Innovations in precast concrete

    4260 Cortex features two stacked box forms, with the upper extending out beyond the lower.

    The Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) announced the winners of its annual Design Awards program. This year the program, which is in its 55th year, recognized 21 projects with awards of excellence in design out of more than 100 project entries from producers, engineers, and architects across the U.S.

    “Our annual awards program is meant to challenge our industry to continue to push the envelope and to innovate in the design and production of precast concrete systems,” said PCI President Bob Risser. “The variety and quality of the projects our precast concrete producers and their partners in the engineering and architectural communities submitted for consideration this year demonstrate how versatile precast concrete systems are for creating sustainable, cost-effective, and beautiful projects.”

    Projects are submitted in a variety of categories, including buildings, transportation, and special categories. They are judged by a panel of industry experts that includes precast concrete producers, engineers, architects, and construction and architectural industry media.

    The buildings and transportation categories are judged on aesthetic, structural, and use versatility; site, energy and operational efficiency, and risk reduction; and resiliency, such as structure durability, multi-hazard protection, and life safety and health.

    PCI also selects several projects for special awards that are judged on similar criteria to the building and transportation projects, as well as additional requirements including industry advancement, sustainable design, and designs using all precast concrete. These awards include the Harry H. Edwards Industry Advancement Award, The All-Precast Concrete Solution Award, and the Sustainable Design Award.

    Building projects

    The winner in the Government and Public Buildings category was the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Miami. The six-story museum features open-air parking covered by five stories of museum comprising approximately 250,000 square feet of interior and exterior space. The most prominent element of the design is the freestanding 67-foot-diameter dome, which houses the planetarium theater. Designers worked closely with Gate Precast Company to develop the concept using precast concrete as cladding and as the dome’s structure. The use of 3D modeling was vital to ensuring every piece fit perfectly and addressing any errors in design before construction began. The dome cap, dubbed the Arctic Circle, was formed from two cap pieces combined to make a 30-foot-diameter keystone. Structural engineer of record was Donnell Duquesne & Albaisa, Miami.

    The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Miami features a freestanding 67-foot-diameter dome.

    The Higher Education/University category had two co-winners: Capitol Federal Hall, The University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas; and University of Chicago Campus, North Residential Commons, Chicago. Capitol Federal Hall consists of two wings linked by a four-story glass atrium, which serves as a connector between the building’s major program elements and a variety of informal spaces. “The visual flexibility and modular nature of precast made it a natural choice for the majority of the exterior façade,” said Dirk McClure, regional director of sales and business development for Enterprise Precast in Omaha, Neb. A key design decision made early on was to use a series of insulated panels in place of more traditional architectural cladding, McClure said. From a structural standpoint, insulated spandrels span column-to-column and hang off steel haunches. Short insulated panels spanned long spans, transferring the loads back to the columns. Engineer of record was Bob D Campbell and Company, Kansas City, Mo.

    For North Residential Commons, precast concrete was selected to replicate the University of Chicago’s Gothic architecture in a more cost-effective form. The panels were cast three stories tall by International Concrete Products to identify each house unit. The depths on the panels provide sun shading and thermal mass necessary for a radiant slab heating and cooling system. Spray foam insulation was applied to the backs of the precast concrete panels, which helped eliminate the need for a rain screen system. Engineer of record was Magnusson Klemencic Associates, Chicago.

    In the Hotels/Motels category, The Study at University City in Philadelphia took top honors. The Study at University City is a 10-story luxury hotel at the intersection of two world-class universities in the heart of Philadelphia. The challenge was erecting this sophisticated piece of architecture on a tight jobsite, in a busy urban environment, and on a short schedule. Designers selected precast concrete, designing panels faced with thin brick to provide the look and feel of brick in a more time- and cost-effective package. The precast concrete panels, manufactured by Universal Concrete Products, are also a lighter envelope solution than traditional brick masonry, which was important for managing the vertical and lateral loads imposed on a cast-in-place concrete structural frame. The panels were stacked in an offset pattern at corners, and custom brick shapes were used to wrap the exposed jambs and soffits of the panels. Engineer of record was DeSimone Consulting Engineers, New Haven, Conn.

