Update: Expansion Exoskeleton and Infrastructure

With the project’s Topping Out last month, the Expansion is no longer going UP, UP, UP or even out, out, out. The exterior walls are beginning to wrap the building, and the really fun stuff is starting to take place in, in, in. The time lapse video of construction shows how we’ve gone from scratching the dirt to scraping the sky, but from here on out a lot of the work will be done in places the public will never see. Keep checking the flickr set for behind-the-scenes shots of the Expansion’s innards.

Here‘s a sample the impressive things the construction team has accomplished since January:

The Expansion structure is complete!

As mentioned in March, thirteen hundred cubic yards of concrete were used to make up the columns and slabs that are the Expansion’s internal skeleton. From November to March, forming and placing the structure’s components were the bulk of the job’s on-site activities, and the topping out occurred right on schedule.

Major operating equipment arrived.

The museum’s three cooling towers, three chillers, dozen or so pumps for various types of “water,” boilers, the fire pump, and several jumbo air handling units have all arrived over the last several weeks and made their way into the rooms and spaces designated for each. Most of them had the thrill of being flown in to the building by the tower crane, which will continue to earn its keep for several more months despite the completion of the building’s structure.

All stairwells have been installed.

Steel stair pans (some of them double-wide) were welded in place, and the concrete treads have been poured. The project has four new stairwells for both circulation and safety. Some of us are just happy to finally be able to walk the jobsite without tackling a Donkey Kong maze of ladders and ropes.

May 2010 Expansion Update
Interior of the new paleontology hall!
It’s the size of a football field and two stories tall.
For a full set of photos of the progress on our expansion, check out this Flickr set.

The exterior walls are appearing… and changing.

The Expansion’s curtain wall design boasts a mix of metal panel, spandrel and vision glass, plaster and stone. Over the past weeks, though, the daily changes in color and material on the building’s exterior are a result of the underlayers of the wall systems as they go up: a horizontal stripe of steel stud framing, covered by a not-so-subtle Day-Glo yellow layer of sheathing boards (likely visible up to 30m underwater), and rolled on matte gray coating of sealant.

View From the Parking Garage
 The exterior walls are going up!�
For a full set of photos of the progress on our expansion, check out this Flickr set.

Other stuff that lights the lights, flushes the commodes, and cools the air.

Literally right behind the removal of shoring and scaffolding for each of the slabs, tradesmen began the work of running conduit and roughing in plumbing and hanging ducts and suspending pipes for sprinklers, drains, and water fountains – all the less glamorous infrastructure that will eventually reside above the ceilings and behind the walls in the Expansion. A tremendous amount of work goes into coordinating all this “stuff,” each piece of which is individually small but critical in the aggregate to making the museum building work. Also installed so far are the wall studs and door frames in the basement level of the Expansion, future home to what I like to call the 4 C’s: classes, campers, conferences, and creepy crawly creatures (in the live animal room). The Events and Education staffs are reportedly dancing in their offices as they plan for 2012 in the new wing!

May 2010 Expansion Update
The infrastructure is all coming together.
For a full set of photos of the progress on our expansion, check out this Flickr set.

As much of the work on the project turns inward, there is still plenty to keep an eye out for in the coming weeks as the exterior wall gets layered onto the building. Make a trip to the roof of the HMNS parking garage part of your next visit for a great view of work in progress.

March 2011
The new wing!
For a full set of photos of the progress on our expansion, check out this Flickr set.

Quetzalcoatlas! Grand Hall Display Through Monday

Quetzalcoatlus 1.14.11
It’s MASSIVE. See a
full set of photos of the assembly of this fossil
from this morning on Flickr.

We’ve got a new visitor to the Museum’s Grand Hall – the giant Texas Pterosaur, Quetzalcoatlus!

Quetzalcoatlus northropi and its close kin can be considered as the largest animals to have ever flown – and the cast is indeed impressively massive.

This Quetzalcoatlus northropi cast was assembled today and measured to finalize the design of a Cretaceous vignette featuring three of the giant flying Texas reptiles. This recreated fossilized drama will be part of the new Paleontology wing scheduled to open in 2012.

Check out our progress on the new family wing!

According to Dr. Bakker, the plan “is to create a portrait of the giant Texas ‘dactyl defending its nest from a curious juvenile Tyrannosaurus.”

Dave Temple, our associate curator of paleontology, said, “Typically, we would uncrate the specimen, assemble, measure and pack it up over the course of an afternoon. I am glad we have the opportunity to leave it up for a few days to give the public a sneak peek at things to come.”

