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Scottsdale’s OdySea Aquarium on Track to Open in Summer 2016

Set on 14 acres, the aquarium will host marine life tank exhibits throughout, including a giant, elevated cast-in-place concrete aquarium.

Mon November 02, 2015 - West Edition
Lori Tobias

Construction crews with McCarthy Building Companies are right on track to finish work in time for the scheduled July 2016, grand opening of the 200,000-sq.-ft. (18,580 sq m) OdySea Aquarium in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Work on the two-story, multi-level facility began in March 2015. Set on 14 acres, the aquarium will host marine life tank exhibits throughout, including a giant, elevated cast-in-place concrete aquarium. The innovative building design has minimal right angles with an outdoor courtyard marking its center.

McCarthy crews are casting in place all building concrete and 16 concrete tanks. The concrete tanks will be combined with 5,455-sq. ft. (506 sq m) of acrylic viewing windows to provide visitors insight into 48 exhibits featuring animals from rivers and oceans, bayous, coral reefs, deep fresh and salt water. McCarthy also is installing the Life Support Systems, which include more than 300 pumps and more than 42,000 lin. ft. (12,801 m) of piping in the heart of the Sonoran desert.

So far, the project has had few glitches, said project manager Don Mac.

“There hasn’t been anything major that we encountered to date,” Mac said. “McCarthy and the design team spent a huge amount of time doing building information modeling (BIM) to coordinate all underground piping and acrylic openings size-wise within the structural concrete and steel openings. We used it for anchor bolts on the concrete columns to make sure everything is on the right orientation for the steel to fit correctly. All of that has been coordinated for a year to a year and a half just to make sure everything is going to fit the way it was intended. We identified conflicts and were able to resolve them through the BIM process before the work got installed in the field.”

McCarthy recently completed the installation of 72 tilt-wall panels, which were assembled over eight days. The panels cure for 28 days until they reach full structural strength. At that point, the walls are picked up with a crane and set in place. The use of tilt walls speed up the exterior construction, Mac said.

“A lot of times on a commercial project, you’ll have framing, the skin and an exterior façade,” he said. “With this, it’s one step and your exterior walls are done.”

“McCarthy concrete crews used a 250-ton crane for the majority of the concrete work,” Mac said. “A crawler crane was utilized to erect all the steel. Our tilt panels were erected with a 300-ton crawler. Some of those panels are 60 feet tall and weigh in at 220,000 pounds. We’ve had numerous track hoes for all the underground utilities. When we poured the concrete, we brought in a 61-meter concrete pump to reach over the perimeter walls. We also used a 50-ton crane at the beginning and we are working with a 130-ton crane that’s actually inside the building right now.”

Crews have begun working to install the acrylic windows, four of which weigh about 12,000 lbs. (5,443 kg) and another just over 13,000 lbs. (5,896 kg).

“All of the acrylic windows come through our acrylic provider, Reynolds, out of Grand Junction, Colo. The trickiest part is making sure we install at the correct radius and size has been really critical. We’ve conducted field measures to verify they do fit. It’s also tricky hoisting them into place.”

Precision on the job is crucial since it will house innumerable live animals.

“We put a lot of faith in the structural design and in the engineers when they designed the projects,” Mac said. “Some of our concrete tanks have a lot of rebar steel reinforcement just to make sure they can hold up to the water pressures and things of that nature. From that standpoint, our biggest focus is making sure the quality of our concrete is good and that there are no defects. Also, making sure the acrylic fits so when the public views the exhibits, everything looks pristine. We continue to test our underground piping. We have miles of underground piping that runs water between the tanks. We constantly test it to make sure there no leaks, just to make sure the life safety systems for the animals and fish continue to function properly after we are done.”

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