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.

Follow HMNS Expansion Updates | See the Full Expansion Photo Set

EXPANSION VIDEO: A Year In 3 Minutes

We’ve been watching the new wing construction for over a year now – it’s incredibly exciting to contemplate what’s going to go in this grand new building when it opens in Summer 2012!

May 2011

This was taken in May 2011.
Check it out compared to last month and a year ago.

And what will be going in the new Paleo Hall? Most mounted T. rexes anywhere. Quetzalcoatlus bigger than a jet fighter. And lots more.

Even more exciting? Seeing a year’s worth of progress is just over 3 minutes. Warning: as noted by Swamplot, the speed of the time lapse combined with the daily progression of a shadow cast by the parking garage, makes the video a little “flashy.”

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Excited? Us, too! Help us put the finishing touches on the new wing! Become a member now and not only will you be one of the first to see the new paleontology hall when it opens, you’ll get three extra months of membership – and some pretty awesome member events that will give you a behind-the-scenes peek at out new dinos, all summer long.

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!