Building renovation gives valuable artifacts a new home

Smithsonian museums get an award-winning climate-controlled facility for their extensive collections.

06/03/2013


One of the most memorable cinematic images of the last three decades is the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the crate containing the Ark of the Covenant is wheeled through a giant warehouse containing countless other such crates. While, as far as I know, the federal government doesn’t have the warehouse depicted in that film, the next best thing may be the Smithsonian’s Pennsy Collections and Support Center, an unmarked 360,000-sq-ft warehouse in Landover, Md. There one can find rows of 20-ft-high shelving containing every imaginable type of artifact.

The building holds an extensive textile collection; floor-to-ceiling racks filled with 18th-century pianos; and historic films, photos, and documents. Unlike the movie warehouse, however, this is not a dusty, breezy place, but one with strict environmental controls to preserve all the treasures it contains. Given the variety of items to be preserved and types of workspaces, the building has different climate zones served by 29 rooftop air handlers and a Meefog system providing precise levels of humidification to 15 of those AHUs.

On the fast track

The workshop area shows Nederman snorkels to remove fumes from workbenches. Courtesy: Gensler Architects. Photography by Paul Warchol Photography Inc., New YorkWhen the leases for storage facilities being used by four of its museums were running out, the Smithsonian decided to look for a larger facility to consolidate those operations. In addition to being large enough, the building had to be close to downtown Washington, D.C., have easy access to transportation, and be able to service large trucks for loading and unloading. After looking at many different buildings, the Smithsonian settled on a 1960s furniture warehouse in an industrial area of Landover, Md. It met the Smithsonian’s size, location, and loading needs, but was in no shape for preserving valuable artifacts.

As part of a 15-year lease agreement, however, the building owner, Trammel Crow, agreed to pay for the necessary build out. It hired the architecture firm Gensler to oversee the renovation, and Gensler contracted with Vanderweil Engineers as the primary MEP engineers. Both groups had to operate on a compressed time schedule.

“It was fast track,” said Deb Hill, project manager for Gensler, the architecture firm overseeing the renovation. “We were dealing with seven different entities, so there were a lot of people weighing in, and they had to move.”

The building was laid out with a mix of dedicated storage spaces for some of the museums, combined with shared spaces including a cafeteria, fitness center, library, showers, workshops, and print shops for creating the signs and materials for exhibits. It also included facilities for training Smithsonian security personnel, such as xray equipement and a simulated gun range, and a central mail facility for the institution. The storage facilies needed cusom built shelving, and archival spaces had to be divided into smaller sections for fire protection. The team established 12-ft-wide routes for vehicles to move through the warehouse and separate smaller paths for people. An emergency generator was installed to power life and fire safety systems in the event of a blackout. Water sprinkler systems not only had to be installed along the ceiling, but also within many of the shelving units.

To top it all off, everything had to look good. And the end result does, with the facility winning several design awards, including an American Insitute of Architects (AIA) Maryland Honor Award for Interior Architecture.


<< First < Previous 1 2 Next > Last >>

No comments
Consulting-Specifying Engineer's Product of the Year (POY) contest is the premier award for new products in the HVAC, fire, electrical, and...
Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine is dedicated to encouraging and recognizing the most talented young individuals...
The MEP Giants program lists the top mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineering firms in the United States.
High-performance buildings; Building envelope and integration; Electrical, HVAC system integration; Smoke control systems; Using BAS for M&V
Pressure piping systems: Designing with ASME; Lab ventilation; Lighting controls; Reduce energy use with VFDs
Smoke control: Designing for proper ventilation; Smart Grid Standard 201P; Commissioning HVAC systems; Boilers and boiler systems
Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Consulting-Specifying Engineer case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.

Protecting standby generators for mission critical facilities; Selecting energy-efficient transformers; Integrating power monitoring systems; Mitigating harmonics in electrical systems
Commissioning electrical systems in mission critical facilities; Anticipating the Smart Grid; Mitigating arc flash hazards in medium-voltage switchgear; Comparing generator sizing software
Integrating BAS, electrical systems; Electrical system flexibility; Hospital electrical distribution; Electrical system grounding
Cannon Design’s blog is a place for the many voices of the firm to share thoughts and news related to current projects...
As brand protection manager for Eaton’s Electrical Sector, Tom Grace oversees counterfeit awareness...
Amara Rozgus is chief editor and content manager of Consulting-Specifier Engineer magazine.
IEEE power industry experts bring their combined experience in the electrical power industry...
Michael Heinsdorf, P.E., LEED AP, CDT is an Engineering Specification Writer at ARCOM MasterSpec.