The Space Needle completes first phase of Century Project

The Space Needle completes first phase of Century Project

Winter 2019

The Space Needle recently completed the first phase of the Century Project, a renovation that transformed the landmark’s guest experience by replacing walls and flooring with more than 20,000 square feet of glass. Now, visitors can feel like they are floating over Seattle as they sit back on the inclined glass benches in the open-air observation deck. Or guests can step out onto the world’s first revolving glass floor to see newly revealed views of the structure and the city’s surrounding beauty. With new, floor-to-forever glass, guests enjoy the awe-inspiring views of the city below and beyond. In addition to enhancing the views from the tower, we had the opportunity to significantly improve the structure’s internal systems. We incorporated high-tech energy-efficient LED lighting and replaced the entire plumbing system, which reduced our water use by more than 40 percent. With the first phase of our renovation behind us, we are excited to continue to identify new ways to reduce our environmental impact and strive towards being a leader in sustainability.

Karen Olson, chief marketing officer, The Space Needle

Olson Kundig

Development Manager:
Seneca Group

General Contractor:
Hoffman Construction

Arup, Front, Inc., Fives Lund, Magnusson Klemencic Associates

Sustainability Consultant:
O’Brien & Company

Glass Installation:
Herzog Glass, Breedt Production Tooling & Design

Interior Design:
Tihany Design

Fun Facts

The Space Needle opened to the public on April 21, 1962, for the Century 21 Exposition, a space age–themed world’s fair. Edward E. Carlson, the chief organizer of the World’s Fair, sketched the flying saucer concept on a napkin. It took approximately 400 days to build.

Approximately 1.3 million guests visit the Space Needle each year. Nearly 60 million have visited the tower since it first opened.

It takes 43 seconds to travel in a Space Needle elevator from the ground to the tower’s top floor, 520 feet above Seattle.

The Space Needle was designated an official City of Seattle Landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Board on April 21, 1999.

The Loupe is the world’s first revolving glass floor. It offers views of the Space Needle’s architecture, elevators, mechanical apparatus powering the floor’s rotation, and the city below. A fritted pattern makes the glass floor opaque from the outside, keeping the exterior profile unchanged.

A cantilevered grand staircase made of steel, wood, and glass connects the Observation Deck to the restaurant level. At its base is a glass-floored oculus that reveals the tower’s superstructure as well as the ascending and descending elevators and counterweights.

More than 50 experts in specialties such as wind, seismic safety, acoustics, steel, and glass came together from around the world to work on the Century Project.

Sustainability Improvements

One of the first challenges was carrying out the redesign within Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation standards, which prohibit changes to the exterior profile.

Although it looks unchanged from the exterior, the design team made extensive mechanical, building envelope, and structural updates including seismic retrofitting and accessibility improvements.

More than 176 tons and 10 types of glass were used to replace walls, security cages, and floors. The redesign added 196 percent more glazing, and focused on improving energy performance and controlling condensation risk while revealing dramatic views of Puget Sound, including Mount Rainier and Elliott Bay.

The legs of the tower were strengthened and connection frames, splice plates, and brace frames were replaced and upgraded for better seismic performance. The Space Needle can now accommodate for three-fourths of an inch movement in every direction.

The entire building, including the observation deck and restrooms, is now fully accessible. A custom-designed ADA lift was installed, along with double-sized doors and wide stairways, significantly improving accessibility.

The redesign is significantly more efficient than before, meeting Seattle’s strict energy codes with an EUI of 306 kBtu per square foot per year, with most energy use occurring in the elevators.

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