This high-end luxury condominium development is located in an underdeveloped area of the quickly gentrifying City of Hoboken. To establish an image consistent with the luxury market, designers created an appearance in the traditional style of northeast metropolitan architecture of brick and stone facades, pediments, arches and related decorative designs. However, the design also had to convey the rapid pace (“velocity”) and modern, high-tech, lifestyles of the typical residents.
Architect's Viewpoint: To convey “velocity,” Equus worked closely with the developer to create an exterior design with nine brick colors, arrayed horizontally to provide a sense of movement along the one-block-long façades. But a deeper meaning of velocity included the owner’s need for a building system that could be fast-tracked, erected quickly, and, at the same time, create a high-end, high-quality appearance. A total precast building system, both superstructure and building envelope, answered all of these needs.
Equus designed the first level as a parking structure with precast columns and beams. The upper floors are designed as a cross-wall system with load-bearing demising walls and hollowcore precast plank floors between units. With this system, both the structural bays for the residences and the parking are aligned, and the demising walls and floors provide acoustic privacy for residents.
The solution for the exterior was to marry load and nonload-bearing architectural panels with the structural system. Equus designed precast panels with integrally cast thin brick of various colors and patterns. Using custom-designed architectural formliners to create the appearance of cut stone, and with careful placement of the thin bricks, Equus was able to achieve the traditional aesthetics appropriate to the setting.
By designing this total precast system, the client’s need for a fast-track schedule was met. While the structural and architectural precast components were being produced, the site was prepared, after which the precast was delivered and erected in a few weeks rather than the months that would have been required with other building systems.
Contractor's Viewpoint: Robert Armando is no stranger to precast concrete, having used over 10 million square feet throughout his career. So it is no surprise the senior project manager chose precast for the REMI Companies' upscale condominiums in one of Hoboken's newest, fashionable neighborhoods. The design idea for the Velocity Condominium Complex is steeped in history and serendipity. Long before precast, Dutch architect Carl van der Rohr conceived and rendered the plans for a structure he called "Velocitus." An idea ahead of its time, van der Rohr was mocked and widely criticized, and the plans were lost for decades until finally ending up in the visionary hands of the REMI Companies.
Taking van der Rohr's design and applying 21st Century building knowledge and materials, the REMI Companies proceeded to make "Velocitus," with the help of precast building systems, a reality. The structure itself, renamed in English "Velocity," consists of twin, four-story buildings which use precast plank for floors and ceilings, precast components for walls and thin brick precast wall panel exterior facades. The roof line, window frames and entrances all use ornamental precast accents. The components were manufactured in Pennsylvania by Oldcastle Precast Building Systems, Inc. and transported to the Hoboken site. Precast not only accelerated construction from months to weeks per structure, but it also allowed the structure to go together easily. "It's like using an erector set," as Erik Kaiser, the founder of the REMI Companies puts it. The factory-made precast wall panel components were so precise, the contractor literally dropped the windows into the special treated lumber openings, which were cast into the concrete, for a near perfect fit. It was the precision of precast components and the fact that precast can be erected in almost any weather that allowed the project to move forward, completing the first 4 story structure in just 5 weeks, and the second twin building took only slightly longer.
Velocity Condominium Complex, as Robert Armando puts it, "Precast is a full featured product for the luxury housing market. The pricing was right, and the quality control was better than we could have achieved onsite." Armando also pointed to sound attenuation as a prime factor in choosing precast. "We achieved an STC (Sound Transmission Class) rating of 55 using 12" hollowcore plank as part of our floor assembly, and with precast, the interior of the structure has 40' clear spans with no bearing walls. That makes customization of the individual units very easy," adds Armando.
It's taken over 100 years, but van der Rohr has finally been vindicated. His architecture stands as a testament to timeless design thanks to a twist of fate, visionary builders and the versatility of precast components.
Photography: Courtesy of ©Equus Design Group (Completed Buildings)
Courtesy of ©Oldcastle (Construction)