By the time I finally came on board with The Range at Austin the general floorplan was already finalized. The foundation was solid and cured by my first day of work, and within a month the walls were ready to be erected. Speaking of putting up the walls, the way that this building is actually constructed is pretty damn cool . . .
The standard building materials for projects this size are wood and sheet metal. Lightweight materials that are relatively inexpensive, easy to work with, and quick to erect. The problem is that when you start thinking about what goes on in a range — small projectiles traveling at multiples of the speed of sound — wood and sheet metal don’t really contain all that chaos terribly well. So instead of the excessively permeable standard construction method, we opted for walls made out of highly reinforced concrete.
Containment was definitely the reason why the materials were chosen, but it wasn’t just the projectiles we didn’t want leaving the range — the sound needs to be contained as well. One of the other ranges in Austin is a perfect example of what happens when you get this wrong: you need hearing protection just walking from the parking lot into the building. The sound of people enjoying their Constitutionally protected rights is a nuisance not only to customers but also to surrounding neighbors and businesses, too.
During the planning process, the folks behind The Range hired an acoustician to minimize the noise on and around the range. The goal was to have the exterior be as quiet as possible while keeping the inside of the store and waiting area quiet enough that you could enjoy a conversation the other side of the wall from the shooting lanes. There are a bunch of tricks that they employed, from thicker fireproof coatings on the ceilings to absorb noise and beefier ballistic glass, but the primary way to keep the sound from traveling from one location to another is the use of thick concrete walls.
This kind of construction is called “tilt wall construction” and you’ll see why in a second. Concrete is poured into a series of forms on the site itself and allowed to cure. Once ready, a large crane comes in and tilts (see?) each wall section up and into place. The walls are then secured temporarily with jacks until they can be permanently welded into place with steel girders. All told it took about three days for The Range at Austin to go from a flat construction site to having four walls built and ready for finishing out.
Walking around the site for the first time was definitely an interesting experience. Looking at blueprints is one thing, but when you actually see the space yourself and can visualize where everything will eventually go it brings the whole project to life. Everything seems a whole lot bigger than it looks on paper. For example, this view down the 100 yard lane seemed a whole lot shorter when it was just blue ink on paper.
Now that we have the structure in place, and the task switches to ensuring that we can finish out the interior of the building. With storm clouds brewing this week over Austin the question is whether we can get the second floor finished and the roof in place before the worksite gets washed out again. And there’s a huge safety-related question that needs to be answered, one that we didn’t identify until the walls were finally constructed. Stay tuned.