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Project Focus: Sands Expo and Convention Center Las Vegas

The Sands Expo and Convention Center project included the renovation of a facility that at 1.2 million square feet is the second largest convention facility in Las Vegas. Construction consisted of a complete demolition and reconstruction of all meeting rooms, executive offices and business center facilities, and a total remodel of all lobbies and common spaces.

A main focus of the project was the construction of a dramatic 60-foot central atrium with a 31,600 square-foot, 3D articulated ceiling. Gensler, the architect of record, had been asked to explore a “curving ribboned surface” for the ceiling, and while initially the team was able to iterate concepts using a combination of Revit, SketchUp and Illustrator, the ribbon concept required more fluid-organic-form exploration, and Rhino seemed to provide the right set of capabilities.

The Raymond Group in Las Vegas was consulted by Gensler at the early stages of design to determine the most cost effective way to reach the intended design objectives to be achieved with drywall. Gensler then developed a 3D Rhino model of the ceiling, creating a series of 50 curving ribbons suspended from the structure above. Using 3D Autocad, Raymond processed the 3D model and developed the curved side plates that would be produced on laser cutting machines from the CAD files. More than 300 unique panels were engineered and cataloged along with their connection and hanging details.

Gensler exchanged work between Revit and Rhino, enabling the design team and outside consultants to continue design development and construction documentation in Revit. The project was large in size, so excluding the ceiling from the Revit model allowed Raymond’s team to continue to work on other portions of the contract effectively. The Revit model contained both as-built information as well as all other portions of the new design concept, which would facilitate coordination with consultants and between the Rhino ceiling and the site conditions.

Off-site fabrication and assembly was utilized to minimize field labor and accommodate special schedule requirements, such as working around an active facility. Special adjustable shop jigs were developed for fabricating the framed panels. Each unique panel was both oddly shaped and warped, so the jigs had to allow for quick setup in the shop. Raymond produced a series of tables with points pulled from the 3D model that could be used to set up the jigs and also locate the panels in the field. Layout in the field was achieved through the use of 3D digital surveying equipment.

There were a few areas where the ceiling could not be erected in a continuous sequence, meaning that some of the panels had to be inserted into spaces between panels that were already installed. The precision of the digital processes (all data coming directly from the model) allowed these later panels to be installed almost like they were square lay-in acoustical tiles. The use of the laser-cut side plates for the panels, versus using roll-formed framing members, resulted in the long curving shapes in the computer model being preserved through the process, adding tremendously to the final quality appearance of the ceiling.

There was a lack of confidence in the original construction documents (drawings from 1977), and the area was not fully available for surveying when the project began. To meet the schedule, Raymond had to proceed with the design, fabrication and assembly of the panels. Digital scans of the existing space were taken as areas became available; however, several panels had to be modified to accommodate actual wall locations that varied from the plans.

Choosing the materials was closely tied to the fabrication method, both of which were influenced by the tight timeline and operational constraints. The initial idea called for stretching fabric over metal framework, but this would mean several weeks of erected scaffolding in a space which needed to remain as functional as possible. Ultimately, a steel framing system with applied gypsum to create the form meant less downtime and fit the project’s needs. The finish was achieved with flex-board drywall that was installed, taped, and painted in the field after the framed panels were hung.

Access to the ceiling, which was on the second floor, was limited by small openings. Panels and lift moves had to be designed to the ingress options. In order to get the ceiling panels to the second floor, a sliding glass door was built in the curtain wall of the lobby at the second floor. This was directly above the driveway for the facility which allowed the panels to be forklifted from the delivery truck up to the lobby floor above and through the sliding glass door.

All work on the project had to be performed at night and work areas fully buttoned up each morning. Jaynes Corporation coordinated the temporary barricade and demolition activities. A method was developed in concert with all of the trades to remove sections of barricade at certain times in order to fly ceiling panels over temp walls. There was also a need to maintain an active sprinkler system at all times, day and night and during construction, posing the threat of a broken head flooding the active show space below. Ceiling work around the sprinkler heads required extreme attention and care. Through the close coordination between all of the trades, along with the use of the technologies and techniques discussed above, the project was completed on time and within budget.

The Raymond Group is a commercial, union subcontractor, operating primarily throughout the Western United States. Established in 1936 as a lath and plaster company, Raymond has since been one of the wall and ceiling industry’s leading full service, design-assist, specialty finish and theming contractors. Raymond has offices in Southern California, Northern California, Las Vegas and Seattle as well as project offices across the country.

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