McLaren Engineering Group performed structural investigation, design, and construction phase services for the complete restoration of the Blacktip Reef exhibit at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD, where blacktip reef sharks, stingrays, tropical fish and more swim around a 260,000-gallon salt water tank. The exhibit features a large curved acrylic viewing pane, including a floor-to-ceiling pop-out viewing panel where visitors can connect with nature and come face to face with the animals.
Utilizing its in-house dive team, McLaren performed all structural investigations while the tank was full of water to avoid disturbing the aquarium’s day to day operations, and to extract core samples determining chloride ions levels within the concrete.
McLaren coordinated with several specialists to ensure the project’s success, working with a scaffolding company to design a temporary “lid” for the exhibit that minimized noise and dust, and with an acrylic installation company that developed a route and rigging system attachments for the new acrylic viewing panel. To accommodate this 27’ x 8’ tall x 3” viewing panel, McLaren built a 3-D finite element structural model to assess the removal of large portions of the original tank, in addition to removing the existing column and slab system to allow construction of a new cantilevered viewing gallery with glass handrails.