Building renovation gives valuable artifacts a new home

Smithsonian museums get an award-winning climate-controlled facility for their extensive collections.


One of the most memorable cinematic images of the last three decades is the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the crate containing the Ark of the Covenant is wheeled through a giant warehouse containing countless other such crates. While, as far as I know, the federal government doesn’t have the warehouse depicted in that film, the next best thing may be the Smithsonian’s Pennsy Collections and Support Center, an unmarked 360,000-sq-ft warehouse in Landover, Md. There one can find rows of 20-ft-high shelving containing every imaginable type of artifact.

The building holds an extensive textile collection; floor-to-ceiling racks filled with 18th-century pianos; and historic films, photos, and documents. Unlike the movie warehouse, however, this is not a dusty, breezy place, but one with strict environmental controls to preserve all the treasures it contains. Given the variety of items to be preserved and types of workspaces, the building has different climate zones served by 29 rooftop air handlers and a Meefog system providing precise levels of humidification to 15 of those AHUs.

On the fast track

The workshop area shows Nederman snorkels to remove fumes from workbenches. Courtesy: Gensler Architects. Photography by Paul Warchol Photography Inc., New YorkWhen the leases for storage facilities being used by four of its museums were running out, the Smithsonian decided to look for a larger facility to consolidate those operations. In addition to being large enough, the building had to be close to downtown Washington, D.C., have easy access to transportation, and be able to service large trucks for loading and unloading. After looking at many different buildings, the Smithsonian settled on a 1960s furniture warehouse in an industrial area of Landover, Md. It met the Smithsonian’s size, location, and loading needs, but was in no shape for preserving valuable artifacts.

As part of a 15-year lease agreement, however, the building owner, Trammel Crow, agreed to pay for the necessary build out. It hired the architecture firm Gensler to oversee the renovation, and Gensler contracted with Vanderweil Engineers as the primary MEP engineers. Both groups had to operate on a compressed time schedule.

“It was fast track,” said Deb Hill, project manager for Gensler, the architecture firm overseeing the renovation. “We were dealing with seven different entities, so there were a lot of people weighing in, and they had to move.”

The building was laid out with a mix of dedicated storage spaces for some of the museums, combined with shared spaces including a cafeteria, fitness center, library, showers, workshops, and print shops for creating the signs and materials for exhibits. It also included facilities for training Smithsonian security personnel, such as xray equipement and a simulated gun range, and a central mail facility for the institution. The storage facilies needed cusom built shelving, and archival spaces had to be divided into smaller sections for fire protection. The team established 12-ft-wide routes for vehicles to move through the warehouse and separate smaller paths for people. An emergency generator was installed to power life and fire safety systems in the event of a blackout. Water sprinkler systems not only had to be installed along the ceiling, but also within many of the shelving units.

To top it all off, everything had to look good. And the end result does, with the facility winning several design awards, including an American Insitute of Architects (AIA) Maryland Honor Award for Interior Architecture.

<< First < Previous 1 2 Next > Last >>

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.