Thinkery, formerly the Austin Children's Museum, turned to The Beck Group to lead construction on its 35,000-sq-ft facility located just north of downtown Austin. The two-story, interactive museum was designed to utilize every square foot of the land it was built on, with two of the building's four sides laid out to be 1 in. off the property line.

In addition to multiple zero-lot lines, other property lines were constrained by utility right-of-ways that determined the boundary of construction. That required the Beck team to carefully coordinate its work with adjacent construction activities in the same development. The construction entrance was relocated several times, access to the work site was highly constricted and outside contractors had to be allowed on site to install infrastructure.

A unique envelope system was integrated into the building's design, peeling parts of the building's skin away to reveal glazed openings and nooks.

But waterproofing these details was difficult. Beck's team built a mock-up to ensure the building's skin would be watertight, identifying a number of details that needed additional counter-flashing and redundant sealant joints.

One of the primary design features called for a board-formed finish on the tilt wall panels that emulated well-grained, 10-in. boards. It was important to get the finish on the panels right in the first pour, so Beck established a list of priority expectations that were reviewed with the architect. Just one sample and one full-size mock-up later, the team poured the board-formed architectural concrete panels flawlessly.

Earth work started under extraordinarily dry conditions, but that changed when the work for underground utilities and foundations began. Crews had excavated one-third of the trenches when the site was hit with 1.5 in. of rain. Two days after the team pumped the trenches and the ground began to harden again, more rain fell, stopping construction for a week.

Just as crews began to lay down the slab reinforcement, intermittent rain returned, preventing pours of the slab on grade for 16 calendar days beyond the original construction schedule.

The team put in significant weekend work and overtime to make up for the lost days, ensuring it met the planned turnover date of July 2013.

Key Players

General Contractor The Beck Group, Austin

Owner Thinkery, Austin

Lead Design Koning-Eizenberg Architecture Inc., Santa Monica, Calif.