architectural

The Many Faces of Precast

By Sue McCraven

Seen or unseen, precast concrete is everywhere. Underground products such as manholes, utility vaults and pipe serve as the backbone of global infrastructure systems, often out of plain sight. Above ground, precast concrete functions as the centerpiece of some of the most awe-inspiring projects. As the following examples from across the world illustrate, precast concrete is just as aesthetically pleasing as it is functional.

Dreamscape: Louisiana State Museum & Sports Hall of Fame, Natchitoches 

Precaster: Advanced Architectural Stone
Architect: Trahan
Engineer: LBYD
Completed: 2013

Unique Precast 1

Photo courtesy of Advanced Architectural Stone.

The fluid, soothing design found at Louisiana’s State Museum and Sports Hall of Fame may place a visitor into a dreamlike state as they walk the winding halls and corridors. The museum, which overlooks the historic Cane River Lake, captures shapes and textures that emulate Natchitoches’ local terrain and winding rivers, fusing two seemingly incompatible venues – sports and history – with exceptional design. According to Trahan Architects, the site greatly influenced the interior design. The “fluid shapes” of the corridors, or “river channels,” are separated by structures, or “masses of land.”

Advanced Architectural Stone created more than 1,150 precast concrete panels that are supported by a custom structural steel frame beneath.

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High-Class Precast

By Mason Nichols

As the age-old expression goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

For some, precast concrete’s beauty lies in its ability to be used for any application imaginable, from roadwork to stormwater systems and beyond (1). Others find beauty in the material’s sheer strength, marveling at precast’s durability even in the face of extreme weather (2). But what about appearance?

Precast concrete is often considered more utilitarian than attractive, but as the following projects illustrate, it is more than capable of achieving the design aesthetic necessary to bring class and style to any construction project.

High-Class Precast 1

Photo courtesy of Jim Maguire.

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The Many Faces of Precast

By Sue McCraven

Dreamscape: Louisiana State
Museum & Hall of Fame,
Natchitoches 

Architect: Trahan
Precaster: Advanced Architectural Stone
Engineer: LBYD
Completed: 2013
The fluid, soothing design found at Louisiana’s State Museum and Sports Hall of Fame may place a visitor into a dreamlike state as they walk the winding halls and corridors. The museum overlooking historic Cane River Lake captures shapes and textures that emulate Natchitoches’ local terrain and winding rivers, fusing two seemingly incompatible venues — sports and history — with exceptional design. According to Trahan Architects, the site greatly influenced the interior design. The “fluid shapes” of the corridors, or “river channels,” are separated by structures, or “masses of land.”

Advanced Architectural Stone created more than 1,150 precast concrete panels that are supported by a custom structural steel frame beneath.

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Ready and Willing

By Mason Nichols

Reading Rock 2For some businesses, establishing a positive company culture can be a daunting task. While most owners recognize that promoting employee morale, fostering effective communication and efficiently meeting customer needs are all crucial to success, it can be difficult to implement a business plan that addresses these issues while simultaneously moving forward. But for Reading Rock Inc. (pronounced “Redding”), a precast concrete producer based in Cincinnati, a simple phrase serves as the foundation for a continuous dedication to excellence and progression: “Yes, we can!”

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Casting Call

By Kirk Stelsel

Schrott Center Exterior PrecastSince 1855, Butler University existed in relative obscurity as a small liberal arts school in Indianapolis. That all changed after its basketball team made recent back-to-back runs to the national championship game and put Butler on the national radar.

Despite the elevated profile, though, Butler remains rooted in its liberal arts background, and no liberal arts campus is complete without a home for the performing arts. The newly completed Howard L. Schrott Center for Arts is the pièce de résistance of Butler’s performing arts complex. And although it made ample use of many materials to achieve the right looks and acoustics, precast concrete took the leading role.

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How to Enhance Mechanical Connections

Choosing the right connection for your project hinges on many factors – from function and ease of production to constructability and surface aesthetics.

By Evan Gurley

The Baha’i Temple in Wilmette, Ill., took over three decades to build and was the first architectural precast structure built in the U.S.  The specified stainless steel connections were costly, but have proven their worth over time by protecting the temple’s magnificent surface aesthetics, as seen in this dramatic nighttime photo.  Photo courtesy Chris Smith Photography (Chris@outofchicago.com)The behavior of connections used in precast concrete products greatly influences the structural integrity of the entire structure. Whether analyzing large precast concrete wall and floor panel junctions or the load transfer mechanisms used in precast concrete pavement slabs, the design and construction of the joints and connections are crucial components that ensure the stability and robustness of the structure. The overall integrity of the precast concrete structure can be substantially enhanced by minor changes in the amount, location and detailing of connections and connection hardware.

