Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science

Location Miami, FL

Client Miami Science Museum

Services Estimating & Cost Management, Project Management, Troubled Project Turnaround

Project Value $275 million

Hill provided project management services for the new 250,000 SF Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science. Located on a 4-acre tract within downtown Miami’s 28-acre Museum Park, the new Museum is a landmark in the downtown cultural quarter with views of Biscayne Bay and the Port of Miami. The Museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums, is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, and a member of the Association of Science and Technology Centers.

Faced with mounting delays and other issues, the Museum engaged Hill to take over the project as owner’s representative and to coordinate the many facets of this high-design, specification-driven assignment. The Hill team’s scope of services included project controls, risk assessment and management, quality assurance, contract compliance oversight, and change order management. The team also provided on-site construction activities such as monitoring and inspection of work, schedule analysis and development of schedule recovery strategies, document control, and claim and delay analysis. The project was delivered using a Construction Take-over Agreement, which is a hybrid of CM-at-Risk and a Not-to-Exceed-Cost-Plus basis. This replaced a CM-as-Contractor delivery.

To mitigate delays and bring the project back on track, Hill implemented formal procedures for teamwork and open communication. Hill facilitated the transition and mobilization by assessing work progress to prevent scope or quality gaps, reviewed the construction schedule and re-established the critical path, monitored safety protocols, and expedited permit transfers, all while maintaining positive morale.

Hill’s management contributions involved navigating the complex logistics for building the curved, compound-radius building skin, which acts as a rain-screen and is covered in 40,000 SF of 3 inch mosaic tiles. This highly aesthetic “fish scale” exterior of the Living Core Building was designed and constructed to sustain a Category 5 hurricane. The project team used a combination of laser scanning and 3D modeling to verify the exterior’s many components fit precisely and provided the required level of protection. The tiles were installed with precise quarter-inch spacing. None were cut-to-fit, and this installation reportedly comprises the largest exterior mosaic wall of its kind.

Hill also managed construction of the museum’s planetarium, comprised of a self-supporting, pre-cast-panel dome and a cast-in-place concrete, bowl-shaped base. Hill also coordinated the safe installation of artifacts and living specimens, including a rare tiger shark exhibit. 

For the museum’s Gulf Stream Aquarium, Hill managed logistics for building the world’s largest conical concrete tank. The cast-in-place, post-tensioned, reinforced tank was poured with hydrophobic concrete in a continuous 25-hour process distributing 1,200 CY of concrete and involving 131 cement trucks and two teams of 150 people each. The angle of the vessel’s sides—as steep as 44 degrees—caused normal concrete to slide, so engineers created a mixture thick enough to stay put yet loose enough to envelop a checkerboard of rebar, requiring numerous trial runs to find the perfect viscosity and hold. The concrete also needed to be properly vibrated, even at steep angles, to settle and bond fully. During practices, workers customized their gear to vibrate at proper angles without cutting into the surface—an industry first. 

Other challenges Hill managed included a funding shortfall, abrupt board-level changes, Hurricane Matthew, and intense public scrutiny.

The project won the Best of the Best Award in the Cultural/Worship category from ENR, the Best Project Award, Cultural/Worship category, ENR – Southeast, and a Project Achievement Award from CMAA.

“The addition of Hill to the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science project has brought a wealth of experience and knowledge. The Hill team has truly taken ownership of the role, transformed the on-site dynamic, and exceeded our expectations. We have enjoyed working with Hill to deliver a new Museum that will be an icon for the community and an international destination. I would certainly recommend Hill as Project Managers / Owner’s Representatives for projects of any size or scale.” -Frank Steslow, Chief Operating Officer