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Tech Culture: Creativity solves museum's engineering challenges

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Tech Culture: Creativity solves museum's engineering challenges

2:51 /

When planning San Francisco's new California Academy of Sciences building in Golden Gate Park, engineers ran across a few design challenges that demanded clever solutions. CNET News.com's Kara Tsuboi explains how they borrowed ideas from other areas of engineering--from roller coasters to submarines--to solve those problems.

>> When designing San Francisco's new Academy of Sciences building in Golden Gate Park, engineers ran across a few challenges that demanded clever solutions borrowed from other areas of engineering. Who would have thought? >> Well, we didn't know either until we came up with the challenge and had to find some way to solve the challenge. >> For example, finding the perfect pitch and tilt for the ramps that weave through the enormous dome that houses the four-story rainforest exhibit. >> Basically, we looked at all of the radiuses within here, which are not only, you know, left and right, but they're up and down because it's a constant incline, and it allows you to go ahead and walk through that. Everything changes. The only way you can really do that is to get someone, like a roller coaster manufacturer, who knows how to change within the gradations that you would change for structures. >> That's right, a roller coaster manufacturer. Sorry visitors. The affect is nothing like riding a cyclone. Jess Peterson, a senior vice president with Web Corp, the contractor on the project, then showed us the basement to the new academy, the storage space for the ocean specimens. >> It's fish ranging from anything [inaudible] quart jar to five gallons to even fifty gallons, depending on the size of the specimen. >> That many chemicals are a real safety hazard. >> That much of a storage of alcohol or a formaldehyde, you have very large concerns about explosion, especially since you have public on one side and have people working in offices on another. >> Typical safety measures weren't going to cut it in this confined space. >> The foam mixed with the gas creates an--it's a hazardous substance, and you have to have very large pipes that take that away somewhere underground. Then you have to come in and clean it up. >> So the creative solution was to rip technology of submarines. >> Micromist technology that allows water being pumped up to very high pressures, somewhere around 6 to 700 PSI, to then be pushed through nozzles that actually make the water come out less than a micron. And so the whole reasoning for that is that like a submarine, you can't go ahead and-- >> --open a window. >> Yeah. You can't open a window. You can't go ahead and suppress the fire. You can't take all the oxygen out, which is what a foam system usually does. >> So obviously this is worst-case scenario. We're hoping to never use this technology, but it's here in case you need it. >> Because you want the scientist to be able to come in, to access them quickly, and be able to use them and continue to study them was the whole reason for making sure that they stayed close and found ways to technologically, you know, overcome some of the obstacles that we had early on. >> This $484 million project from architect Renzo Piano's [phonetic] design is scheduled to open in the fall of this year. And when you go, picture the roller coaster and the submarine playing their roles in this project. I'm Cara Subou [phonetic] reporting for cnetnews.com. ^M00:02:46 [ Music ]

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