Mayor Robert Donchez, Senator Lisa Boscola and other dignitaries gather Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017 for the dedication of a 626-spot garage in south Bethlehem. The garage at New and Third streets has been billed as jumpstarting redevelopment in that section of the South Side Business District. The $17.4 million is connected to a six-story office building under construction next to it. That office building will be home to offices for St. Luke’s University Health Network and Lehigh University. There will also be first-floor commercial space. Motorists can sign up for monthly parking passes for the garage. It costs $65 a spot. The parking authority leases 180 spots to the developer for his tenants.
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Location: Miamisburg, Ohio
Type of Precast: Architectural Cladding
Size: 75,000 sq. ft. (20,000 sq. ft. of precast cladding)
Precast aesthetics and sustainability characterize a new company
Headquarters buildings make an important statement about how companies want to be seen, and perhaps even more about how they see themselves. In the case of NewPage, a newly-formed manufacturer of coated paper products, the image was to be one of permanence and strength. Management wanted to show both traditional values yet progressive ideals, and chose an architectural statement in precast that strives to be unique within the template of traditional forms as well as sustainable.
The 75,000-square-foot ell-shaped building accommodates approximately 350 employees, and is home to the company’s executive offices as well as its information technology, customer support, finance marketing, order management, communications and human resources departments. It was the first building in the established office park to use precast concrete. The owner worked with PDT Architects, a firm well-versed in precast office design, to create a detail-oriented character for the corporate headquarters while staying within the traditional nature of the surrounding buildings.
Architectural precast details enliven a showcase facade
“Architectural precast afforded the ability to produce a façade that enhanced the feeling of permanence while giving the option of rich colors,” says Bob Zielasko, president of PDT Architects. “We were able to create a very detail-oriented character that clearly distinguishes this as a signature building.”
The envelope of the four-story structure is modulated using setbacks, curves and color around punched windows to create variation. Three-story precast acid-etched panels in earth tones relate to the brick of surrounding buildings and to the natural environment. The buff first floor gives the impression of traditional limestone, while sandstone vertical sections on the second and third floors add a more modern twist.
A precast cornice on the third floor creates a strong horizontal line that is pierced by an extension of the main entrance projection, reinforcing it as a focal point. Balconies on the EIFS top floor bring relief to the facade and allow users to connect to the outdoors. In back, a curved area formed from flat precast panels creates a second focal point and a relaxing dining space with a view of a park nearby.
Special attention was given to the interplay of light and shadow and the contrast of materials on the facade. The cornice features braces that recall details of traditional buildings, and are echoed by the supports of a third-floor aluminum louver overhang. Formed overhangs and projecting sills define the windows. Reveals and recesses add human scale and deep shadow lines that strengthen the overall image.
Precast contributes to sustainability
Before choosing precast for the project the design team had also considered brick cladding and EIFS. What swayed them toward precast were the combined advantages of aesthetics, schedule, and, significantly, sustainability. “The material is low maintenance and saves money in life cycle analysis,” notes architect Zielasko.
To strive for sustainable practices and to showcase these attributes in the design, the building was positioned on the site to take advantage of day lighting, views, and natural landscape buffers. The eight-inch thick precast panels are backed up with 4” of batt insulation to achieve a thermally efficient composite R-16.2. Window overhangs were formed into the precast on the south and west facades to aid in window shading. Interior windows allow daylight to pass through reducing the need for artificial light. The design team chose a PCI-certified local precaster to reduce ecological harm in the shipment of panels from plant to site.
In addition, the use of architectural precast aided in hitting target dates in a very tight schedule. Having the ability to begin interior finish work sooner was also an attribute to this project. Conduit and connections for exterior lighting and outlets were cast into the panels to reduce RFIs and speed up installation. Other precast benefits included elimination of trades and scaffolding, reduced crane size, reduced site disturbance, high albedo ratings on the buff color precast, flexible interior layouts, column reduction, and reduced foundation and superstructure requirements on a site with poor soil.
The sustainable aspects of the design were recognized with a three Green Globe certification through the Green Building Initiative (GBI), making it the first building in the state to achieve the honor. The project was recognized for, among other things, the minimization of harmful air emissions, the use of energy and water conservation strategies, the integration of recycled materials and its project management practices.
"The building strives to balance the benefits of an energy-efficient structure and a healthier and more inviting workplace for employees while being environmentally sound. It also reinforces the fact that green building is appropriate and attainable for all types of structures," says Zielasko.