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.

UPDATE: HMNS Expansion Tops Out!

Yesterday, the HMNS Expansion construction crew poured the final section of the roof slab and the columns for the parapet screen – the highest points on the building’s structure!

Topping Out! [Marach 25, 2011]
The highest point of our new building!

So today, the museum’s contractor, Linbeck, hosted a traditional topping out ceremony and, as is customary on Texas construction projects, a barbecue lunch for 250 of the construction workers and design team members who have had a hand in helping the project achieve this important milestone.

Theories of the origins and precise symbolism of the topping out tradition of hoisting an evergreen tree to the project’s apex vary, but most agree in some form or fashion that it symbolizes both growth and good luck. Linbeck hoisted a Yaupon holly tree to the top of the Expansion and adorned it with an American flag, and Texas flag, and the Pirate flag that had been flying from boom of the tower crane. It is visible from the top of the museum’s parking garage for a few weeks, so check it out!

Here are some fun facts about the construction to date (courtesy of Linbeck):

Topping Out! [March 25, 2011]
See more photos!
  • 13,000 Cubic Yards of Concrete were used on the structure, including basement/foundation.
  • Including the steel, the structure weighs about 55 million pounds – the weight of approximately 4,000 Tyrannosaurus Rexes.
  • 10 miles of Post Tension Cables were used, which covers the distance from HMNS to Hobby Airport.
  • The tallest point on the structure is 74’-0” above the ground, or about the height of 3 Tyrannosaurus Rexes standing on top of one another.
  • There are 230,000 Square Feet total (or enough room for a football field on every floor) in the new building.
  • 128,000 Total Man Hours Worked to date (equal to about 15 years).
  • Main Exhibit Floor Volume is about 1,000,000 CF or 37,000 Cubic Yards, which would hold about 5 Goodyear Blimps.
Topping Out! [March 25, 2011]
It’s a long way to the top!

See all the photos from the Expansion on Flickr | View all news on the HMNS construction to date!

The museum would like to thank Linbeck and Gensler and all firms and individuals involved in accomplishing the exciting work in place to date. Visit the HMNS web site to learn more about the exciting exhibitions coming soon to HMNS!

Expansion Update! New Time Lapse Video

Not even the amazing speed of this winter’s construction can top a flying dinosaur, but the last few months have been a period of exciting progress on the Expansion Wing.

As the building’s skeleton has emerged up and out (and out and out) of the basement, the project site literally looks different every day. For a beautiful illustration of that fact, check out this time lapse video of construction; it covers the period from April 2010 to the beginning of Feb. 2011 at 10 hours per second:

If you’re impatient, forward to about 3:25 – that’s when the magic starts happening.
Can’t see the video? Click here.

Here are just a few of the big things the construction team has accomplished since November:

  • The concrete structure for the basement, level one, level two, and level three is in place and curing (getting up to strength.) Once the formwork is removed, temporary wooden shoring columns remain in place as the subsequent floor slabs are poured. This allows the contractor to keep building the structure even as the concrete below does its final bit of drying out.
  • The scaffolding and formwork for the slab on level 4 are being installed, and the columns that will support the wing’s highest floor are being formed and poured as well. To prepare for a slab pour, the contractor installs a system of scaffolding, plywood, steel and aluminum beams and supports, and metal pans to serve as a giant jello mold for the concrete to fill. Woven in between the pans and the plywood are the steel rebar and cables that reinforce the slab’s concrete and also allow the slab to get “tied in” to the columns above and below it.
  • Post-tensioned steel cables within the concrete structure are beginning to be stressed on the third level. Post-tensioned steel cables are a way of reinforcing the structure. They serve the same purpose that rebar does, but what happens is that they pour the concrete over the cables, then after the concrete has dried for a few days, the contractor pulls on the cables from both ends with hydraulic jacks. (This is called stressing.) The tightening of the cables is part of strengthening the slab. Using post-tensioning is one way to get longer spans of concrete between columns without having to make the floor slab thicker, meaning the diplodocus will have plenty of room to stretch his neck in the new Paleontology Hall.
  • The new loading dock, which extended the existing dock, was poured at the end of December. While museum visitors rarely see it, the loading dock is one of HMNS’s critical areas of operations.  The artifacts and construction materials for every exhibit flow through the dock. The delightful creepy crawly animals that the Education department takes to visit schools depart from the dock. And the tables and chairs and scrumptious food for special events arrive at (and are sometimes even prepared at) the dock. Not only does the new dock provide more space for these important functions, but it also includes a new powered lift to allow for more flexibility when heavy crates with fossils or mummies arrive. Kudos to the contractor for doing this work with minimal disruption to museum operations!
  • The new natural gas emergency backup generator was delivered and set in place. It’s not the sexiest piece of equipment on the job, but when you need it, you’re glad it’s there… especially if you’re a fish or a butterfly.

All that in just three months? You betcha. And the fun has only just begun!

PS. We’ve added 25 new images of the site to our HMNS Expansion Flickr set – including the first photos from inside the new building!

Ankylosaurs aren’t very aerodynamic*

But they can still fly!

Ankylosaur Flying! [1.21.11]
Quite a view! See the entire set from the move on Flickr.

If you’ve never seen a dinosaur fly, then you weren’t in the vicinity of the museum around 11 am last Friday – at which time it was almost impossible to miss our airborne ankylosaur.

Pretty cool! The ankylosaur – an original created for the 1964 World’s Fair – has been a much loved part of our paleontology hall for decades. As part of the ongoing construction associated with our current expansion, the ankylosaur – along with several other displays from the hall – was de-installed and will be stored until it re-emerges in our new paleo hall in 2012!

Carolyn recorded this video – it’s amazing how fast this big guy hopscotched over our entire new wing!

More on the Ankylosaur!

HMNS Flickr Set“Warwick Towers Survive Dinosaur Attack” on Swamplot | Flickr set from allison362

*Excellent point, via twitter from @laelaps