United States Air Force Academy Planetarium

United States Air Force Academy | Colorado Springs, CO

After being unused for 15 years, the United States Air Force Academy Planetarium, originally opened in 1959, was in need of a major upgrade. The Air Force Academy turned to Merrick to reestablish the building as a modern-day facility, while preserving the historic nature of the original design. Merrick’s major facility renovation and upgrade included nearly all facets of the planetarium’s façade, grand plaza and exterior landscape, interior design and finishes, and major building systems. The result was a modern, comfortable entertainment and training environment.

For the main auditorium, the Merrick team managed selection and installation of new seating for 105 occupants, a control center, and a new high reflectivity screen for the 8K, ultra-high resolution full-dome projection system. Concrete was poured to level the floors. New carpet and two-inch acoustical wall panels with fabric covering were installed for precise acoustical treatment. Merrick’s design retained the original terrazzo floors, which were cleaned, polished and illuminated with new accent lighting.

Nearly every engineering discipline from Merrick worked to design or redesign major building system replacements and upgrades–including plumbing, HVAC, electrical, lightning protection, power system, acoustical, building controls and life safety systems. A new, single chilled water pump distributes chilled water to the terminal units within the planetarium. Existing plumbing fixtures, domestic water piping and the water heater all were removed and replaced. The planetarium’s power feeder was upgraded, and a lightning protection system installed. In analyzing and selecting building system enhancements and changes, the Merrick team kept sustainability in mind for the planetarium to pursue LEED Silver Certification.

For the planetarium’s exterior grand granite plaza, Merrick designed and engineered a major renovation that encompassed installation of new railings and removal and replacement of stair treads and paving stones. Other improvements restored the landscape features disrupted during the repair of the existing steps, granite paving tiles, retaining walls, handrails and other areas touched by regrading and utility and facility upgrades.


Architecture;Civil Engineering;Electrical Engineering;Mechanical Engineering;Structural Engineering;Sustainability Design; Architecture; Structural; Mechanical; Electrical; Civil Engineering; Sustainability Design
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