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Keeping it cool with ice scupltures

News | June 1, 2010 | By:

Mahaffey creates an insulated structure to house ice sculptures for a Texas event.

It was about this time last year that Mahaffey Fabric Structures, based in Memphis, Tenn., began planning the structure for the Gaylord Texan ICE! event that ran in Grapevine, Texas, for two months beginning in November 2009. Mahaffey met the unique demands created by the event, designing and installing a structure that could house large, heavy ice carvings, with only a few months to prepare. “Normally this would have been a very short amount of time to prepare for an event like this,” says Kevin Ponder, account executive for Mahaffey. “However, our experience with previous ICE! events made it possible for us to execute the [design and installation] in the shortened time frame.”

The company needed to plan for outdoor temperatures that range on average from 37 to 89 degrees Fahrenheit, wind, and yes snow. “Wind is always a given, but with this event, snow and additional loads [to accommodate] insulation and lighting were an issue,” Ponder says. Inside the structure the air temperature was kept at 9 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mahaffey designed the 30-by-45-meter main structure with 5-meter sides to accommodate the large ice sculptures. A 12-by-30-meter connector tent provided coverage for patrons as they entered the exhibit, where they were provided with iridescent ice-blue parkas to wear as they walked through the exhibit.

But it was the design and execution of the flooring that presented the major challenge for the event. “Obviously, the floor had to be insulated to help maintain the temperatures inside,” Ponder says. “It also had to be extremely strong since some of the ice carvings weighed thousands of pounds.” Ice was brought in on large forklifts and, to further complicate things, the site was not level. Mahaffey raised the floor more than two feet in some areas to create a level surface. “This was a monumental challenge,” Ponder says. “Mahaffey performed developmental testing at our headquarters in Memphis after working with engineers [on the design]. This enabled us to have the right, proven design ready to install as soon as we arrived on site.”

To ensure that the structure complied with all codes, Mahaffey’s engineering team worked directly with third-party engineers hired by the Gaylord to oversee the engineering aspects of the event, particularly the structure. “Using this approach, all engineering was reviewed several times by multiple engineers,” says Ponder. “Third-party review of engineering is an often overlooked, but important, process that should happen more often in the structures industry.”

The installation spanned several weeks, with contractors working at the same time as the installers in order to meet the deadline. The result was a structurally sound, insulated venue, which allowed the Gaylord to bring in its design and decor team to create the event within.

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