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Missouri Botanical Garden

Tarlton Garners 2017 Quality Concrete Award for Makeover to Bridge in Climatron at Missouri Botanical Garden

in Companies/News

Team refurbishes well-traveled bridge with ingenuity, sustainability     

Tarlton Corp., a St. Louis-based general contracting and construction management firm, garnered a 2017 Quality Concrete Award from the Concrete Council of St. Louis and American Steel Fabrication for the firm’s work on the concrete transformation of an original wood bridge that connects a main walking path through the Climatron®, a popular attraction to visitors at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

The Tarlton Concrete team replaced the existing 28-foot-long timber bridge deck with a new concrete deck constructed from precast planks welded to the existing steel girders. The concrete was cast into 28 pieces each 12 inches wide by 8 feet long by 4 inches thick with a wood-grain texture to mimic timber planks. Using the precast planks in lieu of a cast-in-place deck allowed the existing decorative fiberglass wraps on the girders to remain in place and cut the duration of construction in half, to less than two weeks.

In addition to the new deck, the bamboo-wrapped stainless steel handrail was upgraded with new bamboo that was attached using rope lashing. The new bridge is designed to accommodate humidity and traffic for years to come.

Creating the concrete planks to replicate real wood planks was a challenge completed last winter in Tarlton’s TEAM facility. “The precast molds were made of standard handset forms lined with an architectural wood grain rubber stamp,” explained Brian Shaffer, Tarlton Concrete project manager.

Tarlton turned to Raineri Ready Mix to develop the mix and colors for the planks. Raineri completed renovations to the Climatron nearly 30 years ago and was an ideal fit for the 2017 bridge project. After only a couple test pours of the specially blended mix and colors, the desired detail was achieved. “The variation of the color settling into the various niches of the rubber stamp truly replicated the color and texture of real wood,” Shaffer said.

According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, the term “Climatron” was coined to emphasize the climate-control technology of the iconic greenhouse dome that was designed to offer consistent levels of humidity to accommodate an extensive collection of plants, including many rare and exotic species. According to Shaffer, these conditions also proved ideal for curing the new concrete work.

In addition to Shaffer, the Tarlton Concrete project team comprised Michael Vemmer, project engineer; Jason Kennedy and Jeff Vogt, project superintendents; and Karen Espy, project assistant.

Tarlton began a second project at the Missouri Botanical Garden this year, serving as construction manager for the renovation and addition to the 7,000-square-foot Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum, due for completion next spring. The museum, which opened in 1859, is considered one of the most historically significant buildings in the Midwest and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In business since 1946, Tarlton Corp. is a WBENC-Certified Women’s Business Enterprise that completes projects for wide-ranging clients in the commercial, life sciences, health care, institutional, power and industrial markets, also providing special expertise in concrete construction and restoration as well as hydro excavation and industrial vacuum services.

The design of the Climatron, which is the first geodesic dome greenhouse and conservatory incorporating the principles of noted American architect R. Buckminster Fuller, was developed by St. Louis architects Murphy and Mackey. It opened to the public on October 1, 1960, winning the 1961 Reynolds Award, an award for architectural excellence in a structure using aluminum. In 1976, the Climatron was named one of the 100 most significant architectural achievements in United States history. For more information, visit

Western Specialty Contractors Takes Extra Care to Protect Vegetation While Re-Roofing Research Facility at Historic Missouri Botanical Garden

in Companies/News

Western Specialty Contractors – St. Louis Roofing Branch faced a multitude of unique challenges recently when it replaced the roof on the John S. Lehmann Building located in the center of the Missouri Botanical Garden, one of the oldest botanical institutions in the United States and a National Historic Landmark.

Founded in 1859 by philanthropist Henry Shaw, the 79-acre Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, MO features Shaw’s original 1850 estate home, the oldest continually operated greenhouse west of the Mississippi River, the largest Japanese garden in North America, the Climatron geodesic dome conservatory, a children’s garden and pioneer village, and a rose garden, among other features.

Not open to the public, the John S. Lehmann Building, opened in 1972, houses the garden’s executive staff and important research programs, historical herbarium samples and a scientific and archival library. The St. Louis Roofing Branch was contracted to remove two existing asphalt roofs on the building and replace them with a fully-adhered, 80 mil TPO membrane roofing system. There was no room for error in the execution of this project.

Accessing the building through the botanical garden was a major concern. A 15-ton truck crane and half of the roofing material had to be hauled 700 feet via a walking trail to the building. Significant precautions were taken to protect the garden’s plant life along the trail from damage by the equipment and compaction of the soil. Western crews worked with garden officials to evaluate which trees along the route would need to be trimmed in order to make room for the materials.

“The crane and each forklift load of material had to be carefully escorted to make sure our material handling equipment stayed on the walking path and did not bump into any overhead branches,” said former St. Louis Roofing Branch Manager Keegan Tune, who is now Branch Manager of Western’s new Kansas City Roofing Branch. “The elevated level of skill in workmanship and communication exercised by our field crews made this project a success in all aspects.”

Another challenge that Western crew’s faced on the project was maintaining a tight schedule. Phase one of the project had to be completed before any decorative lighting for the garden’s annual “Garden Glow” event could be installed around the building.

“In order to shorten the critical path of the schedule, we had to fast track the submittal process and start immediate procurement of the materials. After the material was in place, it was a matter of providing sufficient labor and overtime until the deadline was met,” said Tune.

To protect the building’s valuable contents during the construction process, Western crews worked with the plumbing and ceiling contractors to install new internal overflow drains and piping to safely convey storm water from the roof to the retaining area. An architectural sheet metal company was also used to match the existing custom metal edging profile of the drainage system.

Western completed the project on time and within budget with zero change orders due to the accuracy of the specifications and drawings.

“At the end of the day, it is very rewarding to have taken part in helping preserve plants and science for the future generations to enjoy,” said Tune.

Family-owned and operated for more than 100 years, Western Specialty Contractors is the nation’s largest specialty contractor in masonry and concrete restoration, waterproofing and specialty roofing. 

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