NRCA Member United Materials Helps Construct the Science Pyramid at Denver Botanic Gardens

United Materials 2

Varying levels of low and steep slopes give the Science Pyramid at Denver Botanic Gardens a tectonic plate appearance.

Constructed in 2014, the Science Pyramid at Denver Botanic gardens showcases the garden’s scientific foundation and invites visitors to see the world of plants through a scientific lens. The exhibition uses interactive technology such as touchscreens, light, sound and video to teach participants about Colorado’s ecosystems, how plant scientists explore the world by studying plant organisms in depth and how backyards are connected to staff into the field across the state and throughout the world’s steppe regions.

The Science Pyramid’s exterior design consists of 4-foot-wide, hexagon-shaped concrete-composite panels based on bio-mimicry and meant to resemble honeycombs. The roof system was designed to enable rain and snow to flow underneath it rather than down it.

United Materials

United Materials workers apply a moisture barrier membrane to the pyramid’s plywood roof deck.

NRCA member United Materials, Denver was contracted to construct the Science Pyramid’s roof system. The company’s work on the project began in June 2014 and included:


  1. Adhering a DELTA-VENT SA moisture- and air-barrier membrane to the plywood roof deck
  2. Setting two layers of polyisocyanurate insulation in polyurethane
  3. Setting a layer of DensDeck in polyurethane
  4. Adhering a DELTA-FASSADE S ultraviolet-resistant, moisture-and air-barrier on the top membrane
  5. Installing 4-foot-wide hexagonal skylights and grates
  6. Installing 13 4-foot-wide hexagonal skylights and grates
  7. Adhering a DELTA-FASSADE membrane behind wooden walls to waterproof the interiors of maintenance and equipment rooms, including taping of all Z-girts, transitions and terminations
  8. Installing a drainage system for sump pumps to transport water into an adjacent pond

During the project’s most challenging phase, the architect and engineer measured the 4-foot hexagonal skylights. As a result, United Materials workers had to cut out, relocate, rework and reflash all 13 skylights. Given the varying degrees of each slope, it took patience and double-checking each mathematical commitment for check and balance.

Because of regular high-volume visitor tours and hours of the Denver Botanic Gardens, a fence was constructed around the job site to protect the public from the construction area. Access to the job site was limited from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In addition to limited work hours, all material delivers to the job site needed to be brought in on carts. Working from varying slopes and different angles also presented a safety challenge for the United Materials crew. Workers were tied-off and anchored to a center pole and safely moved ropes through the Z-girts.

Despite the challenges of working with an unusual roof system design and reinstalling skylights, in September 2014, United Materials completed its work on budget. The atypical design challenged all workers beyond their usual comfort levels to creatively problem solve.

“The Science Pyramid at Denver Botanic Gardens was an excellent venue for tapping into the deeper creative talents of United Materials project leadership and crew,” says Craig Ducker, foreman for United Materials. Most important, the high-visibility accomplishment pleased the Denver Botanic Gardens staff and visitors. But for United Materials, it simply was a rewarding project and process.

“The most rewarding part of the project was being able to enhance the Denver Botanic Gardens that has been part of the city’s culture and landscape since 1051,” says Jim Kirkland, project manager for United Materials.

For its outstanding efforts, United Materials was honored with a 2016 NRCA Gold Circle Award which recognizes outstanding workmanship and contributions to the roofing industry, including unique roofing-related jobs, programs and services in the Innovative Solutions: New Construction category.  The company received the award during NRCA’s 129th Annual Convention and the 2016 International Roofing Expo® in February.

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