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 and more recently in self-powered wireless remote controls and innovative means of energy harvesting, with new advances soon to be introduced as the latest of Face’s Evergreen® technologies.
The family’s history in Virginia goes all the way back to the 17th century.
Before the First Company
The Face family arrived 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 drop the “y” from his last name.
His great-great grandson, Edward Face, is the first member of the family whom we know was employed in construction. He was the head carpenter at Fortress Monroe 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.
Founded as Contractor and Brickmaker
Edward Face’s son, Edward Webster Face (whom everyone called “E.W.”), founded our company in Norfolk, Virginia sometime around the American Civil War.
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
In the mid-twentieth century, the Face® Companies became general and, later, 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 working out of 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 first do-it-yourself floor profile measurement device – the Dipstick® Profiler.
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 World of Concrete, to recognize the flattest and most level floors placed in the world each year. The Golden Trowels have become is 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 concrete vibrating systems that Face® acquired three exclusive and non-exclusive licenses from NASA for its Thunder® piezoelectric actuator and sensor technology.
In the early 2000s, Face® trademarked its piezo sensors and generators “Lightning®.”
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.
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 batteryless 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 Lighting 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 infinite control over otherwise inflexible systems.
And Now: The Evergreen® Energy Harvesting Technologies
Face® will be unveiling its latest Evergreen® harvesters this year, which are some of the most exciting technologies we have ever developed. Like the Lightning® piezo generator, these new Evergreen® technologies harvest energy from the ambient environment. But they do it as no other harvesters ever have.
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 will use concepts first disclosed and claimed in wireless control patents filed by Face® during its development of the Lightning Switch®.
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® also won the 2008 SPIE Award, which recognizes one technology in the world for the importance of its practical application of advanced, “smart” materials.
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.
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 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.
Face® has been granted more than 50 United States patents and has numerous patents pending.
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.