In the last half century, many manufacturing buildings have been constructed using precast concrete. However, despite the incredible versatility in color, texture, and detail that can be achieved with precast concrete designs, these buildings tend to be simple, utilitarian boxes with little design flair. “Most designers are not given the support to take advantage of the unique properties of precast concrete to add enhanced architectural details,” says George Spence, business development manager for Metromont Corp. in Dalton, Ga.
That was the not the case with the new 110,348-ft² Universal Alloy light press plant in Ball Ground, Ga. This 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, Spence says. “Yet it yields an eye-catching façade that is truly handsome.”
The design for the plant, which will manufacture high-strength extrusions for the aircraft industry, included 106,000 ft² of manufacturing space, along with a 90-ft-high bay for vertical heat treat equipment, and three 75-ft-deep pits for loading and quenching the aluminum extrusions.
The owner and design team chose load-bearing precast concrete panels to avoid weather delays during construction, and to take advantage of the superior structural advantages. They went with 12-ft-wide, full-height panels to reduce the piece count and erection duration, which improved the overall job schedule and reduced the number of trades on site. “The decision to use insulated wall panels immediately provided a complete wall assembly that was load-bearing, finished on both sides, and waterproof with an air and moisture barrier,” Spence says.
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, further benefitting the cost and schedule.
Spence is quick to point out that the benefits of precast concrete on this project expand beyond performance and durability. It is also beautiful to look at, thanks to a façade that appears to be three-dimensional (3-D), an effect achieved through the innovative use of color, texture, and design. “Painted vertical accent stripes on the panels in combination with saw-tooth tops create a 3-D illusion that the panels project in and out like an accordion, adding architectural pizzazz to this rectangular manufacturing plant,” Spence says. “I’ve been in the precast concrete business for 45 years, and this is one of the most fascinating projects I’ve been involved in building.”