OdySea Aquarium
Scottsdale, Ariz.               
Best Project

Owner/Developer: Odysea Aquarium LLC
Design Firm: Deutsch Architecture Group
General Contractor: McCarthy Building Cos.
Civil Engineer: Hunting Engineering
Structural Engineer: Caruso Turley Scott
MEP Engineer: Piping Systems Engineering
Subcontractors: Schuff Steel; K&F Electric; Pete King; Suntec; Blount; Gothic Landscaping; Roofing Southwest; Stone Cold Masonry; Schindler Group

OdySea, the Southwest’s largest aquarium, measures 200,000 sq ft, holds more than 2 million gallons of water and accommodates up to 10,000 visitors daily. The two-level structure features more than 50 exhibits and 500 different species.

Built at a cost of $52.5 million, OdySea features elevated, cast-in-place concrete aquariums with 5,500 sq ft of acrylic viewing windows. Life-support systems include more than 300 pumps and 42,000 linear ft of piping.

To execute the design and construction of the circular structure, formed by cast-in-place concrete and tilt-up panels, contractor McCarthy Building Cos., architect Deutsch Architecture Group and structural engineer Caruso Turley and Scott executed the project with Revit and BIM 360 Glue.

Every single support element, whether steel or concrete, was unique, according to the project team.

Karen Ohmann, architect with Deutsch, says the complicated project’s preconstruction phase proved critical, but by integrating the design and construction models, the team was able to proceed efficiently.

“We had a really good team that made the process go much faster,” Ohmann says. “Every single [support element] was custom, so it didn’t really matter if we tweaked things in the design phase.”

For example, 14-ft- by 40-ft-radial acrylic windows were designed in the U.S., manufactured in Thailand and delivered to the site 14 weeks later. Tolerances for curvature of the concrete were less than one degree and length and height were less than a quarter of an inch. More than 5,455 sq ft of cast-in-place concrete acrylic windows, 1,100 structural beams and 72 concrete tilt panels fit the first time with no rework. The project began in March 2015 and was completed on schedule 18 months later.

By McCarthy’s estimates, the firm self-performed about 30% of the project, including concrete, plumbing, piping and ductwork, inclusive of the tank structures and 16 cast-in-place tanks.

In order to exhibit animals and fish from both rivers and oceans, the design provides for both freshwater and saltwater tanks. McCarthy crews also installed the life-support systems.

To install a structural steel theater turntable manufactured in China, the McCarthy team worked within concentricity tolerances since it was the only rotating structure within the building. The horizontal and vertical concentricity tolerances at the carousel were plus or minus a quarter inch at both the inner and outer radius with the outer radius spanning 40 ft and 5 in.

Because OdySea is located on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the owners and design/construction team worked with the tribe to integrate several themes, including exterior concrete patterns that depict a raindrop falling into a river. Walkways into OdySea represent the five major Arizona rivers: Colorado, Gila, Salt, Santa Cruz and Verde.

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