Viewing entries tagged
Austin Commercial

Final Paving Process Begins At COTA

// Echelon Paving

The final paving process is now underway at Circuit of The Americas. As explained in the video above, there are two integral layers of asphalt to be set into place before the FIA Inspection on September 25. 

The first layer of asphalt, known as the base course, has been installed sporadically (yet intentionally) around the track over the past several months. Between Turns 1 and 11, the track is restricted so that crews can prepare the surface to receive its second layer. Just last week, the final section of the base course was set between turns 20 and 1 in a "marriage ceremony," where the existing asphalt at Turn 1 was merged with the new layer.  Following this milestone, the paving process will become more difficult and complex in order to achieve the strict Grade 1 FIA specifications.

// Click on the photos above to see the full image gallery

In collaboration with Tilke GmbH, Austin Commercial will orchestrate this process, known as "echelon paving," with three to four machines running simultaneously.  Each layer will require 7-12 days to complete and take around 60 workers, or almost 10% percent of the onsite crew. The echelon technique ensures a seamless track, free of any distortions and a perfect surface that will help Formula 1 and other racing series drive safely and achieve top performance.

Inspection of the track is scheduled for September 25, when FIA Safety Delgate and Race Director Charlie Whiting will return to Austin for a closer look at the surface and various safety components. According to Juilie Loignon, COTA Vice President of Public and Community Relations, all preparations are underway to ensure the circuit meets the intense specifications to host the Formula 1 race in November.


Need seats at Circuit of The Americas? Buy your USGP tickets from TicketCity.

COTA Honors Project Team with Construction Milestone Ceremony

// More Photos in the Gallery: COTA Topping Out Ceremony

 // Ceremony

Earlier today, hundreds of hard-working Austin Commercial workers, contracting businesses and team members were recognized for their hard work at a "Topping Out" ceremony at the Circuit of The Americas. A tradition around the world, Topping Out ceremonies celebrate the completion of structural work on a project as an honorary evergreen tree is placed alongside state and national flags atop the structure; this symbolizes growth and is said to bring ongoing luck to a construction project.

Supporters gathered at the southeast point of the three-leval, 270,000 square foot pit building where the symbolic tree was hoisted after a ceremony. Guests shared in the excitement as Circuit investors Red McCombs and Bobby Epstein presented State Senator Judith Zaffirini, Travis County Commissioner Margaret Gomez, Austin Commercial SVP Bill McAdoo and newly announced Circuit investor and local entrepreneur John Paul DeJoria. They each shared what the premium sports, entertainment and business development facility in southeast Travis County meant to them before placing tokens of today into a time capsule, to be buried and then opened in 25 years.

Red McCombs added a newly-minted silver dollar after joking about holding onto it for its current value. Bobby Epstein included a packet of Texas wild flowers; instead of a previously planned neighborhood in this locale, Circuit of The Americas will work to showcase and preserve the natural beauty of Texas Hill County. State Senator Judith Zaffirini delivered an inspiring speech before rolling up a 2012 Formula 1 driver lineup poster to the time capsule. She highlighted F1 driver Sergio Perez's excitement for Circuit of The Americas as his home circuit and emulated what many Americans already feel, "Mi Casa, Su Casa," in order to open our doors to our international neighbors and friends. Bill McAdoo added a current COTA site plan while John Paul DeJoria dropped a CD of Austin music into the box, signifying our recognition as The Live Music Capitol of The World.

Circuit president Steve Sexton also recognized the hard work and effort of all:

This project has required the continuous efforts from many different groups and individuals throughout the area. This ceremony marks a significant milestone in the construction. It was important for us to celebrate this achievement with the many people that have helped make it possible.

Each of the speakers took time to congratulate the truly stellar team of workers who've worked hard to make this project a reality.  In just one year, the project has transformed from little more than a bare piece of land into an amazing display of hard work and dedication from all parties involved.

Following the ceremony, everyone was invited into the neighboring media center to have some good 'ole Salt Lick BBQ.  Arguably the best in the state, if not country, Salt Lick proudly served the hundreds of workers and guests their famous menu, complete with ribs, brisket and some blueberry cobbler - Yum!

// Construction Milestones

Here is a list of the latest accomplishments that we are celebrating:

  • Support beams installed in the highest point of the pit building, which is completely structurally erected;
  • One third of the pit building's roof has been installed;
  • More than half of the requisite structural steel has been installed in the permanent grandstand building;
  • The road base for the racetrack between Turn 19 (T19) and Turn 20 (T20) has been installed;
  • Exterior stone work on the media, technology and conference center is underway;
  • Access roads through the paddock area (by the pit building) are taking shape;
  • Dirt backfill around the Tunnel 1 area has been completed with crews shaping the racetrack to cross over the Tunnel 1 structure;
  • Topsoil if going into sections of the infield with grass planting to happen next in those areas; and
  • Amphitheater is taking shape with crews finishing the earth moving to that area.

