Strauss Performing Arts Center at University of Nebraska-Omaha


Fire Protection Retrofit Installations for Performing Arts Centers in the Omaha Area

What may have been a normal sprinkler installation for Ahern’s Omaha office, turned out far from ordinary. Based on a 10-year relationship with the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), Ahern was awarded the 50,800 square-foot retrofit project in the Strauss Performing Arts Building on campus. The existing building hosts band practices and performances for both the university and the city of Omaha.

When Ahern started the project in December 2013, field workers quickly discovered that the music hall had been constructed with concrete block walls filled with sand. A strategic plan to drown out the sound of musical instruments, the unique materials called for challenging retrofit. Because the piping had to intersect the walls, much of the sand had to be removed during the installation. But the concrete walls aren’t the only thing that made the project notable.

Nestled near the center campus, this building housed something near and dear to the department of music: a 17-ton Casavant organ. Ahern was tasked with installing a sprinkler system around and within the organ, something that had never been done before by the Omaha office. Wanting to keep the structure of the Casavant organ as sound as possible, Ahern made sure that any exposed pipe was painted to match the walls and didn’t distract from the beautiful architecture.

Installation took place while school is in session, so Ahern provided service that allowed the university to occupy the building throughout the renovation. Completing much of the work during the night, Ahern installed three wet pipe systems and approximately 500 sprinkler heads in the tunable recital hall, classrooms, and rehearsal spaces.

Expertise Provided

Values Delivered


  • Both the field crew and office team averaged 10 and 12 years of industry experience, respectively
  • Ahern’s field/design experience on existing buildings aided the design of the wet systems for a fitter-friendly design, as well as owner approval


  • Ahern’s design was approved on the first submission

Meeting Deadlines

  •  Ahern completed the project a month ahead of schedule

Budget Certainty

  • The project was completed under the original estimate