UMNH’s Rio Tinto Center marks the halfway point
On a cool Saturday morning in late May, a group of Utah Museum of Natural History enthusiasts and supporters gathered at the construction site for the new natural history museum—the Rio Tinto Center—located in the foothills of Research Park. They were there to mark the halfway point in its construction. The event was billed as a “heavy metal tour,” referring to the copper strips donated by Kennecott Utah Copper that cover portions of the exterior of the concrete building. Guests were given a hardhat, safety glasses, an orange vest and ferried by van to the base of the structure.
Signing the copper strips
Using Sharpie pens, people signed their names on the backside of long strips of copper which were then permanently attached in a horizontal pattern by the construction crew to the exterior of the building. After a welcome from museum Executive Director Sarah George, and brief remarks by Rob Moore, president and COO, Big-D Construction, Kelly Sanders, president and CEO, Kennecott Utah Copper, and Speaker of the House David Clark, Utah State Legislature, the crowd broke into small groups to tour the building.
An enormous freight elevator—large enough to hold a dinosaur skeleton—took the first load to the top (fourth) floor. The north end of the building is a large open room without interior walls where the administrative offices will be located. One can see the foothills out the windows to the east, and by a mere pivot—and on a clear day—the Salt Lake Valley and Oquirrh Mountains (and the Kennecott open-pit copper mine) to the west. The south side of the building is an open area with slanted pedestrian bridges connecting the floors. The east wall of concrete, called the “canyon,” is a full four stories high. Below on the main level, a 12- by 14-foot recessed area in the floor will hold a topographical map of Utah.
Copper and concrete
In addition to the copper used on the building’s exterior, concrete is a major feature of the design and construction. Employing a traditional method no longer often used, wet concrete was poured into forms made of Douglas fir so the striations from the wood are embedded into the concrete, making the final product—board-formed concrete—more visually interesting in texture and pattern. It is used both inside and outside the building.
The new structure will serve as a significant teaching tool. With the goal of reaching LEED gold certification (a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings), the building will help set the example of sustainability through the various green elements, including retaining storm water through planted roofs and cisterns to capture runoff, use of recycled building materials, landscaping with native plants, and permeable pavement. The goal is to install solar panels that will generate enough electricity to run the nine different galleries.
The new museum promises to draw young and old alike to explore, discover, imagine, and get involved—first-hand—in the science of natural history, and is scheduled to open by the end of 2011.
- Three types of horizontal copper panels are used on the exterior of the building: Nordic copper (80 percent of the copper areas of the building), Nordic brass (5 percent), and Nordic bronze (15 percent).
- Nordic copper is composed of pure copper. Nordic brass is composed of 83 percent copper and 17 percent zinc. Nordic bronze is 95 percent copper and 5 percent tin.
- The copper panels are attached to the building with stainless steel clips every 18 inches. Approximately 59,000 clips will be installed at the copper panel areas on the project.
- The installation crew of 12 people will use a sheet metal brake, aerial lifts, seamers, and hand tools to install the copper panels.
- The copper panel installation on the building will be completed in October 2010.
- Up to 180 workers on any given day—including weekends—have worked 328,875 man hours without a lost time accident.