By the numbers:

  • 3.5 million cubic yards of dirt have been moved on the job to date, with 780,000 cubic yards of dirt brought onto the site;
  • 711.5 tons of steel for the permanent grandstand have been erected
  • 78,000 yards of concrete have been poured; and
  • 550 workers are currently onsite and involved in the construction process.

// Looking Back, Yet Ahead

It's almost hard to believe this is what Circuit of The Americas looked like one short year ago:

On Location at the Circuit Of The Americas from The Austin Grand Prix on Vimeo.

// See You Sunday!

Don't forget to join us on Sunday for our Downtown Watch Party for the Formula 1 UBS Chinese Grand Prix! Click here for further details.

December Construction Analysis of Circuit of The Americas

COTA Paddock Building-Nov 1, 2011, source: COTA//Overview

Vertical construction is taking shape at Circuit of The Americas with more and more evidence of progress each day. Recent photos published by COTA give us an inside look at the stages of construction at various portions of the facility such as the retaining walls around the turns and the highly complex paddock building.

For those interested in the technicality of it, we're going to take a closer look at the photos and provide an architectural analysis of the construction in progress. I could rattle on about the different types of A325 steel bolts, or hold a conversation about the Dead and Live loads of the building speaking only in Kips (1Kip = 1000lbs), but that wouldn't likely be all too appealing. Instead, we're going to use photos and illustrations to explain what's happening at Circuit of The Americas.

Retaining walls at COTA-Dec 21, 2011; source: COTA

Example of retaining wall; source: Building Construction Illustrated//Retaining Walls

From photos released as early as October 26th, we can see evidence of retaining wall construction around the track. With a high degree of elevation variability, the track design calls for a substantial amount of retaining walls to assist in the retention of earth and allow for drastic shifts in elevation. Keep in mind that soil can only be modified to 1:4 rate (1 foot rise per 4 feet length) and anything beyond this requires a retaining wall to hold it back.

In these photos from COTA, we can see retaining walls from approximately 8ft to 15ft tall, all constructed with site-cast concrete. Site-casting is the term for concrete structures thatExample of Wall form-work; source: Building Construction Illustrated are constructed on site with wooden or metal forms to shape the concrete. From the illustration of an example retaining wall, we can see that there are two pieces, the footing at the bottom, and a wall which sits on top.  The footings are poured first, and then the wall is poured, both with lots of steel reinforcement to increase strength.  From the photos of the retaining walls, we can see evidence of these different components as workers construct form-work and tie steel reinforcement to prepare for the addition of concrete.

While not the most glamorous of features at COTA, retaining walls are an essential part of the design of the facility. They provide a tool for designers to add elevation shifts and minimize the cost of reshaping the land, and therefore an integral part of the 133ft of elevation change at Circuit of The Americas. 

Drilling foundation piers for paddock building-Oct 13, 2011; Preparing second level form-work-Dec 20, 2011; source: COTA//Paddock BuildingExample of spread footing foundation pier; source: Building Construction Illustrated

The construction of the paddock building is the most visible portion of the facility at this point in time. Positioned just in front of the main straight and playing host to a highly dense set of activities, this is the most complex portion of the facility and likely to the be the most architecturally interesting.

In the first photos released in October, we can see the foundation piers for the paddock being drilled with large machinery. The design of these foundation piers is extremely critical due to the type of soils in this region which are comprised mostly of expansive clays (Houston Black, Ferris-Heiden, and Burleson if you want to get specific). While it's not possible to determine the exact type of pier being used for the paddock building from the photos, the expansive clay would likely work better with spread footings like in the illustration, or even conventional concrete piers drilled to subsurface bedrock 50-80ft below the surface.

Columns for the paddock building-Nov 1, 2011; source: COTAOnce these piers were finished, the site quickly began showing evidence of progress as columns and foundations were poured for the Paddock. The columns, like the retaining walls, are also site-cast, and as you can see in the photo, require a lot of reinforcement and form-work to support the shape and size of the column. Once poured, they can support substantial weight and long spans between columns, allowing the most amount of flexibility for customization and providing each racing team with a large open garage to work within.


