Avalon Tent & Party: Meeting museum-quality requirements

Avalon Tent solves potential water problems

When and where: The Discovery Science Center, Santa Ana, Calif., hosted the Millennium Falcon Experience exhibit from Nov. 1, 2011, to April 1, 2012. The exhibit included a full-size replica of the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon spacecraft from the original “Star Wars” movie, titled “Episode IV, A New Hope,” which was released in 1977.

Background: The exhibit was slated to be placed inside of the museum’s main building, but because of the overall size of the exhibit and the size of Millennium Falcon Experience, it would not physically fit inside the building.

“The owner of the exhibit requested a building be built for the exhibit as they had used a tent at a previous location with disastrous results,” says David Brumley, owner, Avalon Tent & Party, Anaheim, Calif. “Unbeknownst to me, a museum-quality exhibit can’t have any traces of mold on the exhibits, as it could possibly contaminate the other exhibits. With this, they were very reluctant to put the exhibit into a tent or structure due to weather and due to the security of the exhibit.”

Given those elements, Avalon’s proposal contained the following. All items came from their inventory:

  • An 18m-by-9m-by-4m clearspan structure, with 13.5m by 9m enclosed and 4.5m by 9m as a covered staging area. The structure was engineered to meet 90 mph, with Exposure C wind-loading.
  • A raised and leveled sub-floor with two layers of ¾-in. CDX plywood and a moisture barrier installed between the two layers with a second barrier on top of the final layer of plywood.
  • Insulated hard-wall sides to provide security and to assist with a more stable interior temperature.
  • A one-piece, interior black vinyl tent liner to protect the exhibit from any potential leaks in the structure roof panels or structure beams.
  • HVAC to maintain the temperature between 68 and 74 degrees at all times.
  • A fire alarm system, including smoke detectors, alarm pull stations, strobes and sirens with an automatic shut-off to the HVAC system should the fire alarm be activated.
  • One 6-ft.-by-7-ft. door and one 3-ft.-by-7-ft. door, with panic hardware and ADA-compliant ramps at both doors.
  • 10-ton HVAC with a wireless thermostat.
  • 100 amp, 208V, three-phase power distribution for lighting and the simulator.

Timeline: “From the day we were asked to meet to discuss the project to the completion of the installation was just under three weeks,” Brumley says.

Challenges and solutions: Fire department approval was the main challenge Avalon faced, Brumley says. “As it is an educational-based exhibit, the fire code requirements were far more stringent than those for a non-educational exhibit. The flooring had not been treated for fire resistance, thus, the only option was to replace the wood flooring with fire-rated lumber or install the fire alarm system,” he says.

“After the installation was complete, we experienced a significant rain storm and the client called saying the interior flooring was wet and the water was near the exhibit,” Brumley says. “It was determined that the sheet metal duct connections for the HVAC had small holes in the corner and water would run off the roof, onto the duct connections and eventually pool inside and would run onto the structure floor between the exterior hard wall and the interior fabric wall. Once it landed on the floor, with the visqueen vapor barrier on top of the plywood, the water would run in all directions. To solve the issue, we had a sheet metal company fabricate 4-ft.-long sections of sheet metal to attach to the top of the hard wall to shield the HVAC duct connections at the top and bottom of the wall. Once these were installed the tent had no leaks.”

Engineering also had stringent requirements. “As we built the tent on a raised and leveled floor, the stakes were out of the ground by about 12 in. to 16 in. We were asked to perform a stake pull test, which met the requirements of the engineering. However, at the last minute, the city required an additional 28,000 lbs. of concrete ballast to meet their requirements,” Brumley says.

What went well and why: “The HVAC system worked perfectly,” Brumley says. “Given the relatively small size of the structure, combined with the insulated hard wall, internal liner and raised subfloor, the HVAC system kept the tent within about a two-degree swing during the five-month project.”

Why rental is important for events like these: “Our client had put in the request to have this exhibit at their facility in 2015. However with economic changes, the exhibit became available on very short notice. The ability to meet the exhibit’s requirements with a temporary structure allowed our client to have the exhibit at a significantly reduced rate, while seeing a tremendous increase in revenue,” Brumley says.