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  1. squashbucket

    squashbucket Member

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    I am going to be completely revamping a 200 seat black box and I would like to install a catwalk system this summer since all of our electrics will be down anyhow. My question is to those of you who have installed catwalks and what your experiences have been. What would you do differently? What worked well. Where did you get your catwalk? New or used? Did you build it yourself? If so how did that go? Any advise on the topic would be greatly appreciated. Thank you all.

    ~Adam Terry
    TD: Pioneer Place on Fifth Theatre
     
  2. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Are you talking a catwalk truss or an actual add on to the building? It takes a ton of planning to put a structural add on into a building, not something you will just want to go do. Clarify your meaning of catwalk, then we can maybe point you in the right direction.
     
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  3. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Uh yeah what footer said, Engineering a catwalk is a mighty massive undertaking. In most states, sorry, some states, you would need to have a licensed,certified welder do all the points. Those welds then need to be inspected, x-rayed and certified by State personel. I'm speaking as a former installer of catwalks and tension grids here, it is not something you can just throw up in the air as easy as it may seem. the catwalks themselves are usually pre-assembled in a manufacturing facility, transported to the facility rigged, then welded in place. As a qualified Installer I was not allowed to do half that stuff simply because of liability issues.
     
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  4. squashbucket

    squashbucket Member

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    We are talking about the full blown structural. I have complete freedom, as long as I follow code, and I will be hiring a crew to come in and do the installation. The only experience I have so far with this sort of thing is the few installations I have worked on with brand new buildings. This is a retro fit, but it is absolutely structural catwalk truss that we are talking about, whit electrical then installed throughout as well as pick points for our audio arrays and secondary truss.
     
  5. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    You are going to need an engineering firm, unless you are an engineer yourself. You can send the specs off of what you want, but you are not going to be able to totally design this thing yourself. Catwalks using have a working load over 1000# PSF, which is not an easy thing to design. I would highly suggest not doing this yourself. A survey of the building structure will have to be done before any new load can be put on it.
     
  6. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    I agree with the above posts. You can't do this yourself unless you're a professional structural engineer. It's going to take quite a bit of building analysis to figure this one out. Find an engineering firm, and have them come to look at the building and give you a ballpark figure. Since the catwalk has to support lights, people, and itself, it has to be designed and attached to the building very, very well. You also have to consider that if anything fails during a performance, you're going to get your ass sued out from under you by the dead and/or crippled audience members. Close to zero chance of this happening if it's designed by a reputable structural engineering firm.
     
  7. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    If You have the background and skill to do this project Then your questions would best be answered by the Consulting Structural Engineering firm that you'll be working closely with to get this work approved and signed off on by the State and city inspectors. You will need a full set of structurally "signed-off plans". to submit for the building permit. You were going to get one right? The city/state will require that these plans be checked by a structural engineer. That engineer will go over your design with a fine toothed comb and send the drawings back to you about 12 dozen times.
    I'm all for you doing this yourself, if your'e qualified, but on the headache/time consumption front you might be better off serving as a general contractor and leave the "real work" to Subs that have Realworld engineering expirience and a association with inspectors, county clerks, city bureacrats, and licensing agents.
     
  8. SHARYNF

    SHARYNF Well-Known Member

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    I certainly agree with everyone's comments, make sure you get a structural engineer that is experienced in THIS type of design, and try to dig out all the design specs for the building and see if you can determine who the structural engineering firm was.

    Unless it is a free standing structure you are going to need someone who can determine what sort of load the existing structure will take.

    I certainly would not be put off from doing the upgrade, but it can make a world of difference having the right engineering design. You should be able to find theater systems designers in your area who can point you in the right direction.

    Sharyn
     
  9. jwl868

    jwl868 Active Member

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    To re-iterate, a professional engineer (PE) with a structural specialty is a necessity. You may be able to use an architect, but that individual will need a professional engineer to do the design. (You’ll have to check your state’s requirements.) If there is an electrical design to this, an electrical PE will be required for that portion – the structural PE cannot sign off on that.

    While the design details are obviously left to the engineer, your input will still be needed for this: [within certain limits of course,] you can specify the width of the walking surface; the elevation of the walking surface or head clearance; the elevation of the bottom of the lowest horizontal member (for example, you may have a minimum height requirement); fall protection (for example, railings may be a feasible alternative), access (ladder or steps?); color of paint. The designer should be asking you questions about that anyway.

    Joe
     
  10. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Anyone know a non "professional" engineer? :)
     
  11. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    I'm not a real Engineer, but I play one in the Theatre.:mrgreen:
     
  12. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    I'm an engineer, but not the right kind.
    Unless you want speakers in your catwalk.
     
