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Contractor Pumps Ohio Museum Full of Concrete, Eager Visitors

Sat February 19, 2000 - Midwest Edition
Mike Kelly

Many residents were skeptical when they learned that $125 million in public and private funds were going to build an all new 28,800-square-meter (320,000 sq. ft.) Center of Science and Industry (COSI) on a 17-acre site on the West Bank of Ohio’s Scioto River.

COSI Columbus opened to the general public on March 29, 1964 as a venture of The Franklin County Historical Society. The idea of a science-technology center in Columbus — at the time called a “Museum of Science & Industry” — was fostered by S.N. Hallock II. Franklin County’s preservation interests and Hallock’s “museum” idea soon merged and led to the Center Of Science & Industry, now more widely known by its acronym, COSI.

On its 25th Anniversary in 1989, it became officially known as Ohio’s Center of Science and Industry in recognition of its service to the entire state. In 1996, the state decided it was time to help give the building a facelift.

On Nov. 8, 1999, the public got a chance to view the facility and they were amazed at the results, for it was far from the COSI they had been accustomed to.

Take these facts for example:

• 17,347 cubic meters (22,825 cu. yd.) of concrete were used, which is enough to build a four-foot wide sidewalk from Columbus to Dayton.

• 200 miles of electrical wiring were strung which would stretch from Columbus to Detroit.

• There is enough plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning pipe to run 17 miles.

• It took 686,400 man hours to complete the total project, which is 6,600 hours per week with an average of 165 workers per day.

• COSI’s largest elevator is big enough to handle a class of 40 first-graders or a mid-size delivery truck.

The major challenge of the project was the curved west wall of the building that consists of 158 precast concrete panels. “It was truly an engineering marvel,” said Jim Reynolds, senior project manager for Ruscilli Construction Company, Columbus, OH, who served as the construction manager on the job.

The building was designed by Arata Isozaki who designed the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the master plan for the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and Team Disney Headquarters in Buena Vista, FL.

“Mr. Isozaki’s plan was tough to carry out while trying to stay within the budget,” Reynolds said. “It was decided by the design team that precast would be the best for both appearance and an exterior fire rating.”

After opening up the job to a number of companies, only Concrete Technology of Springboro, OH, said it would take on the challenge.

Each of the banana-shaped panels was formed in Concrete Technology’s Springboro facility. The panels took two years to design and six months to manufacture. Each panel weighed 21,600 kilograms (48,000 lbs.) or 21.6 metric tons (24 tons).

Each panel, containing eight to 10 pick points staggered across the length, was placed on its side to be put through an acid wash basin.

The big question for Concrete Technology and the company’s subcontractor for precast and steel erection — Precast Services Inc. (PSI) — was how do the tilt-up since there was no real center of gravity if the panels were grabbed from the top.

PSI used eight pick points, using two lines and five rolling blocks.

A 270-metric-ton (300 ton) crane dropped each panel in vertically. It took the company from last April to August to complete the job. When finished the 290-meter (960 ft.) curved wall is longer than three football fields laid end to end, or 33 meters (110 ft.) longer than New York City’s Rockefeller Center is tall.

Reynolds said the project was also difficult because the museum was built next to the river and the soil was nothing but sand and muck. The firm placed between 700 and 800 pilings to support the spread foundations.

When plans were made for the new structure, designers had another problem: What should they do with the old Central High School that sat in a portion of the 17-acre site. The building, completed in 1924 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was a Beaux-Arts structure designed by William Ittner.

The architect’s solution was to include the high school and use it as a secondary entrance, restaurant, and activity rooms for smaller children and COSI offices. Joined to the restored, eastward-looking facade of Central High School, and to the 8,100 square meter (90,000 sq. ft.) within, is a new, 20,700-square-meter (230,000 sq. ft.) structure that faces west.

This part of the building incorporates the main entrance, exhibition areas, two major theaters, a skylit atrium, and the circulation spine.

Special cranes were also used to remove old footings.

Working with Arata Isozaki as associate architects were two Columbus-based firms: NBBJ and Moody/Nolan Ltd.

Other contractors on the job included: Korda/Nemeth Engineering Inc., structural engineer; HAWA Inc., mechanical and electrical engineer; George J. Igel & Co., site work; Ferguson Steel Co., structural steel and miscellaneous iron; Sasaki Associates Inc. and Peter Walker & Partners, site designers; Danis Construction, structural concrete, exterior shell and interior finishes; Cleveland Construction, drywall and ceilings; Teepee’s River City Mechanical, HVAV, plumbing and fire protection; D.A.G. Construction, safety and cleanup; Kirby Electric Inc., electric; W.F. Bolin Co., painting; Superior Electric, site electrical; and E.G. Banks Special Projects finished site work and landscaping.

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