HMNS Expansion Update: September 2011

If you’ve been searching for a silver lining to the story of our area’s historic drought, here’s a very small one: the museum’s new Dan L Duncan Wing didn’t lose a single day of work this summer due to rain.

Progress on the expansion project has been made at a furious pace over the past few months. Here are some of the highlights:

Walls and roof engaged!

By the end of July the expansion’s gleaming white roof had been torched into place, and the exterior sheathing and glass curtain wall had wrapped its way around the entire perimeter of the building (save for a couple of spots left open for the delivery of interior finish materials.) This condition designates a building as being “dried-in,” an important milestone that releases the contractor to move ahead with finishing climate-sensitive aspects of the project’s interior.

HMNS Expansion: Sept. 2011 Update!
The contractor is putting the finishing touches on the glass curtain wall
at the center of the western wall of the fourth floor.

Power Up and Chill Out.

In late June, the permanent electrical service for the new wing was energized, ahead of schedule! Then, just in time for the arrival of the record streak of 100-degree days, the contractor was able to start up the building’s HVAC system. Not only does the flow of air allow the building to breathe a little, protect the interior finishes from melting or molding, and keep the workers from suffering heat exhaustion, but starting up the system this early also allows extensive testing and balancing of the mechanical equipment to ensure air flows well both in the new building and in the existing museum, which will ultimately be served by the new central plant, too.

HMNS Expansion: Sept. 2011 Update!
View of the bright and shiny new central plant. Has kind of a Kubric feel to it, no?
The HVAC system was switched on in July.
Eventually it will heat and cool both the new wing and the existing museum.

Paleo Hall Transformed.

The vast space of the future paleontology hall, on the expansion’s main level, has been dramatically altered over the summer. Ductwork has been insulated. Sprinkler pipes, lights, and Unistrut have been hung. Drywall soffits and furr-downs have been framed, sheetrocked, taped, and floated, defining the nooks and crannies that will host the fossils and murals and dioramas the HMNS staff has been assembling and designing.

HMNS Expansion: Sept. 2011 Update!
At the north end of the future paleontology hall, lights, drywall, and
Unistrut are still being installed via scissor lift. Beyond the large white walls seen here are the
boilers, domestic water pumps, and chillers.

The Halls are Alive…

In the expansion’s lower level, bright corridors are now defined as the walls for the new classrooms, animal room, auditorium spaces, and conference spaces are sheetrocked, primed, and ready to be painted. The ceiling grid and support beams for moveable walls to divide the larger classrooms have been installed. Just this week the contractor sawed through the 12-inch thick concrete foundation wall of the existing museum to connect the lower level of the expansion with the Jones Gallery.

HMNS Expansion: Sept. 2011 Update!

This could be a photo of the installation of a new exhibit on grave robbing, but it isn’t.

In order to connect the lower level of the new wing to the lower level of the existing museum,
the contractor is cutting through the thick, concrete foundation wall below the Weiss Energy Hall.
This photo shows the first cut, as seen from the expansion side.

Going Up!

While getting the stairs installed was an exciting milestone from our last post, this time the exciting news about getting from floor to floor revolves around the elevators. The platforms, doors, and wall enclosures for the three new passenger elevators are all installed. The contractor is busily constructing the conveying mechanism and cabs for the passenger elevators as well. On the other side of the expansion’s core, the back-of-house service elevator is operational (for contractor use, that is), its shiny stainless steel cab protected by plywood for the next few months.

HMNS Expansion: Sept. 2011 Update!
Contractors work on the platform of one of the three new passenger elevators.
Every time they catch me taking their picture, they ask for a dollar.
So I had to be really sneaky to capture this valuable image.

The fall season may not bring much needed rain to Houston, but it does promise some exciting developments on the HMNS expansion project, as walls, floors, and ceilings receive their finish treatments and the exterior scaffolding comes down to reveal the building’s snazzy travertine and aluminum coat.

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