Construction in the higher education sector is booming. Colleges and universities are adding academic buildings, residence halls and more at a breakneck rate to attract and retain students. Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, is a part of that trend. The school is constructing a new building focused on health and wellness for students on campus.
The Health United Building isn’t merely just a recreation center as it also hosts classrooms for nursing, occupational health, radiologic technology, health services administration and sport studies majors. The building will also allow students to receive medical care and mental health counseling from TriHealth, one of the area’s largest health-care providers.
“The concept for the building, also called the HUB, is to focus holistically on health, wellness and learning in one location,” said France Sloat, Xavier’s managing editor for marketing and communications.
The designer of the five-story building, Mike Schuster, is not only president of MSA Design architects, but also a major Musketeers supporter. Schuster wanted to give the building a stunning look that was reminiscent of ancient Roman marble sculptures of wrestlers and charioteers. The result came in the form of precast concrete.
Cincinnati-based Reading Rock, Inc. manufactured 13 precast concrete medallions featuring athletic images ranging from basketball players to swimmers to break up the brick and glass exterior. The company provided other architectural cast stone elements for the building as well.
The medallions’ size, 6-feet-8-inches square and a little more than 2,000 pounds each, is something Reading Rock routinely handles. However, getting the images to look like carved stone made the project unique.
“Typically, our molds are made from wood in our own mold shop,” said Carolyn Nutter, Reading Rock’s marketing manager. “But the details in the two-dimensional images required that the mold be made from rubber.”
Reading Rock worked with a local company to create rubber mold prototypes, which it then used to make its own molds.
“Each panels’ depth was less than we normally engineer so ensuring the image was not impacted by the steel took some planning,” said Mike Rooney, Manufacturing Manager with Reading Rock. “The production process was typical of our everyday capabilities other than giving careful attention to the placement of the structural steel in each panel to eliminate rebar shadowing.”
Sloat said the medallions give the building the exact look the team was wanting.
“The finished product looks very much like carved stone and the majority of people that see it will not be able to distinguish the precast from carved stone,” she said. “Everyone loves them so far.”
The majority of the medallions are installed, and the building is slated to open Jan. 13, just in time for the start of the spring semester.
Precast concrete products aren’t always visible after construction is complete, but in this case the workers are able to see the fruits of their labor just a few miles down the road.
“All of our associates here at Reading Rock, from the manufacturing to the logistics teams, are proud for how the medallions look on the Health United Building,” Nutter said. “It’s a good feeling when you drive down the streets of your town and see your handiwork on display in a building for the community.”