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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 18Apr00

Summarized by Bruce Thomas

Church's 22,000-Seat Hall Is an Open and Shut Case
Engineering News-Record pg63 17Apr00 B1
by Stephen H. Daniels

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- "A waterfall plunges through a 'canyon.' Aspens and evergreens grow to the edge of a three-acre alpine "meadow." The setting sounds bucolic but it is not. It is the rooftop of a 1.5- million-sq-ft conference center smack in the middle of Salt Lake City. The $240-million building for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints houses a 22,000-seat hall, described by church officials as the world's largest.

"The building opened briefly April 1 for the church's general conference. Construction then resumed toward a formal opening and dedication in October.

"Temporary completion stretched Legacy Constructors, a consortium of the three largest local contractors: Layton Construction Co., Okland Construction Co. and Jacobsen Construction Co. 'It's been crowded, very hard and very fast,' says Harvey E. Wright, Legacy's manager of construction.

"Not only is the expansive roof flat, but 'we are building to seismic zone 4 requirements,' adds James G. Peterson, Legacy's project executive. The building was also designed with a 25% safety factor, to give it a 150-year life, he says.

"The roof garden emerged because LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley told the Portland, Ore.-based architect Zimmer Gunsel Frasca Partnership to avoid another big box, like the nearby Delta Center arena, in the heart of Salt Lake City.

"The church leader also wanted to be assured the roof would not leak. He did not, he told ZGF principal-in-charge Robert Frasca, want the building to be remembered as 'Hinckley's Folly.'

"A 'greenhouse' roof, with a layer of liquid rubber, covers a composite metal deck with a 6-in.-thick concrete topping. Beneath planters, contractor Utah Tile and Roofing, Salt Lake City, installed root barriers -- roofing membranes and an egg-crate-like drainage system filled with gravel. Walking surfaces are pavers atop Styrofoam in the irrigation systems underneath.

"The auditorium roof is a quarter circle in plan. A 30-ft-deep proscenium king truss spans 152 ft and bears at its ends on a reinforced concrete column at either side of the stage. Ten tapered radial trusses, also 30 ft deep, fan across the hall. Each 300-ton truss bears on the king truss at one end and on the radius wall at the other end, says Charlton.

"The weight of the king truss, says the steel erector, grew to 600 tons as the structure was revised, which played havoc with steel fabrication and erection. 'We turned our whole company over to this project, and it went crazy,' says Scott Schuff, president of steel contractor Schuff Steel Co., Phoenix. "The job stressed everybody," he says.

Schuff says 'a $9-million structural steel contract became a $37- million job.' Schuff threatened to go to court. Church officials said this week the dispute has been settled, but Schuff could not be reached to confirm.

To meet this month's opening date, the design schedule was whittled, the main hall was fast-tracked and working drawings were produced piecemeal. 'We struggled early to get the building out of the ground,' says Thomas E. Hanson, the church's director of special projects.

"A 75-ft height restriction imposed by City code meant sinking the East end of the building 75-ft, then soldier piling and lagging the entire site, a 660-ft-square city block. Once out of the ground, the team ran into trouble with concrete walls and buttresses so heavily reinforced that ironworkers stumbled, says Hanson. Legacy resorted to increasing wall thickness by 2 in. and using a fine aggregate to get around the inordinately dense rebar.

"Additionally, 'at every turn, we were frustrated by changes and were consumed by changes and were consumed by trying to respond to the rooftop garden and other moving targets,' Hanson says. Complicating matters, a tornado touched down Aug 11, shredding the Delta Center's roof and tipping a tower crane onto the conference center's roof.

"The area's Interstate 15 project and a flurry of Winter Olympics construction created shortages among several trades, especially ironworkers. 'What had been a stable labor market for years was suddenly stretched,' Hanson says.

"For construction, the Legacy partners divided the site geographically. As Okland built the underground 1,300 space parking garage, Layton began work on the radius wall. At the same time, Jacobsen was building the buttresses and the wall behind the stage.

"Design details never quite caught up with construction and the complicated steel work fell six months behind schedule, throwing the April assembly hall pre-opening into doubt, says Wright. But the team prevailed. 'The only thing I ever lost sleep over was the granite facade,' says Hanson.

"During design development, the church decided on a local granite it had used for adjacent Salt Lake Temple. But the quarry had long been inactive, so the cladding supplier had to go through the process of reactivating it. 'Some larger fabricators didn't want to get involved in that kind of adventure,' says Hanson.

"Idaho Travertine Corp., Idaho Falls, took the job. People ask if there were any miracles on this job, says Hanson. 'I tell them it was the stone.'"

The article has a few pictures of the building during construction. I thought the insight about the building was interesting from a construction standpoint.


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