    Winning the PCI Design Award in the Manufacturing category was Universal Alloy Light Press Plant, Ball Ground, Ga. The new 110,348-square-foot Universal Alloy light press plant is an example of how an innovative designer can create a beautiful, detailed design using precast concrete in a way that adds virtually no additional costs to the project, according to George Spence, business development manager for Metromont Corp. in Dalton, Ga. The owner and design team chose load-bearing, 12-foot-wide, full-height precast concrete panels to reduce the piece count and erection duration. The panels included C-Grid carbon-fiber mesh, which is equivalent to welded-wire fabric but without the thermal bridging, which meant they could be insulated to meet the energy code and still be designed as a composite structural element. The panels also span structurally from the foundation to the roof structure, which eliminated the need for additional wind braces. Engineer of record was Haines, Gipson & Associates, Lawrenceville, Ga.

    In the Mixed Use category, the winner was 4260 Cortex, St. Louis. The Cortex Innovation Community is home to a 200-acre innovation hub and technology district in the historic Central West End of St. Louis. When the owners decided to build an additional mixed-use structure that could act as a gateway to the hub, they turned to CannonDesign in St. Louis (architect and engineer of record) to create a building that would measure up to the nationally ranked universities and medical centers in the surrounding neighborhood, while achieving pedestrian scale to invigorate a walkable community. Challenges included a project site flanked on three sides by heavily trafficked streets and an aggressive construction schedule. The architect’s design consisted of two stacked box forms, with the upper projecting out beyond the lower. Panels, precast by Enterprise Precast Concrete, Omaha, Neb., are integrally colored to avoid long-term repainting costs, and double sealant joints and polyurethane foam insulation create an energy-efficient envelope.

    The winner in the Office Building category was the Honor Credit Union Operations Office, Berrien Springs, Mich. With a September 2014 ground breaking, the three-story, 37,000-square-foot operations center faced a 12-month completion schedule. The entire cladding used only two precast concrete panels, allowing Kerkstra Precast, Grandville, Mich., to begin production as early as possible. The final exterior design alternates between full-floor solid and glass; 80 percent of the precast panels were identical in size. Precast concrete was also used on the interior flooring, where approximately 44,000 square feet of 8-inch slab and 118 brick-clad precast concrete panels were installed. Structural engineer of record was Louis Shell Structures Inc., LaGrange, Ill.

    The 40,500-square-foot, five-level Alpharetta City Center Parking Deck is aesthetically compatible with the adjacent city hall.

    The Alpharetta City Center Parking Deck, Alpharetta, Ga. took top place in the Parking Structures category. The 40,500-square-foot, five-level parking deck is a supporting component of the master-planned Civic and Government Center and accommodates 455 cars. Precast concrete ensured the structure was aesthetically compatible with the traditional Georgian architecture of the adjacent city hall building while accommodating the schedule, budget, and structural needs of the deck, said George Spence, business development manager for Metromont Corp. in Dalton, Ga. Designers worked with the precasters to develop a panelization system featuring a joint pattern that eliminated individual spandrel panels supported on columns, which reduced the number of façade pieces by 30 percent. A tall “tree” column design with branches extending to each side features architectural details and is able to receive double-tee loads on the back side. Engineer of record was Uzun + Case Engineers, Atlanta.

    In the Religious category, judges selected the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Temple, Gilbert, Ariz., as the winning building project. The design of the church features nearly 1,000 precast concrete panels made with 73 forms. Sizes range from a single square foot to 262 square feet, with the heaviest piece weighing more than 25,000 pounds. The Architekton team (architect) used 3D modeling to design intricate patterns into each panel. Gate Precast, Hillsboro, Texas (precaster) used the 3D drawings to cast full-scale master molds and custom formliners. Engineer of record was Paragon Structural, Phoenix.

    The façade for the University of Kentucky’s Kroger Field was cast in 87, 8-inch-thick architectural precast concrete panels, reducing the number of pieces and bearing points.

    In the Stadiums and Arenas category, the winner was the Commonwealth Stadium Renovation/Expansion in Lexington, Ky. The façade for the University of Kentucky’s Kroger Field was cast by Gate Precast Company, Winchester, Ky., in 87, 8-inch-thick architectural precast concrete panels, reducing the number of pieces and bearing points, which lowered the overall cost of the project. Larger panels were divided into smaller sections with reveals and two finishes: a heavy and light sandblast in a random pattern to emphasize the smaller panel design. Engineer of record was Brown and Kubican, Lexington, Ky.

