The award-winning Polsinelli Headquarters and Hotel Sorella project in Kansas City, Mo., almost wasn't built.
The project was originally launched in 2006 as the West Edge development. It was envisioned as a hotel with a connecting link to the headquarters of a major advertising agency, but midway into the project the contractor and developer parted ways and the site was abandoned. Three years later, the project was revived. It had a new owner, who brought a new vision and a new anchor tenant for the office building. However, meeting the demands of the new owner and tenant would require substantial rework.
Two teams were brought on board for the second phase of the project: one to tear down and redesign the office building and the other to update and complete the half-finished hotel. Precast concrete systems were used on both facades to create a unified vision that would also meet the client's cost, schedule, and durability requirements.
"When the project was faced with major challenges and changes well into construction, the modular flexibility and adaptability of a precast concrete cladding solution helped tremendously," says Dirk McClure, regional director of business development for Enterprise Precast Concrete, the precaster for the project.
The previously proposed office building featured an atrium and an office configuration that was uniquely developed for an advertising agency, but the space would not have worked for the new tenant, the Polsinelli law firm, which wanted a more traditional design, so the structure built in the first phase was torn down and 360 Architecture designed a new 10-story structure that would sit atop the already finished parking structure.
The new building features a white, acid-etched precast concrete facade that matches the hotel. The designers used an Italian-style formliner with an intricate infill pattern to mimic the Spanish heritage of the Country Club Plaza district, where the building is located.
"The plaza is very ornate with a lot of terra-cotta tile and masonry," says Sandy Price, project designer for 360 Architecture. He wanted the facade of the office building to reflect that historic context, but with a modern, durable material that would be quick and cost-effective to assemble. "Precast concrete was the obvious solution."
The precast concrete panels are also much lighter than a masonry solution, he says. That was important because the building was threaded into the foundation of the parking structure beneath it, and weight was a primary concern. "Using a precast concrete system definitely lightened the load."
The hotel was already more than half finished when the second phase began, but the designers decided that they wanted a more modern look for the facades. Rather than scrap all of the existing materials, some of the previously installed precast concrete elements were removed, ground up, and recycled, while new elements were brought on to complete the hotel, McClure says. "Through special care and detailing, the precast match was incredible, especially considering that most of the phase 1 pieces had already been installed and were in place for several years prior to final completion."
Along with meeting the aesthetic needs of the project, the precast concrete systems on both structures delivered strength and durability while still offering a lightweight and energy-efficient solution. "The new tenants plan to be in the building a long time, so they were looking for the long-term life-cycle cost savings of precast," McClure says.
That durability was put to the test well before the project was even complete when a major gas leak explosion occurred across the street during construction. It put the building to a serious blast- and fire-resistance test, McClure says. "While this tragic event was obviously not planned or foreseen, the precast held up very well, which is a tremendous testimony to the durability of the product."