St. Louis, Missouri
The Gateway Arch Museum of Westward Expansion Renovation project combined classic renovation with something close to a doubling of the museum’s footprint, all underground. The expansion adds two levels to the original museum space, plus an enlargement of the museum store. Guarantee Electrical Company (GECO) joined the combined general contracting teams of McCarthy Building Companies and Kozeny-Wagner to provide power and light to the Arch Museum campus and entryway together with an advanced lighting system for the new exhibit space in the Museum of Western Expansion. Additionally, GECO roughed in the backbone of a new, fully digital communications system throughout the facility supplying a host of services including video surveillance, exhibit security detection, smoke and fire sensors and alarm systems, as well as access control and state-of-the-technology high-speed Internet/voice-data.
As a major renovation of a unique national monument, the Museum of Westward Expansion Renovation presented numerous design challenges involving the structure itself as well as bringing a host of new technologies into the space. Not least of these was that all the work involved substantial below-ground engineering of a fifty year-old institution. The scope of the project and the complexity of an ambitious design within a confined underground area made teamwork and communications with and between the teams and trades involved indispensable.
Meanwhile, the National Park Service and the Arch monument itself with its tram system stayed open to the public for the duration of project, adding to the complexity of construction, if not the degree of difficulty. Just as importantly, a range of innovations brought to the design demanded close collaboration between GECO, the design team and the two generals with their separate jurisdictions on one hand, and on the other between the trades engaged in managing the implementation of a highly detailed, technically challenging design.
Given the complexity of the design, GECO determined that optimizing electrical distribution was achieved by placing the bulk of the conduit supplying power to the expanded exhibit space in the slab. This delivered connectivity via “stub-ups” in key locations, as well as floor boxes supplying power to the exhibits themselves. Accurate placement of these required using 3-D Building Information Modeling (BIM) performed by GECO’s electrical designers. BIM was used widely as well to support integrating construction across disciplines for the duration of the project to support accuracy as design and execution evolved as construction proceeded.
It helped immeasurably that GECO’s modeling team remained engaged throughout the project, updating and perfecting drawings as the many “unknowns” of working underground on a much used and oft-repaired infrastructure created numerous opportunities for discovery and modification. 3-D visualization also had the effect of enabling easy discovery and resolution of clashes in advance of construction, saving time, materials and money for the National Park Service.
- GECO supplied a new 4000 Amp electrical service, including adding new Automatic Transfer Switches (ATS) bringing automation to the facility’s existing backup power generation infrastructure.
- Supplied two substantial uninterrupted power systems (UPS) delivering additional redundancy to the expanded electrical system.
- Supplied a unique, nearly invisible array of 1.5 inch LED strip lighting fixtures embedded in the unique “tube ceiling” designed to highlight a giant mezzanine floor-map of the confluent rivers including the start-point for the Lewis & Clark Expedition from St. Louis in 1803.
- Part of an integrated lighting design these LED fixtures combined with strategically located sensors serving both the glass entryway and the 16,000 SF subterranean mezzanine to combine daylight mixing with artificial lighting throughout the space.
- Provided precision installation of 439 theatrical lighting fixtures and controls specified in the design of the new exhibit space.
Among the solutions deployed was GECO’s intensive use of the GPS intelligence embedded in its Trimble® surveying system to locate accurate set points in the underground for placing 439 theatrical lighting fixtures specified for the new exhibit space. This involved careful triangulation via the Trimble unit on the floor below and deploying the system’s laser to shoot accurate locations for anchoring fixtures to the ceiling 18 feet above.
Once inside the exhibit space, the project involved intensive coordination with Kozeny-Wagner to assure a high-quality theatrical experience for visitors. Maximizing the effect called for the theatrical fixtures to be suspended by 4 ft. cables below the ceiling anchors. The exhibit area itself is subdivided into seven (7) exhibition zones, each with somewhat different lighting requirements with matching controls. To assure consistency involved tying-in each of the “zones” to the BIM model to assure thereby accurate positioning of adjustable componentry and to support focusing of the lights themselves so that curators could tune the controls within each of the seven areas.
Among the features of the design is the programmability of lighting in these exhibit zones. Now, as visitors proceed down into each environment, depending on the exhibiter’s intentions, the lighting can accommodate variability of intensity often within a few feet of one another scene, achieving dramatic shifts in the intensity and focus as needed. The high 18 ft. ceiling with its suspended fixtures is kept absolutely dark, heightening the drama, while the direction and intensity of the lamps themselves are fully adjustable by curators according to the needs of the exhibit
The Museum of Westward Expansion protects and preserves an important collection of artifacts at the site of one of our national treasures in the form of the Gateway Arch. Now totally modernized, renovated and open to the public, the Museum is already showcasing new and compelling exhibits to the public in an outstanding and
dramatic setting. Guarantee Electrical Company is proud to have been involved in the success of this unprecedented, sometimes challenging project.