Georgia Aquarium Sea Lion Exhibit
Best Project

Owner The Georgia Aquarium
Lead Design Firm PGAV
General Contractor Brasfield & Gorrie
Structural Engineer Uzun & Case
MEP Engineer exp
LSS Engineer TJP Engineering

For the Georgia Aquarium’s Sea Lion Exhibit, contractors first demolished and removed an existing three-story concrete exhibit structure, selectively demolishing mechanical systems and cast-in-place concrete aquarium tanks while also removing theming, rockwork and acrylic glazing. To build the new sea lion show facility, crews installed micropile and mat-slab foundations and constructed a new three-story concrete structure that featured transfer beams, structural steel and a 585-seat theater.

To meet the schedule and work around events, the project team worked three shifts. To separate work areas from the aquarium’s active areas, contractors built temporary walls, with one constructed of 16-in.-deep studs so that it could span from the ground level to the roof structure 50 ft above. In areas that could not be shut down, crews worked during the third shift, when the Georgia Aquarium was closed.

Tight constraints required crews to remove demolition debris via the facility’s back-of-house corridors—totaling a roughly 500-yd distance—but only during the third shift when facility staff were not present. Additionally, crews had to modify many material orders to fit them through the tight space constraints. For instance, nothing over 7 ft tall could travel through this corridor, and because any materials longer than 20 in. could not make the turns, contractors had to order rebar and structural steel in 20-in. lengths. Contractors coordinated with the structural engineer to design splice connections for the structural steel and to secure approvals for additional rebar splices in the reinforcing steel.

The project included construction of a themed entry area; a pier-themed theater; a 10,000-cu-ft sea lion show tank; a 2,575-cu-ft sea lion exhibit tank; construction of four new sea lion holding tanks; and a 4D theater.