and finishing techniques and quality control measurement technologies developed by Face® have resulted in a 100% increase in flatness/levelness results achieved at no extra cost. Concrete contractors around the world can now dependably and predictably produce industrial floors for specialty applications that are six times flatter and more level than the typical industrial concrete slab was before Face® developed its flat floor technologies.
Billions of devices in the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) will use Face® signal deconfliction concepts developed during early work on the Lightning Switch®. These error-avoidance concepts are essential for self-powered (battery-less) wireless controls and sensors to avoid accidentally activating the wrong device. They are described in recently issued and allowed patent claims in the U.S., Canada, Europe and in issued patent claims in 25 other countries.
Face® is the only company to have solely developed two NOVA Award-winning technologies.
The NOVA is the highest international honor for construction innovation and only 80 have been awarded in their more than 25-year history.
In 1990, Face’s F-number system, which is now the international standard for measuring the flatness and levelness of concrete floors, won one of the first NOVAs.
In 2006, Face’s Lightning Switch® won another NOVA.
Lightning Switch® was one of the first five technologies chosen for HUD’s 2007 PATH Concept Home and was recognized by the National Association of Homebuilders.
Lightning Switch® also won the 2008 SPIE Award, which recognizes one technology in the world for the importance of its practical application of advanced, “smart” materials.
NASA described Face’s achievement with the Lightning Switch® as one of the most important developments of NASA-originated technology of the early 21st century.
Lightning Switch® is also Space Certified – a special recognition received in 2012 from the Space Foundation for successfully bringing a benefit of space technology into our everyday lives on Earth.
The Dipstick® is the global instrument of record, used in 65 countries, adopted by the World Bank, the World Road Association, the Federal Highway Administration and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
The Face® Companies, through their technology and application based spin-offs, continue to evolve as developers of highly innovative, practical technologies for the construction industry and beyond.