A mammoth climate-controlled glass atrium covers acres of gardens, waterfalls, restaurants, and entertainment venues at the new Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas. Visitors can experience the sights and sounds of the San Antonio Riverwalk and explore the hills and canyons of west Texas without ever stepping outside.

Overlooking Lake Grapevine and surrounded by open pasture, the $515 million facility opened in April after nearly three years of construction. Like the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tenn., and the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, Fla., the Gaylord Texan features the company's signature resort-under-glass design. To capture the spirit of Texas, HBG designed the facility with a 72-foot wide star located in the cupola of the main atrium skylight. A river also flows through three distinct theme areas — the Palo Duro Canyons of Texas, Texas Hill Country, and the San Antonio Riverwalk. The team is now in the preconstruction phases of the Glass Cactus entertainment complex, which will serve as a venue for Texas singers and songwriters as well as other headline acts.

The construction team broke ground on the facility in 2001, but the 9/11 terrorist attack and subsequent effects on the hospitality industry forced Gaylord to slow down construction for six months, terminate contracts with subcontractors, and trim construction spending. As a result of the slowdown, the owners delayed the completion date by 13 months. “At one time, the slowdown was seen as a potential blow to the success of the project, but later on it was actually seen as a blessing,” says Michael Hite, superintendent for Dallas-based Centex Construction, the general contractor. “It provided us with an opportunity to make significant progress on the building structures and MEPF rough-in stages, as many of the interior trades were put on hold. Through this stage, we were also able to maximize production with limited manpower.”

While the central plant is often one of the final projects to be completed on a jobsite, it and the data center remained on the initial schedule even during the slowdown. Dallas-based Mills Electrical Contractors, the prime electrical contractor, installed redundant fiber feeds into the facility so Gaylord could communicate with its main systems in Nashville and Orlando.

To save the owner money and maximize the usable space in the hotel, Mills Electrical also opted for a medium-voltage distribution system. The electrical equipment was not only housed in the central plant building, but also on the roof and in the lower levels of the building. The public spaces, meeting rooms, restaurants, and three atriums are fed from the electrical equipment on the lower levels, and the hotel rooms are fed from the equipment on the rooftop.

“If you go from medium-voltage down at ground level and you bring all your feeders up to panels, you're using more copper on the secondary side,” says Mark Conard, vice president and project director of the Gaylord Texan project for Mills Electrical. “Space is a premium in hotels, and we didn't want to have a set of electrical rooms on every floor in every wing.”

Because hotels are revenue centers that must be up and running 24/7, the facility was designed with two separate feeders from the power provider so the building could be divided into two main sections — an “A” and a “B” side. Each feeder feeds half of the hotel, convention center, and the support building, which houses the chillers, boilers, and backup pumps. The main switchboard features a tie breaker and manual provisions to bring the three 2,000kW diesel generators via closed transition on to the main bus in the event of loss of either incoming feed or catastrophic situation. This would allow the facility to remain functional under a reduced load.

The Gaylord Texan also features a lighting control system that allows the facilities managers to control lights from one central location and set lighting scenes. The facility features about 15 to 20 touch screens as well as wireless access points, which allow employees to control the lighting and sound levels in the conference rooms, ballrooms, restaurants, and atriums by typing in a code on a keypad or using a Palm Pilot.

During the final weeks before the official opening, many of the trades worked 18-hour shifts to complete the fast-track job on time. Seeing the faces of the visitors as they walked in the doors of the Gaylord Texan made the hard work worthwhile for David Breeding, AIA, vice president of design and construction for Gaylord Hotels.

“This was a hands-on project with a lot of coordination,” Breeding says. “All of us made it happen together. Without the team, we wouldn't be where we are today.”