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Dinosaurs Roam New Abode in Pittsburgh

Mon April 28, 2008 - Northeast Edition
Brenda Ruggiero

Dinosaurs may be extinct, but many of their remains have found a new home at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pa.

The original dinosaur hall was closed in spring 2005 to begin the construction process for the new exhibit, “Dinosaurs in Their Time.” The new hall was completed and opened to the public in November to mark the 100th anniversary of the original hall.

The project was divided into two phases. Phase One, which opened in November, features the Triassic Period, the Jurassic Period, the early Cretaceous Period and the Cretaceous Seaway. Phase Two, which will be completed in late spring, features the remainder of the Cretaceous Period, including a dynamic display of two fighting T. Rex specimens.

The new hall more than triples the museum’s exhibition space, from the former hall’s 5,000 sq. ft. (464.5 sq m) to about 18,000 sq. ft. (1,672 sq m).

“There’s a volume of space that we’ve never had at the Museum of Natural History to display dinosaurs,” said Carol Downy Fuller, project manager of the museum. “Some of the dinosaurs were kind of crowded. This new space is so large, that it certainly gives people the ability to understand the scale of how large these dinosaurs really were. When they’re all crowded together, you can’t really get a good view of all the sides.”

According to officials at the museum, the new name reflects the fact that, for the first time, dinosaurs are integrated into the environments of their respective time periods.

“Even though dinosaurs are no longer with us, the plants, mammals, fish, and insects that surround them continue to evolve and create the biological diversity that surrounds us today,” a spokesperson said.

“Dinosaurs in Their Time” is the first permanent exhibit in the world to feature scientifically accurate environments spanning the Mesozoic Era. The exhibits are arranged in chronological order. The dinosaurs were remounted in scientifically accurate, active poses, and new specimens also were added to the exhibit.

Construction of the new hall began in March 2005. Jendoco Construction of Pittsburgh was named the construction manager. The overall contract for the entire project totaled $36 million, with $14 million included for general construction.

Funding comes from a variety of sources. The biggest source was a $15 million grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the rest is a combination of grants, foundations and private donations.

Fuller noted that Jendoco self-performed several of the bid packages.

“Our arrangement with them is they have to bid each package to three bidders, which could include themselves,” she said. “Then we opened them here at the museum and gave them to the low bidder. So they were able to do some parts of the work themselves, and the remainder were given to the lowest subcontractor.”

Fuller explained that the project was a renovation and expansion for the dinosaur collection.

“It was a renovation of the original dinosaur hall, which was 100 years old, and then there was a three-story addition inside what was previously a utility courtyard,” she said. “It was unbeknownst to the public, because it was interior to the building, but it was open to the sky. So we were able to put three floors there that corresponded with the museum. They were built inside that courtyard, and that’s actually the largest part of the construction. That’s what makes it so unique.”

Fuller noted that although there are four existing exterior sides of the building, the addition is not structurally supported by the existing building.

“The new construction is fully supported by the steel frame,” she said. “The floors align with the existing museum floors, and they do connect at door openings, but they are not supported by the existing structure.”

To complete this portion of the project, caissons were first drilled through the bedrock, and then a steel frame was installed to support the new construction. John Zang, project manager of Jendoco, reported that a Caterpillar AF10 caisson drilling rig was used to drill the caissons.

“The rig had to be driven through a portal which ran under the existing dinosaur hall,” he explained. “The clearance was less than 2 inches combined on the height and width.”

One of the challenges faced by the team was that the building was occupied — not only by people, but by valuable museum collections.

“We had to take great care about public safety, dust control and water infiltration — all those issues that come with construction,” Fuller said.

To provide protection, construction partitions were designed to keep the various parts of the building segregated from the work.

Fuller noted that when the project began, crews began disassembling the dinosaur mounts that were in place.

“That took them from mid-March until just before Labor Day in 2005,” she said. “Then they were all crated, and they were trucked to a firm in New Jersey called Phil Fraley Productions. They have a large warehouse facility, and they work on between two and four specimens at a time. They take them out of the crate, strip off all the old repair work, make new repairs, and create the new armature.”

The company cleaned the fossil bones, sculpted missing or previously inaccurate elements, and repositioned the dinosaurs to reflect current ideas on how they actually moved and lived.

According to Zang, a total of 280 tons (254 t) of structural steel and 686 cu. yds. (524 cu m) of concrete were used for the project. A 250-ton (227 t) hydraulic crane helped to move the steel.

Of the 19 free-standing dinosaur skeletons on exhibit, 15 consist almost entirely of real fossil bones. They were discovered on digs sponsored by Pittsburgh industrialist Andrew Carnegie in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Major subcontractors for the project included Lincoln Fabricating, steel; Tinney Rebar Services, rebar; AER Construction, caissons; Century Steel Erectors, steel erection; Mihm Rentals, chain fall rental; Simplex Grinnell, fire protection; Phoenix Roofing, roofing; Crowder Construction, specialties; Chick’s Concrete, concrete; Patent Construction Systems, scaffolding; Sentry Mechanical, HVAC; Hanion Electric, electrical; CEC, testing; Engineered Products Inc., miscellaneous metals; Franco, masonry; Easley and Rivers, drywall; Tinney Rebar Services, rebar erection; Norco Painting, painting; Miller Tile Company, ceramic tile; Southwest Aluminum & Glass, glass and glazing; Norco Painting, terra-cotta cleaning; PDG Development Group, abatement; Otis Elevator Co., elevator; A.G. Mauro, doors and frames; Certified Wood Products, plywood; Moore and Morford, miscellaneous metals; Giffin Interior, millwork; Jeamar Winches, winch; Douglass Pile, micro piles; and Flooring Contractors of Pittsburgh, carpet.


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