The Moody Gardens® complex began almost two decades ago as a place where those with serious head injuries could go to receive hippotherapy at its riding arena and horse barn. Today it continues to serve as a therapy center for those with disabilities and has grown to include animal and horticulture research facilities. Drawing more than two million visitors annually to Galveston Island, it is one of Houston, Texas’ favorite tourist attractions. The entertainment complex features an aquarium, a museum, the Rainforest Pyramid, an IMAX theater, a nine-story hotel, and an artificial white-sand beach.
A new hotel expansion was constructed to keep up with the ever growing needs of the rapidly expanding Moody Gardens complex. The $115 million Phase V expansion includes the new hotel tower, expansion of the existing hotel restaurant, an expansion and renovation of the convention center, a new 1,000 car cast-in-place post-tensioned parking garage, new maintenance and warehouse structures, expanded utility infrastructure, and other campus improvements.
The Phase V addition to the hotel adds a new seven-story plus basement structure and was designed for two floors of future expansion to eventually match the existing nine-story hotel building. The first floor consists of meeting rooms with numerous slab depressions required to accommodate the high end finishes. The complexity of this level, including ground walls framing into it, drove the decision to use a 10-inch thick flat slab with mild reinforcing steel. The design team carefully considered the complex column layout and the small floor to floor heights required to match the 9-foot 8-inch existing floor heights. A post-tensioned cast-in-place flat plate system was the obvious choice for the hotel’s typical upper floors. Irregular and complex column layout resulted from the saw-tooth profile of the building designed to provide scenic picture windows and balconies that overlook the West Bay just off the Gulf of Mexico. The hotel frame consists of typical 8-inch, two-way post-tensioned flat plate floors with 14-by-24-inch concrete columns and 12-inch thick shear walls at the stair and elevator cores. The hotel also includes a single level basement, flood protected with 12-inch slab on grade concrete designed for 300 pounds per square foot (psf) of buoyant uplift pressure and with flood gates at door openings.
Adding to the design challenges, all work had to be performed on a site congested with facilities that had to remain in operation during construction. The hotel was literally squeezed between the existing hotel, conference center, and pool deck that remained open year-round with the warm gulf coast climate. Construction Manager Gilbane Building Company phased construction to best accommodate Moody Gardens operations.
With the Phase V expansion of the hotel, Moody Gardens met their lodging needs to serve its continued growth. The hotel was designed to enhance the quality of stay by providing scenic views and easy access to many of its other entertainment and educational facilities. The continued attention to the total patron experience as well as focus on research, therapy, and education will ensure that Moody Gardens will continue to be one of Houston’s most popular entertainment and educational attractions for years to come.
Morris Architects, Houston, Texas
Structural and Civil Engineers:
Walter P. Moore, Houston, Texas
Gilbane Building Company, Chicago, Illinois
Baker Concrete Construction, Monroe, Ohio
Kelso Concrete Company, Galveston, Texas