The original Campus Center, built in 1965 of precast and cast-in-place concrete, stepped up a hillside with four levels on the East side and two on the West, explains Kevin Minster, Project Manager for architect Goody Clancy. A two-story, glass and cast-in-place concrete addition was added alongside the East end of the building in 2001.
A major design advantage of architectural precast cladding is that its virtually an unlimited variety of aesthetic appearances that can be achieved by varying aggregate size and selection, matrix color, finishing processes, and depth of exposure of the aggregate. The recent Barone Campus Center addition at Fairfield University is a case in point.
The latest two-level, 20,600-square-foot addition, begun in December 2016 and finished by September 2017, adjoins the West side at building levels three and four and offers a prime example of the design possibilities of architectural precast concrete.
The project included renovation of the existing structures, creation of a new main entry circulation, and and lounges by enclosing a former walkway and patio, expansion of the building’s multi-purpose space, the addition of a faculty dining room, and extensive expansion and update of the student dining and kitchen areas located on the top floor, which now seats 710.
Tucked low against the existing building, the addition engages with the existing green roof and terrace. The West side of the addition features a graceful, curved façade that follows the main campus circulation pathway. Floors and roof consists of concrete slabs on metal decks.
Creating Tapered Precast
“Adding to the original structure and the 2001 addition,” says architect Minster, “the goal was to speak to both designs, integrate and tie the whole together. We wanted to again use precast to pay respect to the original building, but we wanted to do so with a little more updated approach. We chose tapered precast to showcase the depth of the concrete.
“Interestingly,” Minster adds, “the original exterior wall we were enclosing with our addition has a concrete bas relief mural on it. So, the building already had a history of playing with concrete to create depth, definition and sculpture.”
Coreslab Structures (CONN) Inc. was selected as a team member to provide the unique and varied precast exterior envelope desired for the addition because of their expertise in panelization and architectural precast concrete formwork.
“We produce a lot of architectural product since we make our own forms.” explains Rob DelVento, Coreslab VP and General Manager. “Our custom forms are produced using high grade birch plywood and we have experience making our own rubber rubber molds as well. We have a number of cabinetry-grade carpenters that work for us.”
For the Barone Campus Center addition, the firm was charged with creating various tapered shapes, line-work and multiple finishes. Coreslab produced 10,450 square feet of decorative architectural precast panels in 28 pieces for the project. The uninsulated panels are tapered and vary from 5 ½-inches to 8-inches thick, are as large as 15 ft wide and 38 ft tall, and feature cast-in windows. Cast horizontally in the plant in wood forms the panels were placed on steel shake tables and were lifted and rotated by crane. Spray foam insulation was installed on the back of the panels on site.
The large size panels lower erection cost by reducing the number of panels required and offering fewer connections and fewer joints to waterproof. Precast erection took just six days.
The exterior panel design for the Barone addition is, indeed, extremely creative, according to DelVento. “Precast cladding panels are unique on each of the addition’s three sides of the façade,” he notes. “The architect designed a new look every time you turned a corner by changing the tapers, changing the direction of the tapers, changing the sizes of the panels, and changing the sizes of the windows.”
“We varied the [architectural] precast at the window openings,” explains Minster. “We designed tapers into the window surrounds and we designed the tapers in different directions on each of the two floor levels to play with shadows and changing light throughout the day. The shadows lines rake across the concrete, especially on the curved façade side.”
“All the precast panels are all white,” DelVento adds. “The aggregate was also an opaque white. Panel finishes include light sandblast, medium-heavy sandblast, and a light chemical etch. There are portions of the panels that are thick and there are portions of the panels that are tapered. The reveals are in the tapered sections only.”
Sustainable elements of the Campus Center include locally sourced materials, such as the architectural precast, energy efficient lighting, increased storm-water retention, and improved insulation. However, the major project sustainability feature, according to Minster, is that instead of demolishing and building a new structure, “we reused existing infrastructure and existing built resources.”
The university chose precast concrete cladding for the latest Barone addition, in part, because the original, 50-plus-year-old Center also featured precast concrete, believes Del Vento. They were aware, he maintains, that precast concrete is a highly durable product with low life term costs.
“Economy,” Minster agrees, “was definitely a big driver and appealed to the owner. Scheduling was also a factor. Being able to lift and place precast panels as fast as they did was huge for this project.
“But from a design side,” he adds, “we really like the flexibility [of precast].There is a form liner texture in our tapered panels which was custom designed. We would draw up a detail and they [Coreslab] would mock it up in their shop. We went there several times to see mock ups and different levels of sandblasting and different colors of concrete mix. The vast opportunity for flexibility and options was really appealing.”