2010 Best Project

Government/Public Buildings Category

Natural History Museum of Utah

Salt Lake City

Courtesy of Big-D Construction
Nature is a key part of the buildings structure and visitor experience.
Courtesy of Big-D Construction
The Rio Tinto Center embodies a whole-building approach to sustainable green practices.

The Natural History Museum of Utah is a leading scientific and cultural institution that has been recognized for its active research programs in the Intermountain region for 40 years.

The museum curates 1.2 million objects and offers innovative exhibitions and educational programs to thousands of residents and visitors each year. With a focus on teaching natural sciences to elementary school students, the museum provides high-quality specimens and content-rich materials to complement classroom teaching.

The new 163,000-sq-ft museum, which is housed in the Rio Tinto Center, contains the state's extraordinary collection and offers more gallery and education spaces to further its mission of public involvement in the sciences.

The design carefully integrated the museum into a 17-acre foothill site above the shoreline of ancient Lake Bonneville.

Nature is a key part of the $103-million structure as well as its visitor experience, and the Rio Tinto Center embodies a whole-building approach to sustainable practices as part of its mission to illuminate the natural world and the place of humans within it. The project team worked closely with the exhibit designer and exhibit contractor to create a world-class museum.

The Rio Tinto Center was a complex and challenging building to orchestrate. The surrounding area, limited staging space, size and design made it difficult to apply standard safety practices on the project.

However, with patience and perseverance, general contractor Big-D Construction and its subcontractors worked more than 712,000 man-hours without a lost-time injury.

Additional project challenges included minimal laydown space while building the project into the adjacent hillside, the utilization of self-consolidating concrete for the board-formed walls and the logistics of building around an 80-ft-high soldier-pile wall.

Mechanically stabilized earth walls were installed adjacent to the concrete foundation to reduce the pressure of the earth on the concrete walls.

Key Players

Owner: DFCM, Salt Lake City

Design: GSBS Architects, Salt Lake City

General Contractor: Big-D Construction, Salt Lake City

Civil Engineer: Colvin Engineering Associates Inc., Salt Lake City

Structural Engineer: Dunn Associates Inc., Salt Lake City

MEP: Spectrum Engineers, Salt Lake City

Entry submitted by Big-D Construction