architecture - engineering - construction
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Tectum Inc. enters CISCA Construction Excellence Awards


The design of Como Park was originally inspired by the landscapes of H.W.S. Cleveland who was a pioneer in advocating open, natural spaces in cities in the mid-1800’s. For over one hundred years the staff of Como Park Zoo have worked to create and maintain this natural haven for the area’s urban population.

Today, Como Park Zoo has grown to feature a seal island, a large cat exhibit, a variety of aquatic life, primates, birds, African hoofed animals and a world-class polar bear exhibit. One of the premier exhibits at Como Park, the Primates House, was a 10-sided burnished block building with wood ceilings, exposed ductwork and concrete floors. The building’s inhabitants created their own noise problem. But the noise only intensified when hundreds of school children added to the din, making it difficult for guides to communicate with guests. It became difficult for zoo patrons to understand interpretive leaders or each other.

One staff member mentioned that the louder they turned up their portable sound system, the harder it was to understand the speaker. The Como Park Zoo consulted local experts in acoustics to solve their noise problem. In addition to the primary issue of acoustic dampening, the end result needed to be a very natural look in keeping with the design theories of H.W.S. Cleveland and the rest of the park. The finish also needed to be tough enough to withstand the repeated abuse of thousands of school children every year. Tectum Wall Panels provided an excellent solution to all of these challenges. The aesthetic demands of the space were addressed by laser-jet printing graphics on Tectum Wall Panels to create a look that resembled the rock face of a cliff.

Each panel is 4’ x 8’ and was marked for installation in a specific order. While there was some repeat of the pattern, it is not readily apparent. The graphic required that panels be precisely matched and installed to create the desired effect. Wood furring was mounted on the block horizontally 2' on center; the furring has a 45 degree angle cut at the top. Treated wood furring strips were also attached to the back of the Tectum panels so that the panels hook on the wall-mounted furring strips. The space between the Tectum Wall Panel and the block is in filled with Micropor insulation to further enhance the acoustical performance. A metal frame was added around the entire panel array and the edges and panel joints were caulked to ensure that the installation would be pest-free.

Some field machining of the panels was necessary around doorways and fixtures.As part of a public park and home to several primates, it was important for the Primate House to remain in service even during construction. To accommodate both the public and the inhabitants, work was conducted in the evenings. This required that the workspace be completely cleaned and ready for the public at the end of each shift. Narrow passageways meant the workspace footprint had to be contained. Though this was not a LEED certified project, both Tectum panels and the Micropor insulation are environmentally friendly products that can contribute to the LEED certification program. The Primate House at Como Park Zoo is now a space that is acoustically sound, aesthetically pleasing and tough enough to serve the community for years to come. Several of the guides have expressed their appreciation, as have the architect, the graphic designer and the City of St. Paul.

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