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Perot Museum of Nature and Science: A Work of Art and Sustainability

By Claude Goguen, P.E., LEED AP

Perot Museum of Art and Science. Photo courtesy of Gate Precast (gateprecast.com)As the sustainable building movement continues to evolve, so have its architectural design possibilities. Incredible edifices are being constructed all over the world that are environmentally conscious and resource-efficient throughout their life cycles. A shining example of this trend can be found in Victory Park near downtown Dallas. The large, striated cube made of precast concrete and glass that seems to float in mid air houses the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science, and it is a breathtaking sight to see.

Opened in December 2012, a month ahead of schedule, this $185-million project was designed by Thom Mayne, a Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate. The tower, the largest part of the museum, is made up of 70,000 sq ft of precast panels; a plinth section consisting of 220 panels, or 27,000 sq ft of curved panels; and the atrium inside the tower containing 100 panels.

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Breaking the Mold: Explorations Shaping Architectural Precast

Recent innovations in energy efficiencies and assembly techniques for precast concrete building envelopes open the door to unimagined architectural and sustainable designs.

By Matt Roper, M.Arch., LEED AP BD+C

Full-scale thin-shell wall panel made by spraying fiber-reinforced concrete on a hanging geotextile sheet at the Lafarge precast factory, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Photo courtesy of CAST, University of Manitoba

The influence of concrete on the modern world cannot be understated. It has formed, shaped and progressed our built environment. Its solidity, strength and durability have advanced its prevalence in the building sector.

Precast concrete in particular has advanced modern civil, structural and architectural design. It has been used in some of the world’s most iconic structures, borne of advancements and refinements in material properties and assembly techniques.

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It’s A Wash

How precast concrete buildings can clean themselves and our air.

By Claude Goguen, P.E., LEED AP

No kidding. Self-cleaning buildings are a reality. Better yet, architectural precast concrete with new material technology can remove pollutants from the air while actually rinsing itself clean in the rain. Self-cleaning buildings may sound like a futuristic concept, but they do exist today, providing aesthetic, environmental and no-cost maintenance service.

BuildingCase in point: Jubilee Church in Rome, Italy

Like white sails in the wind, three large, curved walls of precast concrete adorn the south side of the Jubilee Church in Rome. One of the primary purposes of these walls is to minimize thermal peak loads inside. The large thermal mass of the concrete walls controls internal heat gain; the result is less inside temperature variation and a more efficient use of energy.

As an added benefit to the owners, these “billowing” precast concrete walls contain titanium dioxide (TiO2) to keep the appearance of the church clean, white and beautiful. The TiO2 incorporated in the concrete absorbs ultraviolet light from the sun and becomes powerfully reactive, breaking down pollutants that come in contact with the concrete surface. There you have it: a self-cleaning building!

New formulations of cement, introduced in Europe in the ’90s, can neutralize pollution. These altered cements are used in the same way as portland cement, and therefore any precast concrete structure can potentially function as a pollution fighter. But how does it work? Read More »

Spheres of Influence

A new hollow-core slab technology makes use of recycled plastic spheres to offer innovative design solutions for an open floor plan at a California college.

By Deborah R. Huso

Untitled-7When officials at Harvey Mudd College decided to build a new teaching and learning center, they wanted to update its 1950s look. The college leaders envisioned a sustainable structure with naturally lit open spaces that would preserve the predominant concrete architecture of the campus. The challenge was to create large open spaces in classrooms and lecture halls without the interruption of columns and beams. The project’s design-build team found the solution in BubbleDeck, a new hollow-core slab technology that allows for extensive spans of floor and ceiling without typical column supports.

Although it was the first in California and one of the first in the United States to make use of BubbleDeck technology, the product has been used successfully in Europe, Canada and Australia. The college selected the BubbleDeck technology mainly because it helped meet the school’s goals for open floor plans and sustainability with a reduced construction timeline. In addition, the BubbleDeck system offered easier construction within the tight parameters of the job site. (For a description of the technology, see the sidebar “What Is Bubbledeck?” Read More »