Landon Bone Baker Architects has worked on several housing projects with Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation in the West Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, Ill. Over time, these architects have come to understand the design approach that best meets the needs of the community and the client’s budget. “We are trying to create a substantial presence in the neighborhood by building out vacant lots,” says Hope Dinsmore, senior project architect.
The most recent project in this series was the Nelson Mandela apartments, 72 residential units in 13 three-story buildings on eight previously vacant, city-owned lots and five privately owned parcels. The combination of three- and six-unit structures is part of a scattered-site, infill, affordable housing development.
“Precast concrete was suggested early on by the general contractor,” Dinsmore says. Whereas past projects used precast concrete exterior walls and stick-built floors and interior bearing, the team went with a 100% precast concrete design for this project. “We’ve used precast concrete on other projects in the neighborhood, and we liked the speed of erection, especially with the high cost of labor in the city,” Dinsmore says. Easy upkeep, durability, and improved sound performance were added benefits.
Keep the noise down!
The design solution includes precast concrete floors that deliver excellent sound mitigation, as well as a thermal envelope featuring highly insulated walls, windows, and roofs for energy efficiency, which should help lower utility bills. “The owner put a lot of emphasis on insulation and air sealing,” Dinsmore explains. “That is simple to achieve with a precast concrete system.”
The use of precast concrete also minimized disruption to nearby neighbors and mitigated the risk of damage to adjacent buildings during construction. “In neighborhoods with older buildings, you have to be sure you are creating foundations in a safe way,” Dinsmore notes.
To ensure that the buildings suited the welcoming feel of the neighborhood, the designers used a natural textured finishes on the facades. Overlapping infill panels of red, green, and gray offer an inviting, colorful appearance, breaking up the scale of the buildings and giving a sense of depth to the design, Dinsmore says. Native plants and permeable pavers add to the aesthetic appeal of the project while providing a natural solution for handling water from storms.
Dinsmore reports that her team and the client are very happy with the results. “It is cool to see how precast concrete design decisions translate so directly to the facility,” she says. “The details come across exactly as we envisioned them.”