Having seen seven of its comfort stations destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, officials at the Coast Transit Authority in Gulfport, Miss., leveraged federal funds to create new structures that improve on the existing amenities and resist storm-force winds and surge. The four stations were built with precast concrete components requiring 48 fabrication molds for each one.
This project was an excellent example of an all–precast concrete solution because it helped meet challenging design requirements, all while providing a functional and attractive building for the beach-going public. The new stations include handicapped-accessible restrooms, waiting areas, decks, bicycle racks, and covered areas for beach use (provided by the new height requirements).
The large number of molds needed to cast the 52 precast concrete elements resulted from the variety of geometries and shapes in each station. These included the hip roofs, archways with recessed trim, and walls panels with integral cornice and windows. The roofs were cast with an integral terra-cotta color and a standard water-repellent admixture that limited wayer absorption to 6% by weight and 14% by volume. The integrated roof battens feature an acid-etched finish to create a sugar-cube appearance on both front and back surfaces.
As designed, the structures will withstand 200 mph (320 kph) winds and the high loads resulting from storm surge. The surge requirements will affect only the piles and foundations, as the precast concrete structures are supported above anticipated surge levels. Upkeep will be minimal regardless of weather conditions. No painting is required, and no roofing or siding will need to be replaced if high winds occur, which often happens with other designs. The naturally-ventilated restrooms were designed to be hosed down for cleaning, so rainwater that gets inside via absorption won't be an issue.