The message that emerged as Andy Kirby described the latest efforts with the Salt Lake Temple renovation centered on two words that begin with the letter “P” — progress and patience.
“We are progressing well,” he said in reference to the temple’s historic foundation. “But it’s going to take patience. We have got a lot of work to do still.”
Continued work on the temple’s foundation, towers and additional excavation will keep crews busy well into 2025, said Kirby, the director of historic temple renovations for the church’s Special Projects Department.
“We’ve got a lot of work before 2025,” he added.
Kirby provided the latest update on several aspects of the Salt Lake Temple renovation in a recent interview with the Deseret News.
Upcoming Main Street Plaza closure
The Main Street Plaza connecting North Temple and South Temple will close on April 11 for additional renovation and landscaping and remain closed until fall 2023.
During that time, crews will:
- Inspect and repair the plaza deck.
- Update the waterproofing system.
- Refurbish the north and south entry fountains.
- Install a larger reflecting pool in the center.
- Refresh the landscape design to better integrate the Main Street Plaza with the Church Office Building plaza and the Salt Lake Temple grounds
Salt Lake Temple foundation work continues
The process of installing large steel pipe beams underneath the temple’s historic foundation has been more difficult that originally expected, but workers have figured it out.
“There are large cobbles and rocks in the way,” Kirby said. “We intended to originally bore with an auger machine and push the pipe through. But those cobbles made it so the pipe would skip alignment. So we’re actually hand-digging — a worker climbs into the end of the pipe and digs with a shovel, a small jackhammer, puts the soil and rock into an ore cart and sends it back out the end of the pipe. It’s like mining with an ore cart.”
The process of strengthening the foundation will continue another year and a half before crews transfer the weight of the temple onto its new base isolation system, Kirby said.
By the end of 2022, workers will excavate down to build new footings to install the new base isolators.
“It’s amazing work,” he said. “The structural engineering and construction efforts are unprecedented. To do this type of steel pipe insertion, you would normally do it for something like under a street where you would put a sewer line or something. But we’re doing it as a structural component of the temple, so it’s very unique. We’ve had to scratch our head a couple times, but we figured it out.
‘Working to tie the whole temple together’
Above the foundation, crews are “working to tie the whole temple together,” Kirby said.
New trusses were added to the attic space and roof last summer. Now workers will build bond beams that tie those trusses and the temple towers together on top of the north and south walls.
“It’s a giant beam that has large tension rods in it that will tie each of the corner towers (together),” he said. “For example, the northeast tower and northwest tower will be tied with a long, reinforced concrete beam that’s tensioned to pull them together through that beam.”
Part of the plan involves drilling through the granite from the top of the temple down to tie it to the foundation so if an earthquake hits, everything will move together more uniformly and be strengthened as a unit, Kirby said.
Crews will drill 46 holes around the perimeter of the temple, including four in each corner of corner towers.
“They drill from the top all the way down to the new foundation system — about 140 feet of drilling through granite. We began drilling several months ago on the west towers and we’ll be doing that for several years,” Kirby said. “It’s a very slow process because we want that hole to be very precise. … Then we will post tensioning cables in those holes and tie the top of the temple down to the bottom of the temple.”
Annex concrete pour
A fourth concrete pour was completed in early March that finished the bottom floor of the North Temple addition. This new footing is 42 inches (1 meter) thick and heavily reinforced with steel. The construction of sheer walls and columns to support upper floors has also begun.
Sensors to detect movement
The church has placed sensors all around the Salt Lake Temple to monitor movement.
“Since we’re digging under the existing footings of the temple, we want to make sure the temple doesn’t move,” said Georges Bonnet, a communications director. “These sensors around the temple help measure the slightest of movement in any direction.”
Church Office Building Plaza
Crews are installing snow melt conduits below where walkways will be poured with concrete on the Church Office Building plaza.
How many tower cranes are on Temple Square?
A third tower crane was recently added on the south side of the Salt Lake Temple, and next month, crews will add a fourth tower crane.
“We have so much work going on,” Kirby said. “When we have a delivery on North Temple, the tower cranes can pick up materials from those trucks and bring them into the site, also on South Temple.”
How many people are working on the Salt Lake Temple renovation?
Each day there are about 300 people working on the project in different areas with various skills and responsibilities, from excavators to concrete to seismic engineers and welders, Kirby said.
Impact of pandemic, economic changes
The COVID-19 pandemic affected supply chains, delivery schedules and costs for the Salt Lake Temple renovation. The conflict in Ukraine has also had ramifications, Kirby said.
For example, some metal components used to take two or three weeks to be delivered. Now it takes two or three months. Some items take up to a year for delivery.
“We’re very cognizant of procurement systems, of delivery times, and we put more effort into making sure that we have items procured ahead of time so it doesn’t slow down our process,” Kirby said. “Costs and inflation are affecting it too. So we do our best to manage cost and schedule as we go through this volatile economic environment.”
What will be built where the North Visitors’ Center stood?
The North Visitors’ Center was demolished last year and crews are preparing the ground of the northwest quadrant to landscape and to build a small public restroom. They will also drill a new water well.
“We’ll put a lot of landscaping in that area,” Kirby said. “There will be a small restroom to support the Tabernacle because there are no public restrooms in the Tabernacle. Our plan is to be done with that corner by the end of next year.”
What is open on Temple Square?
Most of the two blocks of Temple Square are closed for construction.
If everything goes according to plan, the church hopes to open the east end of the Church Administration Block by the end of this year.
The southwest corner is open for access to the Assembly Hall and the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
With fewer COVID-19 restrictions and warmer weather, Kirby anticipates more visitors around Temple Square.
Greater appreciation for pioneer craftsmanship
Kirby, Bonnet and others have gained a greater appreciation for pioneer craftsmanship as the Salt Lake Temple renovation has moved forward.
The Salt Lake Temple is rare and unique, Kirby said, a symbol of pioneer sacrifice and the church itself, Kirby said.
“I often have to think about the difference between the technology and the tools we have compared to what they had,” he said, contrasting the mental image of big machines against ox-drawn or horse-drawn wagons and shovels. “It just shows me the sacrifice and commitment they had, and the craftsmanship is quite beautiful. So it’s a partnership in some ways with the pioneers and it’s an honor to be working with them.”
The Salt Lake Temple denotes a legacy of faith, sacrifice and consecration, Bonnet said.
“It’s almost as if the pioneers are telling us: ‘We did our best. Now take it, magnify it and make it better.’ It’s something we are very committed to,” he said. “We’re not critical of what they have done, they have done their very best. When something takes 40 years, it takes a lot more than a good attitude. We’re magnifying an existing legacy to make it even more beautiful.”
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