The $71-million North Carolina Museum of Art renovation and expansion dramatically boosts the facility’s space for visitors and works of art, increasing the permanent collection galleries by 54%, the temporary exhibit space by 45% and the art storage capacity by 90%. The gallery expansion building and an adjacent garden also allow the museum to display the most comprehensive bronze sculpture exhibits in the country by French sculptor August Rodin.

North Carolina Museum of Art
Photo: Balfour Beatty Construction

Balfour Beatty Construction of Charlotte, N.C., in association with Barnhill Contracting Co. of Tarboro, N.C., provided construction manager-at-risk services.

Many aspects of the project required innovative techniques and new materials, including a system of rhythmic vaults and 362, fiberglass, egg-shaped ceiling coffers that filter daylight through highly engineered, glass-enclosed occuli. The glasswork in the occuli blocks, filters and directs light into the galleries to allow the maximum amount of natural light into the building without allowing any direct light to reach the artwork. Less than 1% of the available outside daylight filters into the building and illuminates the galleries. The coffers work together with a louvered sunshade system installed on the exterior of the roof.

The construction team built detailed mock-ups of the coffers that included the same flooring designated for the building and sensors that were installed at intervals along the walls to measure the exact amount of light that entered at the different times of day. This precision allowed the team to save valuable time by addressing any installation issues before they arose on the project and by confirming that the coffers functioned properly.

The glass on the exterior walls of the west building features a Frit coating to reduce glare and solar transmission and to diffuse the light as it enters the building. Each pane weighed 1,260 lbs and required a special manufacturing process, special shipping and installation. The team designated a project engineer to act as point person, coordinating with all of the subcontractors and overseeing the windows from submittal and manufacturing through delivery and installation. The team created a scale mock-up for the owner to ensure that these unique windows met expectations.

The mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems also are designed to protect the art and feature redundancies. The project included installation of dehumidification and humidification systems, two chillers, four boilers, 15 air handling units and two energy-recovery units.

The museum remained fully operational during construction, with Balfour Beatty holding weekly meetings with museum staff to outline and coordinate all planned activities. The construction team spent nearly two months reworking the roads and ensuring that all entrances were clearly marked so that patrons could easily find their way to the museum.

Key Facts

Owner: North Carolina Museum of Art
Location: Raleigh, N.C.
Cost: $71 million
Contractor: Balfour Beatty Construction, Charlotte, N.C., in a joint venture with Barnhill Contracting Co., Tarboro, N.C.
Design Firms: Pearce Brinkley Cease & Lee, Raleigh, and Thomas Phifer and Partners, New York, N.Y.