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Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts a Reality Thanks to Performance Contracting, Georgia-Pacific & Radius Track

Muriel McBrien Kauffman’s vision, 10 years in planning and construction materialized September 16, 2011 with the grand opening of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri.

Built on a hilltop overlooking the city, the Center offers sweeping views of the city while patrons enjoy performances in a center built for acoustical performance. The Center covers 13 acres and is approximately 285,000 square feet with two technically sophisticated performance spaces: the 1,800-seat proscenium-style Muriel Kauffman Theatre and the 1,600-seat concert Helzberg Hall. The Muriel Kauffman Theatre and Helzberg Hall are two distinct structures, each with their own acoustical envelope and dramatic architectural shell. Leading architect, Moshe Safdie of Safdie Architects collaborated with Richard Pilbrow of Theatre Projects Consultants and Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata Acoustics America on the design of both halls, which share backstage facilities, including dressing accommodations for over 250 performers.

Performance Contracting Inc. of Kansas City worked with Georgia-Pacific Gypsum products and Radius Track, the world’s premier provider of curved structural framing and 3D modeling for curved surfaces to make this complex structure a reality.

The main challenge of building two separate facilities housed within the same structure was building both isolated spaces before the steel dome was erected. The multi-layered exterior shell of the Kauffman Center is not just aesthetically pleasing – it was built for acoustical performance. Due to the precision and technical nature of the building, work began on the two performance spaces that are enclosed within the structure prior to the assembly of the “bumps” – a series of acoustically specific, multi-radiused bulges in the performing arts center wall which solve some very challenging acoustic issues.

Performance Contracting knew Georgia-Pacific Gypsum products would fit the bill for such a demanding assignment. “Since we started building the interior spaces before the exterior shell was built, we needed a product that could withstand the elements in order to stay on schedule for the September 2011 target opening date,” said Ryan Crist, LEED AP, Project Engineer, Performance Contracting.

Georgia-Pacific Gypsum’s DensArmor Plus® High-Performance Interior Panels were chosen for the interior walls not only for their durability and strength, but also because of their ability to be installed prior to the building being dried in. This proved beneficial during scheduling, as workers were able to install walls without having to fear weather exposure. Georgia-Pacific Gypsum offers a 12-month weather exposure limited warranty against delamination and deterioration resulting from exposure to normal weather conditions, which means DensArmor Plus panels can be hung before installing doors and windows.

Georgia-Pacific Gypsum’s DensGlass® Sheathing was also selected. Beyond its typical use as a permanent gypsum building component, the building team also used it to make temporary partitions to protect the performance halls prior to the erection of the steel shell. PCI’s distributor, Rew Materials, recommended DensGlass Sheathing for this because the product’s fiberglass mats and moisture-resistant core help reduce the effects of surface water exposure while providing resistance to mold growth.

Radius Track, provided all the 3D modeling, light gauge steel framing design and fabrication for the project. In the past, the “bumps” would have been framed with a “close enough” mentality and would have visually performed to that level. Today, with the extremely sophisticated acoustical engineering solutions that are applied to performing arts centers of this caliber, “close enough” wasn’t going to cut it.

Radius Track designed a precise, consistent framing solution using straight and curved steel studs and track along with laser-cut steel shapes for the small bumps. While normal stud spacing is 16-inch on center, Radius Track devised a way to create rib frames at 36-inch on center and bridged them with lighter gauge hat channels that could flex with the room’s geometry. “This approach not only solved a perplexing detail, but raised the bar by creating an ingeniously simple solution which saved significant time and material with impeccable results, says Radius Track CEO Chuck Mears, AIA. Fifty-seven of these frames were produced offsite in controlled shop environments to meet the exacting standards.

Radius Track modeled all the ceilings in the Concert Hall and Proscenium Theater, the balcony facing reflector walls and the donor’s area ceiling using 3D computer technology. BIM (Building Information Modeling) pulls the project team together earlier in the process of design and brings them into close communication so that coordination of systems and specific locations of elements can be worked out prior to material being fabricated. Clashes are resolved in the 3D model, so when the pieces are delivered to the jobsite they can be installed with out problems. “With Radius Track we were able to get it right the first time thus saving both time and money” said Crist.

BIM was also used for the undulating ceiling designs. With the help of partner structural engineers, Radius Track was able to successfully handle the weight of 25-pound acoustical plaster, attached equipment and other loads. With a solution that extended the spacing of stud members and utilized hat channels half the size of normal framing, Radius Track solved a series of acoustically specific profiles with exacting proficiency. Radius Track was able to significantly lower the per-square-foot weight of framing, resulting in measurable cost and labor savings.

A project of this scope also needed to stand up to high volume traffic that would come. DensShield® Tile Backer by Georgia- Pacific Gypsum was specified by the architect as a must-have product. Performance Contracting installed over 20,000 square feet of DensShield Tile Backer in the Center. DensShield panels incorporate fiberglass mats and a moisture-resistant core and are lighter and easier to install than cement tile backers.

In addition to DensArmor Plus and DensShield Tile Backer, Performance Contracting also installed 90,000 square feet of DensGlass® Shaftliner. Georgia-Pacific Gypsum’s DensGlass® Shaftliner is a component for gypsum board shaftwall, stairwell and area separation/firewall systems when a fire rating is required. DensGlass Shaftliner incorporates a moisture- and mold-resistant, noncombustible gypsum core with fiberglass mats to resist exposure to the elements during the early stages of the construction.

“From scheduling benefits to easy-to-install products, Georgia-Pacific Gypsum’s Dens® range of products were a critical element in order to successfully complete this project,” said Ryan Crist of Performance Contacting. “We’re incredibly happy with the results Georgia-Pacific Gypsum products have helped us achieve.” Todd Kuykendall, director of Product Management for Georgia-Pacific Gypsum, says the company is pleased with the opportunity to have been included in a project with such significance to both performing arts and architecture. “Georgia-Pacific Gypsum products have a long history in commercial construction projects across the country,” said Kuykendall. “We are proud to have several products featured in this impressive addition to the Kansas City skyline.”

“Working with outstanding products from Georgia-Pacific and the technology advanced team from Radius Track enabled this job to have outstanding results. It is a beautiful project and one we are all proud of,” said Crist.

The Kauffman Center provides performance homes for three of Kansas City’s premier performing arts organizations and keeps them unified under one roof. The Kauffman Center’s resident companies include the Kansas City Ballet, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and the Kansas City Symphony.


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