Reading K-12 School
The Reading Community Schools made the decision to combine its three individual schools into one school that would house 15,000 students. The owners worked with an architect to design the school with a traditional look using brick and limestone trim. The architect, Earl Crossland, was able to achieve that look using precast concrete.
New Brunswick Transit Village
In a recent and unconventional interpretation of this concept, the New Brunswick Development Corporation (Devco) has completed Gateway Transit Village, a mixed-use, transit-oriented design consisting of a 24-story building and a new pedestrian walkway directly adjacent to a NJ Transit/Amtrak station. Located in the heart of downtown New Brunswick across from the Rutgers University campus, the new $150 million, 632,000-square-foot structure is the tallest parking garage and building in the city. A precast parking structure from High Concrete Group LLC forms its core.
Built as part of an ongoing revitalization effort, the new complex is intended to help bring renewed life to a site that is vital to the city, but that has been under-utilized for many years. With views of the Raritan River, the apartments and condos in the tower are targeted to attract people who already live and work in New Brunswick. Twenty percent of the units are set aside for moderate- and low-income owners.
The project is unconventional in several ways. "Gateway is the most urbanly dense transit village in New Jersey," notes David J. Stuart, project manager for New York City-based Meltzer Mandl Architects. "Everything that’s normally incorporated into a transit village has been combined into a single structure."
"Also, precast concrete parking garages are not typically designed to support taller and more complex structures above them; they are usually stand-alone buildings. To place a 14-story building on top of a garage is daring structural engineering," says Stuart.
Gateway Transit Village consists of a 10-story precast parking garage with 697 parking spaces, topped by a 14-story steel-frame and hollowcore residential tower containing 150 apartments and 42 condos. The structure is wrapped by 120,000 square feet of offices and a series of street-level commercial spaces for tenants, including the Barnes & Noble College Bookstore for Rutgers and offices for the New Brunswick Parking Authority and the Rutgers University Press.
Stuart notes that Gateway Transit Village doesn’t relate to its context as much as redefine it. "A typical approach would be to hide the parking garage, and disguise the precast," says Stuart. "At first we considered thin brick, to match other parts of the structure. But we decided that we wanted an exposed concrete aesthetic for the podium, to let concrete be concrete, and to show its inherent nature. Precast concrete can be quite elegant, minimalist. It was economical, fast, and gave us pleasing aesthetics."
The majority of the garage was cast in a standard High Concrete Group buff architectural mix and finished with a light sandblast. Simple reveals set up a rectangular pattern that brings scale to the horizontal spandrels and complements the openings between them on the way up. Spandrels at the top are finished with a small cornice.
The parking garage required 24-foot and 36-foot spacing between the support walls to optimize the parking spaces and 12’-wide precast double tees. The residential tower called for a different supporting grid, which had to have its column lines aligned with the garage support walls via 10-inch-thick hollowcore plank spanning up to 36 feet.
"This is a good use of precast," says J. Benji Alper, PE of engineering firm Severud Associates’ New York office. "While the precast garage is only 10 stories, the overall structure still stands at 24 stories tall, requiring the precast walls to resist the forces for the full lateral and gravity loads of the 24-story building." He discusses the approach in the Structure Magazine article,"Integration of Diverse Structural Systems and Design Delegation in a Mixed Use Space."
Alper notes that communication was critical in the project. "Immediately after the contract award, weekly meetings were conducted with the entire design team which included members from the precast manufacturer’s engineers, the structural engineer, the architect, the parking consultant, the owner, and the general contractor. Other trades, including the steel fabricator, the steel detailer, and the erector, also would often attend. The meetings were a key part of an iterative design process between Severud and High Concrete Group."
Academy of World Languages
The strikingly attractive building features several complementary finishes within each panel. Exposed aggregate provides bold texture and an earthiness that befits the school’s wooded surroundings. A subtle, uniform sandblast finish appears alongside an acid etched treatment that deepens colors for contrast and imparts a stone-like appearance. Horizontal lines of vibrant ruby red tiles below crimson-framed windows add contrast across the façade, while vertical lines of blue tiles almost make the seam between panels an aesthetic feature. Finally, insets of alternating yellow and blue tile provide a visual counterpoint to the exterior light fixtures directly above them. Overall, it’s a colorful, vibrant exterior that reflects the energy and discovery of learning.
