Cincinnati Museum Center Union Terminal completes 60-ton steel fix as part of restoration project

CINCINNATI – Engineers, steelworkers and welders recently completed necessary repairs to steel on Union Terminal’s mezzanine level as part of the building’s first full structural restoration. Cincinnati Museum Center released a video detailing the meticulous work and unique undertaking.

At over 500,000 square feet and 85 years old, Union Terminal presents a unique set of challenges at every turn for the crews working on its restoration. Prior to the start of construction in July 2016, engineers and architects spent 18 months performing thorough probes and analyses to assess the extent of the work required. Some areas, however, continued to be in public use and were inaccessible. Ultrasonic tests performed in one such area, the mezzanine level below the plaza, revealed extensive work was needed to repair damaged steel.

“Finding an issue like this is not uncommon on historical buildings,” said Anthony Mette, P.E., S.E., senior restoration project manager for THP Limited, Inc. “The challenge here was reinforcing the existing space and not impacting the architectural layout and height clearances.”

The greatest challenge in this instance was the location. To reinforce the area with new steel without cutting a hole into the plaza and opening up the building spaces below, crews would have to carefully navigate massive steel girders across multiple levels.

Eight raw steel girders varying in length from 41 to 43 feet and weighing over six tons each were delivered to Union Terminal directly from the steel mill. The girders were lifted from the lower level to the mezzanine above using a custom-built steel gantry system. Once on the mezzanine level, crews air skated the steel girders into place, using compressed air to lift and glide the pieces like a puck on an air hockey table. A steel fabrication workshop was established on the mezzanine level where teams of welders customized each girder according to its particular placement.

Gantry systems were used to lift the customized girders into place overhead, where they were welded into place and fireproofed as the final steps. With the original damaged steel reinforced, crews outside worked to finish waterproofing measures on the plaza that will prevent future water penetration into the steel and spaces below.

“It’s been a very challenging project just from the sheer size of the structure, but it’s been very rewarding to be involved and to see this building be restored,” says Bill Judd, P.E., managing principal of THP Limited, Inc. “A lot of us have taken our children through the museum, so to see the building restored for future generations is a great thing.”

The repair of the mezzanine steel marks yet another milestone in the restoration of Union Terminal. The National Historic Landmark’s restoration is on track for completion in November 2018.

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