Weidlinger Engineers Design Environmental Structures for Staten Island Children’s Museum

Weidlinger was the structural engineer for the new Meadow Structure, wind turbine, and wind scoop, which exploit solar and wind energy in the first project to combine photovoltaic film panels with a PTFE-coated fiberglass membrane.

Weidlinger Engineers Design Environmental Structures for Staten Island Children’s Museum
New York, NY, August 23, 2012 --(PR.com)-- Weidlinger Associates, Inc., served as structural engineer for new environmental structures at the Staten Island Children’s Museum, which use innovative technologies to harness and generate solar and wind energy. Designed by Marpillero Pollak Architects, the $3-million project includes a tent-like exterior pavilion (the Meadow Structure) that uses thin photovoltaic strips affixed to its fabric cover to produce electricity, a rooftop vertical-axis wind turbine that powers an exhibit inside the museum, and a skylight wind scoop that passively ventilates the building’s main stairwell. Data from all three structures are transmitted to an interactive display that teaches museumgoers about energy consumption and conservation.

The Meadow Structure, a sheltered multipurpose gathering and program space, is the first project of its kind to combine photovoltaic film panels with a PTFE-coated fiberglass membrane, both fabricated by Birdair, Inc. Strips of the film applied to the structure’s translucent 2,200-square-foot tensile fabric roof serve as flexible solar panels, generating enough electricity to illuminate the pavilion for nighttime events.

A skylight over the museum’s elevator was replaced with a lightweight vertical-axis wind turbine, which powers an exhibit demonstrating how wind and sun can be used as sources of energy. The turbine is virtually silent, safe for birds, and can begin energy production in winds as light as two to three meters per second in any direction. Weidlinger engineers designed the installation, for which the age and composition of the 1930s building, as well as the dynamics of the turbine itself, presented structural challenges.

A second skylight was replaced with a wind-scoop skylight, comprising a rotating cowl and a colorful, translucent rotating drum, which uses the stack effect to passively ventilate the building. The drum extends down into the museum, providing an animated display that indicates the direction of the wind. Weidlinger engineers also designed a viewing platform and descriptive signage for the exhibit.

A new walkway with universal accessibility leads to the southern portion of the Meadow Structure, which is conically shaped, with steep curves that slope downward from a tall center mast. The structure’s main (northern) segment is a fanfold plate formed into shallow ridges and valleys. Electrical wiring for the panels is threaded through the structure’s hollow steel supports. During storms, the canopy’s ridges direct rainwater through strategically placed funnels, creating miniature waterfalls around the structure, which enter the ground through circular/oval dry wells.

“Tensile fabric structures like this one typically employ a lot of curvature,” said Weidlinger Project Manager Gregory Freeman. “The greater the curvature, the stronger the structure. One challenge of this project was to balance the lightness, strength, and aesthetics of the structure with the need to maximize sun exposure for the photovoltaic panels.” To achieve this, Weidlinger engineers worked with the architect to shape the roof, originally designed with only small portions facing the sun, into a slightly flatter contour, accommodating the resultant loss of structural efficiency by using heavier steel beams.

Another structural challenge was to anchor the structure’s roofing cables around its massive concrete foundation without causing damage to the roots of adjacent trees. Weidlinger engineers addressed this challenge by minimizing the width and maximizing the depth of the excavation.

The Staten Island Children’s Museum (www.statenislandkids.org), established in 1976, stresses a hands-on, interactive approach to its exhibits. Located on the grounds of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, it is New York’s only indoor-outdoor interactive museum and currently offers nine theme-based exhibit areas.

Weidlinger Associates, Inc. (www.wai.com), is a 300-person structural engineering firm that designs and rehabilitates buildings, bridges, and infrastructure and provides special services in applied science, forensics, and physical security. The firm, which celebrated its 60th year in 2009, is recognized worldwide for its innovative and practical design solutions and for its long-term commitment to advancing the state of the art in engineering. Headquartered in New York City, the firm has branch offices in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Weidlinger Associates, Inc.
Lynn Trono
Linden Alschuler & Kaplan PR for Weidlinger
Staten Island Children's Museum Meadow Structure

Staten Island Children's Museum Meadow Structure

Staten Island Children's Museum Meadow Structure - photo courtesy of Marpillero Pollak Architects