Merrill praised the aesthetic versatility of precast. “It allowed us to play with colors and textures, maintaining a simple yet still attractive building,” he said. “We were able to gain economies through repetitive patterning and use scale and massing to keep the building interesting and not overwhelming to the kids.”
The benefits extended to the interior walls as well. The precast sandwich wall panels were prefinished on the inside with paint filler and institutional grade paint. Durable concrete will withstand decades of heavy use and abuse from energetic children. Furthermore, the prefinished interior eliminated the expense and time that a field-constructed interior would have entailed.
Willow Creek Elementary
The two-story, 108,000 ft2 Willow Creek Elementary School was built in response to increased enrollments at the elementary school level. The school opened for the 2009-2010 academic year and features 44 classrooms, a cafeteria, gymnasium, library, computer labs, art, and music classrooms for an estimated 700 students.
The $22.1 million school was designed by AEM Architects, Inc., which also designed the nearby Tilden Elementary Center in Hamburg, PA with CarbonCast High-Performance Insulated Wall Panels. The Tilden school was completed in 2007.
Willow Creek was built in proximity to other Fleetwood facilities and takes the place of an older block and brick structure. According to AEM project architect Justin H. Istenes, the insulated wall panels were chosen for the school because “precast is built to last. The owners toured High’s Denver plant and the Tilden school while it was under construction, and were satisfied they were getting better value with precast insulated wall panels.”
Hamburg Elementary School (Tilden)
An outstanding thermal performance was achieved at Hamburg Elementary school (Tilden) with CarbonCast walls. Amid skyrocketing energy costs and heightened public awareness of green construction practices, more building owners are seeking environmentally friendly solutions without incurring higher costs.
Tilden Elementary Center in Hamburg, PA, is no exception. The school for kindergarten through fifth-grade students will save on heating and cooling costs with innovative precast high performance insulated wall panels engineered, manufactured, and erected by High Concrete Group.
High Concrete’s 10”-thick precast exterior walls on the 110,000-square foot project delivers R-15 performance. They use three inches of continuous XPS insulation (“ci” as defined in ASHRAE Building Energy Code 90.1-2007) sandwiched between a 4” interior wythe and a 3” exterior wythe. C-GRID carbon fiber shear grid connects the two wythes. With relatively low thermal conductivity, the carbon fiber prevents thermal transfer, virtually eliminating hot and cold spots on the interior wall preserving comfort for students.
High’s precast walls helped keep the project on schedule and under budget, both of which are critical for a public school. The project was completed in June 2008—in plenty of time for teachers to welcome students for the first day of school.
Lehigh University Alumni Parking Garage
A design-build approach that reused steel forms from an award-winning project resulted in the 315-space Lehigh University Alumni Parking Garage in four to six months less time than typical construction. The form design was recognized with a PCI Design Award in 2002 and again in 2007 when it was repurposed for this project.
The five-level, 104,000 square foot garage for university faculty features 10- by 30-foot precast concrete elements that incorporate slender precast concrete columns and spandrel beams. The structural design eliminated tall, heavy spandrels that are traditionally associated with parking structures, replacing them with an open, lightweight concrete latticework that provides both exciting form and efficient function. The panels' slender columns correspond individually to the 7-foot 6-inch span of the 15-foot-wide structural double tee stems. In addition to bringing in light and providing an open, airy feel, the exterior lattice system blocks headlight beams from reaching into the neighborhood.
In 2012, the Christ Hospital Network in Cincinnati, Ohio, decided to add an orthopedic center of excellence to its already nationally renowned healthcare facility. The owners worked with an architect to design the seven-story, 381,000 ft2 LEED Silver-certified Joint & Spine Center, which linked it directly to the hospital’s existing surgical and imaging areas.
As part of the broader master plan, the client and architect agreed that the design for the Joint & Spine Center needed to reflect the historical redbrick vernacular of the other campus buildings. It also had to meet strict budget restrictions, deliver a watertight building envelope, and meet the high-performance goals set for the new building. All of these requirements would be met with a precast concrete design.
Lancaster County Convention Center
Big building, small space
Established in 1718, Lancaster is the oldest inland city in the United States. Its town square can be traced back to 1730 when James Hamilton laid the city out in a traditional grid. Structures with lasting, historical value have been fixtures on the square for years. The central area has always been among the most densely developed parts of the city.
