About Susanna

Susanna joined the HMNS Expansion project team in October 2009 as the museum’s representative during construction of the new wing, which is scheduled for completion in 2012. When she’s not laughing her head off at the comic stylings of the HMNS Building department (while trying to get some work done) Susanna is also principal of The Sarrazin Group, a real estate investment and management company, and is pursuing her MBA through the weekend program at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Follow the progress of the HMNS Expansion project through her monthly updates, which she hopes will make her as big an internet star as Zac.

HMNS Expansion Update: Finishing Touches From 2011

The push to finish the construction of the Duncan Family Wing is getting underway, and for the most part the visible progress starts to happen on a smaller scale than it has thus far.

View of the west façade of the new wing, fully visible from San Jacinto now that the tower crane has been removed!
View of the west façade of the new wing, fully visible from San Jacinto -
now that the tower crane has been removed!

One big exception to that statement was last month’s removal of the tower crane from the west side of the building. The task required the use of another giant, but mobile, crane to lift each piece of the tower crane up and over the new building, into the delivery driveway for additional disassembly, and finally onto several flatbed trucks to be carted back to the crane’s winter home in Florida, Arizona, or South Padre.

Hundreds of feet of pipe circulate chilled and hot water throughout the new wing, including these pipes taking water to and from the rooftop air handling units.
Hundreds of feet of pipe circulate chilled and hot water throughout the new wing,
including these pipes taking water to and from the rooftop air handling units.

Throughout the rest of the building, final finish details are being completed.

Mirrors have been hung in the restrooms. The stairwells are getting coats of warm gray paint. Door handles and light switch covers and illuminated exit signs are being installed. Sensors for lights, sink faucets, and toilet flush valves are functioning, albeit at times a bit over-sensitively. (I involuntarily flushed a toilet from a distance of five feet earlier this week.) All are going in now so the contractor can fine tune the details so they really shine when the building opens to the public.

The third floor is almost ready for exciting new exhibits… and maybe some Saturday Night Fever?
The third floor is almost ready for exciting new exhibits…
and maybe some Saturday Night Fever?

Much of the detail work this month is happening in the three areas where the new wing will connect with the existing museum at the Wiess Energy Hall, the Herzstein Hall of Special Exhibits, and the McGovern Hall of the Americas. The finishes, meaning wall and ceiling materials and flooring even lighting, are a little bit different at each “tie-in” area because the spaces in both the new and old wing are a little bit different on each floor. The design team and contractor have worked to carefully coordinate the varying field conditions with distinct operational requirements to make each of the tie-in spaces both functional and beautiful.

The site on the west side of the project is being graded in anticipation of landscaping in the coming months.
The site on the west side of the project is being graded
in anticipation of landscaping in the coming months.

I can’t wait to share the finished product in the coming weeks.

Be sure to check out this month’s flickr set for more details on the project’s recent progress.

Expansion Update! [October 2011]

It’s only been a month since the last Expansion update, but there are plenty of exciting developments to report.

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The view from the corner of San Jacinto and Hermann Park Drive.

Spit and Polish.

Both the corridors among the lower level classrooms and conference spaces and the Paleo Hall have undergone seven passes with increasingly fine grit from a group of floor polisher-sanders. The intense polishing will seal the pores of the concrete, creating an impervious finish that does not require sealing (and resealing.) Not only will they look terrific, but the floors in these areas will also be durable and low maintenance.

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Every Lobby Must Get Stone.

The design team has selected beautiful green and black stone slabs for the walls flanking the three new passenger elevator openings on each level. The stone compliments the ceramic tile, stainless steel, and carpet choices within the elevator lobbies, and it also provides an aesthetic continuity with the stone presently grading the elevator lobbies and other feature walls of the existing museum.

Control.

This month in the Duncan Family Wing’s version of the Secret Life of Buildings, the contractor has been installing miles and miles of low voltage wire, connecting temperature and humidity sensors, lighting control, and life safety and fire alarm strobes and sensors. These building controls will enable the museum staff to monitor the new wing’s spaces for safety and comfort – of both the visitors and the permanent and special artifacts – making adjustments automatically to ensure the optimal environment is maintained. Automated controls also help the building’s systems run more efficiently, keeping operating costs down.

Gimme Some Skin.

At last we are back to enjoying exciting developments that are easily observable from outside the construction fence. Over the past several weeks, the exterior scaffolding has come down – starting on the east side and winding around to the south before turning back up the west side. This activity has finally revealed the beautiful travertine panels along the southern and western façades.

Be sure to check out our updated flickr set (new photos at the bottom!) for more details on the project’s recent progress. The building is literally changing daily, both inside and out.

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

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.