When Reinforced Structures, Inc. of Clearwater, Fla., took on the concrete construction work of the new Dali Museum, the company had a number of challenges to overcome. First, this was RSI's first project using self-consolidating concrete (SCC). Second, the building needed to stand up to Florida's unique weather and ocean side environment. And third, the cast-in-place structure was designed to look like architectural precast panels and serve as the cornerstone for St. Petersburg, Fla.'s downtown arts district. RSI found success on this project in planning, organization and open lines of communication with every member of the construction team.
"A lot of teamwork went into this building," says RSI president Steve Whitely. "When we got this job we picked an A-Team, from the concrete supplier to the formwork supplier to the reinforcing supplier. Along with the structural engineer, general contractor and architect, we were all involved in planning. It was an interesting job and everyone was involved in making the project a success."
The new Dali Museum sits on Tampa Bay, in downtown St. Petersburg, just a few blocks from the simple concrete structure that currently houses the largest collection of Salvador Dali art outside the surrealist painter's homeland of Spain. The Dali Foundation and city of St. Petersburg saw great potential for the museum, which is the most visited museum in Florida. They wanted not just a structure to house the Dali collection, but a structure that would be a draw for visitors itself.
The 60,000-square-foot building was designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. It has 18-inch-thick concrete walls, was built with 10,000 yards of concrete and includes 1,000 tons of reinforcing steel. Building strengths were measured at more than 7,500 psi. To help combat the ocean's salt air and its corrosive effect on reinforcing steel, a water inhibitor admixture was specified in the mix and the rebar is set back in the wall 2.5 inches, double the traditional distance between the outside of the wall and the rebar. Bentonite water stops were included at all joints.
The new Dali Museum, the first example of an exposed architectural cast-in-place SCC building in Florida, features large hurricane-rated glass structures growing off the front of the museum, giving visitors a dose of natural light and a view of Tampa Bay.
Reinforced Structures Inc. began its work on the Dali Museum two years before it was officially named concrete subcontractor on the project. The company was approached by the general contractor on the job, The Beck Group, to work through estimates on precast concrete, cast-in-place concrete, structural steel buildings and variations of those building techniques combined. It was during the preconstruction planning that the design team decided on self-consolidating concrete, or self-compacting concrete, for the construction of the building.
Self-consolidating concrete (SCC) is a typical concrete mix doused with superplasticizer admixtures to make the mix highly flowable while maintaining proper aggregate segregation. A few elements of the Dali Museum's construction made SCC the best choice for the project. For one, the museum design included unique openings in the walls and heavy rebar congestion; SCC can easily flow under and around openings in formwork and through intricate rebar. The architect also wanted a smooth finish and sharp corners with no chamfers; SCC's lack of bug holes and smooth texture after the forms have been removed leaves a pristine architectural finish.
RSI was involved with more preconstruction planning on the scheduling and sequencing of the building's construction. They worked nearly a dozen mock-ups before construction began to get the forming system and mix right for the project.