Certainly, constructing an intricate project, Lancaster County Convention Center, that would bring new architecture to an established, compact downtown would require imagination and thoughtful planning. Knowing that precast could solve many of the potential issues, architectural firm Cooper Carry engaged High Concrete Group LLC from the earliest planning stages.
The biggest obstacle consisted of working around the existing structures, many of which would be integrated into the new complex. It severely limited the size of the construction site. Because precast is manufactured off-site and delivered to the job as needed, it was preferable over field-built options that would have required significantly more space.
“Staging was a big issue,” explains Kevin Iddings, general manager of Midwest operations for High Concrete Group. “We developed a regimented schedule that allowed us to ship the precast pieces one at a time as they were needed. It helped avoid a backlog of materials in the field.”
In addition, High worked with the architect to simplify the job as much as possible, eliminating unnecessary pieces and identifying ways to reuse molds, thereby minimizing costs.
TQL Ivy Pointe Office
The TQL Ivy Pointe Office building is predominately thin brick-clad with light sandblasted buff-colored precast details framing the spandrels. The precast provides a face-sealed curtainwall that provides effective moisture control that typical rain screen construction cannot. The thin brick is finished with a rake joint. Additional precast details include a 2-1/2’ projection below the parapet to lend a dramatic shadowline. The parapets themselves are at a height of 42” over the roofline to allow maintenance and other personnel to work on the roof without tying off.
The design made repeated use of a few stacked panel designs, allowing maximum economy. L-shaped thin bricks wrapped around window returns as would a full depth brick course. Formliner created a stone look formliner to the columns at the main entrance to add to the feeling of solidity. Reveals add drama and break up the mass to create a human scale.
FDNY Firehouse Rescue #2
Located in a city neighborhood, the FDNY rescue facility was designed for an elite force of specialized rescue workers to stage and simulate a wide range of emergency conditions. The members of the rescue company train to respond to various emergency scenarios, including fires, building collapses, water rescues, and scuba operations.
Riverside Hospital Neuroscience Tower
The Riverside Hospital Neuroscience Tower project is a 10-story, 437,000-square-foot addition to an Ohio Health campus. The project is the only one of its kind and is a state-of-the-art, world-class brain and spine care destination. The project includes 224 private rooms and a large interior atrium the size of two full-size basketball courts.
The exterior features 72,390 ft2 white, precast concrete panels as well as a series of blue-tinted, vertical windows. This was done to resemble the other buildings on the campus. These buildings were built at different times, with different materials, but many feature white brick walls surrounding vertical rhythms of windows. “We wanted to stay away from bricks,” said the architect. “They have an institutional connotation and can make a building appear bigger.”
Precast panels were utilized on the exterior of the building to cover a substantial portion of the facade. Precast was also used to clad a large portion of an interior courtyard that began at the third level of the structure with a rooftop green space/garden area and concluded seven stories higher at the penthouse level.
Red Rose Parking Garage
Once bustling with retail business and pedestrian traffic, the City of Lancaster, PA is working toward rebuilding a vital and vibrant downtown. Designed with an intention to stimulate the Lancaster economy with much-needed commuter and transient parking and 15,000 square feet of retail space on two floors, the 185,000-square-foot Queen Street Station Parking Garage complements the city’s historic streetscapes and creates a pedestrian-friendly aesthetic.
Nassau 8th Precinct
Following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, many structures owned by Nassau County in New York state were evaluated for structural damage, including the police precincts. Prior to the storm, several of these buildings had already been in need of renovations to accommodate a growing police force and resolve problems of aging infrastructure, and the storm accelerated this need, says Gilbert Balog of LiRo Architects + Planners.
In the 8th District, Nassau County wanted to replace the 1950s-era frame and brick precinct buildings with structures that communicated civic pride and could withstand the onslaughts of future major events. “Resiliency was a major factor in the selection of precast concrete construction,” says Dianne Pohlsander, design architect for LiRo. “In fact, everything came together with precast concrete: resiliency, fabrication that wasn't weather dependent, constructability, and the desired aesthetics.”
Precast concrete also helped address unique logistical challenges on this project. Construction was constrained by long and narrow site, and, because the new precinct house was constructed at one end while the old building stayed open for operations at the other, the team was under pressure to complete the project quickly with minimal site disruption. “Precast concrete gave us that quick erection time that we needed,” Pohlsander says.