Pikes Peak Summit House design is first of its kind in the world

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The new Pikes Peak Summit House is scheduled for completion in late summer 2020.

It’s taking about three years to complete, because of several hurdles that make it unlike any other usual construction project.

Those on the summit working to build this massive undertaking face challenges like altitude sickness, freezing temperatures, rain, snow, and wind. Gusts can consistently be near 100 miles per hour, and even reach 200 miles per hour in certain conditions. The mountain alone is a challenge, with its solid granite bedrock and permafrost.

>> MORE: Workers overcoming big challenges to build new PIkes Peak Summit House

But before construction ever takes place, architects, designers and engineers also face different scenarios that test their creativity and experience.

The new Pikes Peak Summit House is a giant effort with input and considerations from many agencies, as well as public opinion.

Stuart Coppedge, the Principal Architect for this project at RTA Architects in Colorado Springs, and his team are making this attraction a first-of-its-kind design in the entire world. Their vision is to have the building be a destination for people, and make it a part of the mountain and subservient to the mountain.

“We didn’t want an iconic structure on top of the mountain that took away from the overall value of the experience,” Coppedge said.

Alan Reed, the Principle Architect with GWWO Architects out of Baltimore, MD along with RTA, were hired as a team to partner with the City of Colorado Springs and other stakeholders on the creation of the new Summit House.  GWWO is serving as the design architect, and are recognized specialists in the design of visitor centers among other public venues attracting tourists.

“We were engaged to conceive the design that is now being executed for the Summit House, and continue to remain involved in the project during construction. The design concept and knowledge related to visitor center design and visitor flow, as well as the building renderings and 3D walkthrough used to illustrate it, are GWWO’s work and expertise,” Reed said.  

Don Palmer, the Project Manager and Vice President for Stresscon Corporation, shares the company’s mindset that they’re happy to be involved.

“It’s a once in a lifetime job you get to do, and it’s at 14,115 feet,” Palmer said.

Stresscon is creating 415 pieces of building materials, from pre-fabbed foundations to walls, which take about 350 loads up the Pikes Peak Highway to deliver.

All agree that the extreme temperatures and wind are a really big issue which puts intense pressure on the structure. Blowing debris could cause damage to the glass or other components of the building. This is why architects and engineers came up with self-weathering steel, which actually gets stronger over time and exposure to elements. They’re even using the right type of stone to resist freeze cycles and scouring, but still look attractive. An original feature was created to help with protection against the elements: shutters that roll down to protect windows in extreme cases of sun and wind exposure.

The new summit house will also fulfill Living Building Challenge requirements, which means it will raise the bar for building standards, doing less harm with a positive contribution to the environment. Part of this plan includes the thickest walls ever manufactured by Stresscon, which means triple the insulation compared to normal building codes and requirements.

“I don’t think I can overstate how important it is to the firm,” Coppedge said. “As we pursued the project, we knew it was going to be something very special. We won’t really do anything quite like this again, and to be a part of a project that matters so much to the community is a huge honor, and it’s a lot of fun, too. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s a lot of fun.”

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