Proj Overview

Project Overview

The leaders of Highland Park High School outside of Chicago, Ill., knew they needed to replace the aging gymnasium and pool building, but the school had a limited budget and tight schedule to get the job done. The designers considered multiple design options for the exterior enclosure and load-bearing structure, including load-bearing masonry and structural steel, but they chose precast concrete after extensive cost-benefit and schedule analyses.

“The need for an integrated structural and architectural system that was quick to erect and sensitive to the existing buildings and surrounding area led us to precast concrete,” says Michael Dolter, senior project architect for Perkins+Will. “It simplified the construction process, allowing construction to meet the delivery goals and the project budget.”

Sun and shadow

The original 1914 gymnasiums and the existing pool were demolished, with the new structures built toward the back of the existing lot, adjacent to other physical education facilities. “Using precast concrete, we created a direct connection with other buildings on campus, both through formal design and material choice,” Dolter says. The resulting design helps “a disparate campus to knit together in a more cohesive manner,” he adds

The project was erected in two phases, with the gymnasium and pool separately erected and opened for operation. Both buildings were erected over the winter in a matter of weeks, ensuring minimal disruption for the operating campus. “The speed of construction and the ability to simplify the construction process were important,” Dolter explains.

To ensure that the building designs fit within the campus and neighborhood, the designers created a sculptural facade that engages light and shadow through simple manipulation of the surfaces. To add depth to the relatively flat panels, a variety of textures were used, including ribbing and faceting that lend drama to the appearance of the walls. The subtle, 3-in. faceting causes shifts in light and shadow throughout the day, an attractive effect that required minimal investment. “The detailing and finish of the precast concrete helped lower the scale of the building and added detail to what might otherwise have been an ordinary shell,” Dolter says.

He notes that the owner and the community were adamant that the project meet budget and schedule goals—and precast concrete made it happen. “The design and construction team were able to use precast concrete and other construction methods to turn around a large-scale construction project ahead of time and under budget.”


2019 Design AwardsBest School K-12 Building
Project Team


Township High School District 113, Highland Park, Ill.

PCI-Certified Precast Concrete Producer

Lombard Architectural Precast Products Company, Alsip, Ill.


Perkins+Will, Chicago, Ill.

Engineer of Record

CE Anderson & Associates, Chicago, Ill.

General Contractor

Gilbane Building Company, Chicago, Ill.

PCI-Certified Erector

Continental Erector, LaSalle, Ill.

Photo Credit

James Steinkamp Photography

Key Project Attributes

  • Precast concrete provided an effective structural and finishing material that allowed for a schedule- and cost-sensitive approach to construction.
  • Subtle 3-in. faceting of the panels creates an interplay of light and shadow that adds a sense of depth to the facade with minimal investment.
  • A 2-hour precast concrete firewall separates portions of the building.

Project/Precast Scope

  • Design and construction a gym and pool buildings for a suburban high school.
  • The gym project included 40 exterior faceted precast concrete panels and 12 single-story exterior ribbed precast concrete panels.
  • The pool project used 15 exterior faceted precast concrete panels, 10 interior precast concrete firewall panels, and eight precast concrete columns.
  • The buildings were erected separately during the winter, and each erection was completed in less than one month.
  • Project cost: $89 million
  • Project size: 160,000 ft2 of new construction; 260,000 ft2 of renovation