The St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station, a 120,000-sf, attraction built inside the footprint of a 500,000-sf 19th century iron umbrella train shed, has recently opened. The aquarium is the centerpiece of a $160 million family entertainment complex developed for Union Station by Lodging Hospitality Management.
Designed by PGAV Destinations, the two-story project features exhibits and aquatic environments for approximately 13,000 aquatic animals from the world’s rivers and oceans housed in 1.3 million gallons of water. The 250,000-gallon shark exhibit includes a large acrylic panel weighing nearly 14,000-pounds that needed to be placed inside the footprint of the exhibit prior to the concrete structure being completed. Additionally, nearly three miles of pipe was installed to service multiple complex life support systems, each representing a different ecosystem ranging from riverside to oceanside and freshwater to saltwater.
Because the train shed was designated a National Historic Landmark, it was necessary to protect and preserve the original columns, footings, foundation, and underground piping. During construction, McCarthy Building Companies leveraged advanced construction technologies to promote a model based approach to managing the project’s unique construction coordination challenges, such as: using 3D Building Information Modeling (BIM) technologies to pre-coordinate all structure, building systems and theming elements prior to fabrication and installation; model-based field layout and subsurface utility location using robotic total stations; and reality capture with laser scanning of the entire Union Station structure to produce a 3D point cloud with 360-degree photography. In addition, augmented reality was used to compare the 3D models to field installation on site.
The completed St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station is expected to attract one million visitors per year and is operated and managed by ZoOceanarium.