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Replicating Nature

Replicating Nature

Team creates an indoor version of the Ozarks in a 300-ft.-long facility

By By Gordon Wright, Executive Editor | August 11, 2010
This article first appeared in the 200205 issue of BD+C.

Developing a building that can accommodate a single species is challenging enough. Imagine designing and constructing a facility for more than 160 species of fish, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects, each with particular life support requirements.

That was the assignment handed to the building team for the 92,000-sq.-ft. American National Fish and Wildlife Museum in Springfield, Mo., which opened last November. Key team members included the architect/exhibit designer, Cambridge Seven Associates of Cambridge, Mass.; the mechanical/electrical engineer, the Cambridge office of Syska Hennessy Group, New York City; the structural engineer, the Cambridge office of Weidlinger Associates, New York City; and the construction manager, the Kansas City office of Turner Construction Co., Dallas. Their teamwork was recognized with a Grand Award in the Institutional category of the 2002 Building Team Project of the Year competition.

The museum features a 300-ft.-long slice of Ozarks habitat, complete with man-made rivers, lakes and ponds. Populated with fish, mammals and birds, its underlying theme is that fishermen and hunters are also conservation advocates.

About 60 percent of the exhibits feature live animals, while the remainder are static or interactive presentations. Visitors can enter a 90-ft.-long re-creation of an Ozarks cave, or immerse themselves in a virtual fishing exhibit that simulates the experience of reeling in a sailfish, tarpon or bass.

The museum's one-quarter mile "walk through the woods" circuit begins on its upper level and concludes on its lower level.

John L. Morris, founder of Springfield-based Bass Pro Shops, was the force behind the museum's creation. He promoted the idea and contributed $10 million toward the project. Morris also donated the museum's site, which was previously part of a parking lot. It is adjacent to Morris' Springfield pro shop, which attracts 4 million visitors annually.

"We had to create an oasis in the middle of town," says Peter Kuttner, project principal with Cambridge Seven.

Water unites exhibits

Water is the common thread in the museum's replication of a natural watershed. Primary water features are the 160-ft.-long Riverwalk, the Community Pond, and the Out to Sea tank, the museum's only saltwater environment. The largest of two waterfalls drops water 30 feet into the Community Pond.

A deep, fast-moving stream introduces water into the building, where it flows into a still-water pond. In each of these forms, the depth, temperature and flow of the water is varied to provide an optimum environment for the animal species in particular areas. Water is continuously recycled by 37 closed-loop life support systems. Each system is redundant. Fresh water is introduced to flush sand filters and to replace water lost through evaporation.

Collaboration is the key

The collaborative efforts required to successfully complete the project were numerous. Kelly Starner, project manager with Turner Construction Co., cites the coordination of the specialized equipment required for animal life support systems. "We needed collaboration from everyone on the team to make decisions about the selection of equipment," he says. "We had to have a lot of these issues nailed down very early."

Starner says the turnover of the facility to the owner was probably the greatest single example of the need for collaboration to get the project "up and running." Introduction of animals into their new environment began four months before the museum opened. Hundreds of animals had to be quarantined for at least 30 days. Portions of the building had to be delivered early, while work was being completed in exhibit areas. This meant, for example, a prohibition on work that involved the use of vapor-producing paint or glue that could affect the animals.

Bruce Colony, the museum's director of operations, points to another noteworthy example of collaboration — making the museum's mechanical systems as invisible as possible, and accommodating them to the various habitats. "You can't see a duct anywhere," he notes.

Large clerestory windows bring natural light into the museum to simulate an outdoor experience. Because the museum's displays require half a million gallons of water, humidity control was one focus of Syska Hennessy's work, which encompassed the design of both the conventional mechanical/electrical/plumbing and animal life support systems. "Tying in life support and mechanical/electrical/plumbing systems is one of the more difficult tasks to coordinate," observed competition judge Raj Gupta, a mechanical engineer.

Windows were on the critical path

Fresh water and saltwater tanks each incorporate a large acrylic viewing window, supplied by Reynolds Polymer Technology, Grand Junction, Colo. The Community Pond's window is 14 feet high, 25 feet wide, 91/2 inches thick and weighs 24,000 pounds. The saltwater tank window is 13 feet high, 19 feet wide, 6 inches thick and weighs 12,000 pounds. Viewing windows had to be installed before the building frame could be completed. Their placement required a 210-ton crane, one of the two largest mobile units available in the U.S.

Roof framing consists of 52 laminated timber scissors trusses, spanning 54 feet, that were produced by Sentinel Structures, Peshtigo, Wis.

Cambridge Seven, Turner and Syska Hennessy had worked together on other projects. "I think we got more out of the building as a result," Kuttner remarks. The project not only required many consultants, but "the learning curve was so steep," he adds.

Colony says the key to the success of the project was the interaction of the architect, the CM and the owner's representative. "It was essential for the three of us — no matter what — to keep the project moving forward. We were extremely successful in that, even though we seldom agreed on where we should be going," he adds with a chuckle. "Ultimately, things were hammered out. Somebody would have to be wrong, and we all took turns at that."

Construction Costs

General requirements $3,397,193
Sitework 1,768,433
Concrete 4,386,454
Masonry 845,701
Metals 541,941
Structural laminates 1,189,526
Carpentry 2,469,607
Roofing 598,929
Doors, windows and glass 529,718
Finishes 505,655
Specialties 103,573
Acrylic viewing windows 864,200
Habitat 3,443,308
Exhibits 4,245,235
Conveying systems 208,787
Life support/mechanical systems 7,165,758
Electrical 2,300,854
TOTAL $34,564,872

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