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Award-winning recreation center weathers the seasonal extremes

Features | September 1, 2019 | By:

By Bruce N. Wright, AIA

Weather is a topic of daily conversation in Saint Louis Park, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis. Seasonal temps in the city can range from a high of 90˚F in the summer to well below 0˚F in the winter. In the transitional seasons of spring and fall, residents can experience 20-degree swings between highs and lows in one day.

Given this unpredictability, the Saint Louis Park’s new Recreation Outdoor Center was designed for year-round use with a minimum carbon footprint and a sustainable low-energy operating profile. This unique facility supports skating in late fall and winter months, and concerts, performances and public gatherings on artificial turf in spring, summer and early fall.

Key to making these events function smoothly is the 30,000-square-foot fabric roof supported by massive glulam arches lifted on concrete piers. As the arches are relatively shallow in curvature, the end forces of the fabric are significant and the near flat tops of the arches risk potential ponding. Blackwell, the engineering firm for the structural design, wanted to avoid the problem of ponding, so “valley cables were installed to stiffen the membrane, rather than a traditional solution of supporting purlins,” says John David Bowick, design engineer.

The city and park management also required that the collection and treatment of stormwater be built into the project. To make this work, the roof membrane connections to the timber arches had to perform triple duty: resist membrane/cable forces, provide multiple degrees of adjustability at connections, and collect rainwater from the roof and redirect it to the integrated stormwater management system below grade.

This project won an Award of Excellence in IFAI’s 2018 International Achievement Awards competition.

Architect: RSP Architects
Engineering: Blackwell
Fabric roof fabrication/installation: Birdair
Project management: RJM Construction
Fabric: Sheerfill® from Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp.

Bruce N. Wright, AIA, is an architect, teacher, consultant to architects and designers, and a frequent contributor to IFAI publications.

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