 Form-work for second level concrete slab, and concrete column form-work; source: Building Construction Illustrated



The construction of the circuit will be quite interesting over the next year.  From an architectural perspective, it's difficult to get a sense of the project because a majority of work this past year focused on ground manipulation and infrastructure.  As the buildings start to take shape and we see vertical construction fully underway, a clearer picture of Circuit of The Americas will come into focus.

The past year in Austin has been one for the record books with some of our lowest precipitation counts in history. While this has wreaked havoc on many industries in the state, construction has continued to progress at the circuit, as evidenced by increasingly visible signs of progress.  While the impact of the delays from the contract negotiations has yet to cause the site crews to go into double or triple shift days, we'll continue to monitor the construction progress and update you as we race towards our 2012 inaugural race.

Construction Update: Site Grading in Progress


Construction Update: Site Grading at the Track Site from The Austin Grand Prix on Vimeo.

Things have changed quite a bit at the track in just the last few weeks as grading of the southern portion of the track is underway.  This is starting to turn out to be a pretty exciting time right now as the site is really starting to change from the original landscape. I took a drive out to the site this afternoon and snapped some pics and threw together a quick diagram to show our audience what is happening where (images), so they can get a feel for what's going on out here in Austin.

The construction entrance to the facilities, Caterpillar in the backgroundThe main portion of the work is concentrated on the southern edge of the site, just south of where the proposed main grandstands will be located.  This is where a welcome center and parking will be, just above the main entrance for the entire complex off of Highway 812.  As of today, this area is being graded by heavy equipment (i.e. leveling the dirt to the desired angle for drainage and construction) and the construction crews are settling in, setting up temporary offices and other facilities.Heavy Machines moving dirt and leveling for construction

There were probably 20 heavy machines moving during the late afternoon, moving dirt from other locations and compacting land where new dirt is added.  There were additional crews on site, including surveyors and engineers, as well as a small crew working on the north-western perimeter.  It's pretty apparent that things are moving along at a fast pace, and the landscape is quickly turning into a construction site day by day.

We know that you will be excited to see our images from today, go to the gallery to see more...

 A view from the southeast corner, looking northwest across the site towards downtown Austin

Austin Site Work Underway - Pre-Construction Begins

Tavo Hellmund with Ranger Construction Contractor (Courtesy of Jay Janner, staff photographer at the Austin American-Statesman)The video posted by the Austin American-Statesman last Thursday, December 30, 2010, claimed that groundbreaking on the site took place and construction is underway at the track.  While it’s enough to be excited about, we don’t recommend having a heart attack just yet.  Rumors and misunderstandings are floating all around the internet, some reaching as far as to say there was an official ceremony and who was in attendance, but these claims are overextended, lacking the facts.

One of the official stories, posted yesterday by Formula 1 International, included that the groundbreaking ceremony had taken place and that the construction is underway.  This is only partially correct; yes, technically they "broke ground," however there was not an official "groundbreaking ceremony" to celebrate this momentous occasion.  We will continue to keep our loyal fans and followers up to date on the latest news.  FYI, we have reliable hints that an official ceremony will happen "early this year."

We're pleased to explain with confidence that preliminary site work has begun, marking the first stage of construction.  This work is on track with Tavo Hellmunds' plans for an official construction start date before the end of 2010.  Though this preliminary work is small in scale to the overall project, it does signify the track is moving ahead as discussed.

Ranger Contractors performing drilling for soil stability tests (Courtesy of Jay Janner, staff photographer at the Austin American-Statesman)As seen in the Statesman article, Ranger Excavating, a subcontractor for lead contractor Austin Commercial, is currently performing soil sampling on the site for testing.  This is a survey to determine what equipment will be needed and what strategy will be employed to start excavation.  They seem to have a pretty serious resume as well, working on AMD's new campus in Austin and the UT Football Stadium's North End Zone renovation.

The other major operation right now is the relocation of the natural gas line that runs through the site.  If you recall, movement of the gas line was a concern in the permitting process and was a possible risk that needed to be mitigated.  On December 14, 2010, thanks to the overwhelming support of fans around the world, this approval was passed by the Travis County Commissioners.  Back in November, our loyal followers crashed the Austin City Council's streaming video server largely due to Kerri’s work to mobilize fans via twitter (whoops! :).  We are not aware of how far along this portion of the pipeline relocation work is, but we hope that this will move smoothly and formal excavation can begin right away!

Though nothing is actually being constructed, we recognize this is great milestone for F1US and supporters of the track.  Stay tuned as the news unfolds; we will continue to deliver reliable and consistent content to our readers and we look forward to your feedback.

Note: all images in this post are by Jay Janner, staff photographer at the Austin American-Statesman.  Check out his awesome photos at his website.