Summit Visitor Center
The Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center was the highest ongoing construction site in North America during its construction. This challenging project created a facility that takes advantage of the inspiring views and natural beauty of Pikes Peak, also known as America’s Mountain.
Colorado Springs, CO
Pikes Peak - America's Mountain
RTA Architects & GWWO Architects
The Big Picture
Each year more than half a million people visit the summit of Pikes Peak, which sits 14,115 feet above sea level. The new visitor center replaces the existing Pikes Peak Summit House and features an immersive visitor experience. The new facility was designed so that visitors can focus on the beauty, richness, and scenery of America’s Mountain, with multi-media exhibits to tell the story and history of the mountain and enhance the experience.
Started in June of 2018, the complex took three years to complete. With a short work season atop the mountain (late spring to late fall, weather permitting), each day’s shift was shortened to keep workers safe from the effects that can be suffered at altitude.
GE Johnson started the project by relocating the central utility plant, blasting, and moving dirt and massive boulders for the foundation of the new Visitors Center. These materials were stored on site for reuse, with limited laydown areas.
Ingenuity in Action
A jobsite on top of a Colorado 14er presents special challenges for the workers. To create a safe work environment and contribute to the overall success of the project, GE Johnson required all crew members to undergo an extensive physical examination, including a flexibility test and a Harvard Step fitness assessment. Crew members then engaged in a two-hour, site-specific orientation, followed by a briefing on the special safety measures necessary for working at high altitude.
The structure is built on bedrock that is beneath the permafrost layer of the mountain to reduce the likelihood of shifting and movement of the structure. To improve building efficiency, foundation forms with reinforcing steel were prefabricated offsite and delivered to the summit, minimizing the amount of work being performed on the site.
The visitor center was constructed to meet The Living Building Challenge – the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings. Considerations in meeting this goal included restoring the building’s interrelationship with nature; creating environments that optimize physical and psychological health and wellbeing; and using materials that are safe for all species through time. Meeting this challenge required a strong partnership among the City of Colorado Springs, the design team, GE Johnson, and all of the subcontractors. Though the Living Building Challenge compounds the already immense challenges inherent in this project and its location, it is a testimony to the commitment made to the responsible stewardship of natural resources.