    The Custom Solutions category had two co-winners: Corning Museum of Glass Contemporary Art + Design Wing, Corning, N.Y.; and Cleveland Public Square in Cleveland. The Corning Museum added a 100,000-square-foot addition, including 26,000 square feet of gallery space. A prominent design feature is the high-performance precast concrete long-span roof joists that support a series of gabled skylights. To extend that aesthetic, the architects designed a series of 200 thin, closely spaced precast concrete roof joists, ranging from 6 feet to 55 feet, that span north to south between perimeter steel and interior concrete wall elements to support additional skylights. A system of thin steel purlins runs east-west over the top of the precast concrete roof joists to provide lateral bracing to the joists. Precast concrete producer was BPDL – Bétons Préfabriqués du Lac, QC, Canada; Engineer of record was Guy Nordenson and Associates, New York.

    A 15-month, $50 million renovation transformed a neglected 10-acre civic space that was bisected by two of Cleveland’s busiest streets into a park-like destination that now provides a centerpiece to the city’s ongoing redevelopment efforts. The project included 1,300 individual precast concrete elements, including low linear walls to frame the perimeter gardens, and continuous, sinuous walls as tall as 8 feet to frame the Key Bank Promenade at the center of the square. The precast concrete walls were also used to create artificial topography. The precaster, Tectura Designs, a Wassau Tile Inc. brand, Rothschild, Wis., created 800 custom molds, including one to support a 9-foot-tall, 20,000-pound precast concrete piece. Engineer of record was Osborn Engineering, Cleveland.

    Transportation projects

    The Carriage Pavilion Bridge at Union Station, Kansas City, Mo., was selected as the top project in the Main Span up to 75 Feet category. Burns & McDonnell was design-builder of a new bridge to carry vehicles and pedestrians from the front of Union Station to the third level of the West Yards parking structure. Designers used precast, prestressed concrete spread box girders in long spans ranging from 33 feet to 75 feet for the superstructure system. To repel pigeons, the rectangular box-beam shapes were fully enclosed in concrete diaphragms at the pier caps. For drainage, designers “warped” the bridge deck toward a single downspout hidden behind one bent. A series of drain inlets were then placed in the vehicular roadway to receive water, including water flowing through open slots in the median barrier from the pedestrian path. The precast concrete producer was Coreslab Structures (Kansas), Kansas City, Kan.

    In the Main Span from 76-149 Feet category, judges selected the Interstate 85 Bridge over Piedmont Road project in Atlanta. On March 30, 2017, a massive fire destroyed an elevated portion of I-85, causing part of the highway to collapse. Along with the collapse, the heat of the fire caused significant damage to the cast in place and precast concrete and superstructure, as well as the intermediate piers supporting the spans in both directions. The Georgia Department of Transportation’s new design included 61 precast, prestressed concrete bulb-tee bridge girders, and due to the geometry of the spans, only nine could be duplicated. The project also required 13 concrete columns, four concrete caps, and removal of 13 million pounds of debris. By May 12 — 44 days after the fire and more than 30 days ahead of schedule — the project was completed, and the new bridge was opened for traffic. The precast concrete producer was Standard Concrete Products, Savannah, Ga.

    Winning the Main Span more than 150 Feet category was the Chief Joseph Dam Timber Truss Bridge Replacement, Douglas County, Wash. The original 309-foot-long timber bridge consisted of a single, 130-foot-long by 20-foot-deep Howe truss, with five timber girder approach spans. It was registered as a National Historic Place because of its rarity, structural form, size, and age. Despite rehabilitation in the early 2000s, the bridge had major structural deficiencies and needed to be replaced. Engineer of record KPFF Consulting Engineers, Seattle, selected a single-span precast concrete spliced girder bridge as the preferred solution to address the client’s specific project goals for span, construction time line, and future maintenance. Precast spliced girders allowed designers to extend the span range to eliminate costly intermediate piers on the steep ravine and avoid impacting environmentally sensitive areas. The new two-lane single-span bridge is 32 feet wide and 309 feet long, comprised of a single post-tensioned 240-foot-long span and a 69-foot earth-filled approach. It is framed by five girder lines, each consisting of three precast, pretensioned segments erected on false work and post-tensioned together. The precast concrete producer was Concrete Technology Corp., Tacoma, Wash.

    The Aerial Guideway for the Dulles Corridor Metrorail passes through the airport and over wetlands to a maintenance yard.