  13. jwl868

    jwl868 Active Member

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    By "professional engineer" I am refering to an engineer with a license from a particular state to provide engineering services. An engineering degree alone is not sufficient. Dependng on the state, a degreed engineer needs a specific number of years of experience, usually working under the supervision of a PE, and there are a couple of tests along the way. There are plenty of engineers out there that do not have, nor require, engineering licenses. (Some states go as far as to make it illegal for an individual without a PE license to use the title "engineer".)
    Joe
     

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  14. Chris15

    Chris15 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Joe, I like...

    And in the same light as that comic, have a look for the Dilbert episode "The Knack" - a minute long clip is circulating. Us engineers especially like it, but most people seem to get a laugh out of it...
     
  15. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    FYI... My new black box is currently under construction and they actually are currently installing the catwalks before they put the roof on. Anyway, I just checked the bid sheets and the catwalks added $84,000 to the cost of the project. That's new construction however where a crane swings the pieces into place. My guess is it's going to cost you at least double that. Your roof isn't designed to support the catwalks so they'll have to retrofit the support system, then they'll install piece by piece without removing the roof... that's not going to be easy.

    You might want to seriously look at a "temporary" truss catwalk system. I bet you can do it with a lot less hassle and expense. Another option I've read about is installing a wire mesh on top of your lighting grid that is designed to hold your weight. It's sort of like you are walking on a chain link fence that is welded in place to support you (but it's obviously much higher tech than that). Anyway, I would suggest contacting a theater design consultant and asking them about some of your options.

    I've been really happy with the consultants who worked on our theater. They really rescued my theater from the clutches of architects who know nothing about theaters. Private message me for their contact info.
     
  16. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, a tension grid system is another good idea. I'm pretty sure that Izenour Associates came up with the tension grid system, I've talked to one if their chief theater consultants before, who currently works at Lehigh as the head tech professor.

    However, a tension grid system still requires anchors to the walls and roof structural members if I remember correctly...so that'll be a fun one to bid out.
     
  17. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Speaking of catwalks, I watched the contractors install the first two sections of catwalk today. The ceiling of the theater part of the building is designed with much larger and stronger looking cross beams than the rest of the building. There are braces hanging down from the cross beams every 4 or 5 feet. The catwalk is in sections about 4 or 5 feet long (hard to judge from the other side of the construction fence). They are lifting each section into place with a fork lift while guys on genie lifts bolt it all together (I'm assuming it all gets welded later). Again, unless they are going to blow up your roof and start over, I don't see how you can just add one in later without a ton of very expensive retrofiting work.
     
  18. stantonsound

    stantonsound Active Member

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    (I know this is an old forum)

    One of the live music clubs that I work in put in a balcony around the club, trying to increase occupancy. They went from 550 to 1095 people, so they are doing larger shows now. It is not a catwalk, but it is just an example of a steel structure remodel in an old building (50+ years old). Pic below of the opening show. They actually get very large touring acts and sell out shows almost once a week.

    The balcony took 8-9 weeks to install and they had to cut a large hole in the building to get the equipment and material in. It was "very" expensive, but in a club like this and with the increased business, it was probably a good investment. I can not see a theatre putting one in and it being cost effective. For us, it was great, as we had additional places to put FOH lighting.
     

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  19. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    The club market is such an odd beast. They either have a ton of money, or no money. But then again, usually they turn over every few years, so they open, spend a ton of money, the club gets big, then the next one opens and everyone goes there. Music clubs usually stay around much longer, but those are the places you see some very hairy stuff going on. The worst is having to clean a fixture that has been hanging in one for years and you get that nice cigarette tar/dust mixture that covers everything....
     
  20. stantonsound

    stantonsound Active Member

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    This one has been open for about a decade with the same owners and is doing pretty well. They actually do a really good job, and put money back into it. We have worked everyone from Britney Spears to LoneStar to George Clinton, and it is really a pretty cool place. They put in a new FOH console last year, and are upgrading to a new digital later this year. Tickets are fairly cheap, as they make most of their money at the bar, which is about normal.

    The club went no smoking more than a year ago, and we actually had to bring in a haze machine since there was no cigarette smoke anymore. We pulled all of the movers out during the remodel last year, and they were quite a chore to clean. I would never buy movers from a club install.

    Back to the main thread, it is quite a chore to have a balcony or catwalk put in, and a great deal of money. Unless it makes money, it is a hard sell to the people that make those decisions.
     

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