Be sure to visit this weekend to check it out! Tuesday morning, the Quetzalcoatlus northropi will be placed back in the crate until final installation in our new paleo hall in 2012.

Slideshow from this morning’s Quetzalcoatlus assembly:

Quetzalcoatlus Facts:

Quetzalcoatlus northropi was discovered in Big Bend National Park in 1971 by Douglas Lawson, a student of Dr. Wann Langston from the University of Texas at Austin. The species is named for the Aztec deity Quetzalcoatl, who was worshiped in the form of a feathered serpent.

Quetzalcoatlus northropi probably weighed about 200 pounds and had as large as a 36 foot wingspan. Their large, toothless beaks create a bit of a mystery, at times hypothesized to have unearthed shellfish, arthropods, carrion and opportunistic hunting, similar to modern-day storks. Likely Quetzalcoatlus ate a variety of different items. This species went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous.

Expansion: Major Progress! [Photos]

Since our construction site looked essentially like this for about 6 months, it’s been very exciting to come in to work every day and see the massive new progress being made on the new Duncan Family Wing!

This photo was taken in December 2010:

December 2010
Check out the other photos in our “Expansion” set to see how far we’ve come !
Photo courtesy of Linbeck Construction Company.

Here’s a current view (taken today) from the parking garage side of the construction (the upper left of the above image). And this one just two months previously!

September 2010
The same view from Sept. 2010.
Photo courtesy of Linbeck Construction Company.

You can follow along with the construction for the new Duncan Family Wing in our expansion blog series as work progresses!

HMNS Expansion: The Story So Far

Before a single spade is turned to construct a building, first that building is an idea. And then it is a program. And then it is a design. And then it becomes construction documents, during which time it maybe become a slightly different design. And finally, with all the approvals in hand, it is time to build the building.

For the HMNS Expansion project, museum staff, board members, and project team members spent years preparing and planning for the February 2010 construction start. Preliminary design work by Gensler began at the end of 2006, and general contractor Linbeck was brought in to perform preconstruction services beginning in 2008. And while construction is by far the riskiest (and most expensive) phase of a project, after years of planning, the occasion of groundbreaking results in no small measure of relief for those involved in ferrying the project to that milestone.

So with all the excitement and anticipation built up over several years of planning, the first six months of construction at the HMNS Expansion site might have been a little anticlimactic to some, as eager project participants and spectators waited, and then waited, and then waited some more to see “the hole” for the Expansion wing’s basement level take shape. But rest assured, much was accomplished those first six months, albeit below the surface and behind the scenes, to prepare the site and the museum for all the activity ahead:

HMNS Major Accomplishments from February to August 2010:

Relocation of Existing Utilities at Donor Wing

Progress on the New Wing Buildout

One of the first steps in the buildout process was to remove
the existing utilities at the site of the new wing.
See the full set of photos of the expansion progress on Flickr.

Removal of Existing Delivery Driveway  and Completion of First Phase of Permanent Delivery Driveway

Progress on the New Wing Buildout
The existing delivery driveway was also removed and the first phase of the
new delivery driveway was completed. This is this “after” shot.
See the full set of photos of the expansion progress on Flickr.

Site Demolition and Rerouting of Underground Utilities

Progress on the New Wing Buildout
This phase included site demolition and rerouting of existing utilities.
In this shot, the contractor is installing a maze of pipes and conduits
now covered by the new delivery driveway.
See the full set of photos of the expansion progress on Flickr.

Initial 3’ Cut for the Building Foundation

Progress on the New Wing Buildout
The contractor makes the initial foundation cut, just 3 feet deep to begin with.
See the full set of photos of the expansion progress on Flickr.

Installation of 261 Soldier Piles for Foundation System

Progress on the New Wing Buildout
This was taken during the installation of 261 Soldier Piles for the
Foundation System of the new building.
See the full set of photos of the expansion progress on Flickr.

Forming and Pouring the Pile Cap

Progress on the New Wing Buildout
Here, the crew is forming and pouring the Pile Cap.
See the full set of photos of the expansion progress on Flickr.

But as the project entered its seventh month, the signs of earnest construction activity appeared as the HMNS Expansion work kicked into high gear.

Visible Progress in September!

Arrival of the Tower Crane

Progress on the New Wing Buildout
The tower crane is completed!
See the full set of photos of the expansion progress on Flickr.

Excavation of the Basement Level

Progress on the New Wing Buildout
Excavation of the basement level begins!
See the full set of photos of the expansion progress on Flickr.

Read our Q&A with Susanna from earlier this month for more insight into the construction process, and check back soon for more updates from the construction site.