The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is a 2,050-seat, $470 million, performing arts center in downtown Las Vegas. The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is the first performing arts center of its size and scope that is US Green Building Council (USGBC®) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Gold certified. The art deco design is purposefully reminiscent of its architectural counterpart and not-so-distant neighbor, The Hoover Dam, and contains three separate theaters located in two different buildings. Opened in 2012, this facility has become the cornerstone for the local Las Vegas cultural movement.
Construction of The Smith Center was not a “run of the mill” undertaking. From the ground it sits upon to its 92,000 square-foot stone façade, there were several challenges faced that made the project all the more exciting and special.
Overcoming Site Challenges
The site chosen for this facility has many demographic advantages as it is located in the heart of downtown Las Vegas. However, there were some challenges to overcome with this site as well. The property had previously been the Union Pacific Railroad yard, and was in operation for a period of 70 years. In that time, oil, grease, and fuel found its way deep into the native soils. In an effort to minimize the potential problem of vapor intrusion into the brand new facility, as well as limit the expense of excavating and disposing of the hydrocarbon impacted soil, a vapor-mitigation system was designed and installed on the site. Terracon’s lead inspector was assigned the task of monitoring the installation of the vapor-mitigation system. Each step of the process was carefully examined, and following the installation, Terracon assisted with smoke testing to check for pin-hole leaks.
Preserving the life of The Smith Center
The intent of The Smith Center is to be a “permanent public place” and not to be demolished before its design-life is up, which has been the fate so many other structures in Las Vegas. Therefore, a drilled shaft foundation was used to support the massive, stone-façade facility. That gave Terracon the opportunity to put more of our specialized capabilities to use. To determine the integrity of the concrete on the drilled shafts that were constructed for the project, special testing and inspection, including caliper logging of the drilled shaft holes and cross-hole sonic logging (CSL) was performed. The caliper logging consisted of sending a “sonic carriage” down each drilled shaft. The carriage was fitted with “sonic-fingers” which send 360-degree sound signals to the walls of the excavation, in intervals, all the way to the bottom of the shaft. Results of this logging reveal whether the drilled shaft is straight and the correct diameter.
CSL testing, which also uses sound-waves to gather information, tests for anomalies and voids in the concrete placed in the shafts. In addition to our continuous observations during drilling, as well as concrete monitoring and sampling, these specialized services helped alleviate any concerns that the building would move or shift.
The two-and-a-half year project was completed with no injuries and with the same inspector overseeing throughout the duration of the project. Harnesses and fall protection were the main focus during the vertical construction, which reached heights of up to 110-feet for the bell tower, and Terracon’s inspectors were trained to use only green-tagged scaffolding when performing their inspections. Jeff Glagola, Senior Special Inspector, said, “It was the safest job I’ve been on in 20 years.”