Star Wars is not just a movie, it is an institution that has spawned a culture and, in some cases, a total immersion. So much so, married powerhouse duo, George Lucas creator of Star Wars and Melody Hobson president of DreamWorks have co-founded a museum focused exclusively on storytelling through images.
Located on an 11-acre campus in Los Angeles’s Exposition Park, the Lucas Museum is to be 300,000-square-feet of expansive galleries, state-of-the-art theaters, and learning and entertainment space. Its distinct and extraordinary architecture is modeled after a spaceship - a unique shape requiring skilled engineering and diverse materials from the inside out.
A key feature of the structure is its curved interior walls and pillars that mimic futuristic space craft. To accomplish this aesthetic while also ensuring a superior audio experience for guests, special acoustical plaster is being used throughout its libraries, lobby and halls.
While the plaster is decorative, sound dampening, and replaces the dry wall mud filling in the seams and gaps of the curves, it also acts like a sponge holding moisture. The museum will require 6 rooms to be sprayed with at least one application of plaster. Stakeholders estimated that there could be over 12,000 gallons of moisture released into the space.
Contractors had a few concerns. For starters, all that moisture would require careful planning and effort to achieve and maintain humidity levels of 65-70% RH. Secondly, if it was not dried properly at speed, it could develop mold, structural damage, and impact the timeline. Lastly, the moisture could introduce similar problems to the surrounding materials. Techniques and technology to dry the plaster as quickly and effectively as possible would become critical to both schedule and quality control.
Senior Superintendent Jeff Leivo of Hathaway Dinwiddie, the general contractor on the project, understood controlling the potentially high levels of moisture was a must in protecting the building and warranties, as well as keeping the project on track. That is why he introduced the interior subcontractor Sharpe Interior Systems to Polygon.
Once briefed, Polygon assembled a team to review the specs, assess the building and materials, understand the schedule, and build relationships with upwards of 15 project leaders and key suppliers. Polygon was able to bring its drying experience with building materials like fireproofing to the conversation. Together, the team configured a set of dehumidification pieces that would sit outside the building.
Temporary duct work would run treated air into one room at a time. Each of the 6 rooms would take about 1 month. Contractors would turn on dehumidifiers for one room, apply the plaster, letit cure, then turn off equipment. Polygon would move equipment and adjust it according to each room’s unique response.
In addition, ExactAire IAQ sensors would take 24/7 readings of humidity, temperature, and other climate conditions so stakeholders could monitor moisture levels and ensure adequate dehumidification in real-time.
Visibility and speed - The project needs to progress as swiftly as possible. The sensors allowed the team to closely monitor conditions so if they thought they might fall out of spec, they could quickly and effectively adjust. Also, once the space was dry, they didn’t waste time or fuel. They turned off the equipment and moved on.
Effective Dehumidification - Dehumidification was used in targeted, controlled space. Equipment was selected for efficiency and effectiveness which yields superior drying results.
Engineering and operational support - Such a complex job required thoughtful planning and implementation from all parties. Partnering with polygon from the beginning meant the client got the support of an engineering team, the availability of a rental company, real-time data, and the onsite service of a turnkey provider.
Polygon remains on the job at the time this article was written. The museum is slated to open in 2025.
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