    For the Non-Highway Bridge (pedestrian, bicycle, railroad, etc.) category, the Aerial Guideway for the Dulles Corridor Metrorail in Herndon, Va., received top honors. The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, Phase 2, includes a station at Dulles International Airport and an aerial guideway. Six track miles of aerial guideway pass through the airport, over wetlands to a maintenance yard, and connect to the western section of at-grade rail. Prestressed concrete girders in a chorded configuration worked well with the spans of up to 150 feet on the curved alignment. The girders incorporated draped prestressing strands with flared spacing at the ends. Florida wide-flange I-beam sections with four different depths were used to minimize the structure depth. Flexibility of the precast concrete elements also accommodated various challenging elements, including track cross-overs and turnouts, as well as features for power and control systems. The ability to adjust the girder depth also allowed the designers to “tune” the structure to meet the vibration requirements for rider comfort, according to engineer of record, Parsons, Baltimore. The precast concrete producer was Coastal Precast Systems, Chesapeake, Va.

    The Peter Courtney Minto Island Bicycle & Pedestrian Bridge is a five-span bridge, with a main span tied-arch of 304.5 feet at the springline chord, and thin cast-in-place, post-tensioned haunched slab approach spans.

    The Peter Courtney Minto Island Bicycle & Pedestrian Bridge in Salem, Ore., deemed the best Special Solution, connects 1,300 acres of riverfront parks and trails. The bridge had to clear the 100-year flood elevation, meet existing path grades with a limited approach, accommodate grade limits for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and cross over an existing park path while providing adequate head room for pedestrians — all while accommodating a “no-rise” criterion for the 100-year flood elevation upstream of the bridge because the project is located within a FEMA floodway. The overall configuration is a five-span bridge, with a main span tied-arch of 304.5 feet at the springline chord, and thin cast-in-place, post-tensioned haunched slab approach spans. The main span features a pair of tied arches to support a precast panel stress-ribbon deck. The precast concrete producer was Knife River Prestress, Harrisburg, Ore.; the engineer of record was OBEC Consulting Engineers, Salem, Ore.

    Special projects

    Keauhou Lane, a six-story mixed-use precast concrete building in Honolulu, won the Sustainable Design Award. According to Phil Camp, principal of hi•arch•y llp, the Honolulu-based architect, it is the first LEED-certified affordable rental mixed-use project delivered in the state of Hawaii. Through close collaborations with GPRM Prestress, Camp’s team was able to gain new efficiencies through the use of repetitive shear panels and by maximizing the use of hollow-core slabs to span three separate units. The precaster and designers also worked together to develop a hybrid precast concrete double-tee with lowered outwings on the flanges, which could structurally engage the double-loaded corridors while providing increased headroom and space for mechanicals and piping. The engineer of record was Allison-Ide Structural Engineering LLC, Honolulu.

    Keauhou Lane, a six-story mixed-use precast concrete building in Honolulu, is the first LEED-certified affordable rental mixed-use project delivered in the state of Hawaii.

    Judges selected two co-winners for the All-Precast Concrete Solution Award: Roseville City Hall Annex, Roseville, Calif.; and Port of Juneau Cruise Ship Terminal Concrete Pontoons, Juneau, Alaska. The new City Hall Annex is the first precast concrete building ever built in the city and the first to be accredited by the U.S. Resiliency Council for its seismic capacity. During design, precast concrete producer Clark Pacific, West Sacramento, Calif., presented value-engineering ideas that removed columns and used double-tees to create 56-foot spans, with hollow-core slab for the remaining 28-foot span. A precast hybrid moment frame for seismic resistance uses precast concrete column and beam elements connected with reinforcing bars and post-tensioning to absorb energy caused by movement of the joint while simultaneously holding the joint together during an earthquake. Engineer of record was Buehler & Buehler Structural Engineers Inc., Sacramento.

    To accommodate Panamax and post-Panamax cruise ships, Juneau harbor owners wanted a replacement dock with floating berths that created enough space to accommodate simultaneous berthing of one 1,000-foot-long and one 1,100-foot-long cruise ship. Two all-precast concrete pontoons — measuring 300 feet and 400 feet long — were fabricated simultaneously in the dry-dock of Concrete Technology Corporation’s precast plant in Tacoma, Wash., then towed 1,000 miles to Juneau. Engineer of record was BergerABAM, Federal Way, Wash.

    The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, previously described, received the Harry H. Edwards Industry Advancement Award.

    Additional details and photos for each of the award-winning projects, as well as honorable mention winners, are available on the PCI website at

    Information provided by the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (