When Cincinnati set out to replace its police headquarters, city leaders wanted a structure that celebrated durable, sustainable design. So they create a competition, inviting a short list of design-build teams to submit innovative, environmentally sustainable plans that still met the city’s budget. “We knew we needed to pull out all stops to find the most cost-effective solutions to achieve the city’s requirements, create a beautiful long-lasting iconic structure and allow us the flexibility to build enhancements to be more competitive,” says Chad Wayne Edwards, RA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C, principal of Emersion Design, the architect on the project. “So precast was a natural fit.”
Edwards’ team designed the first free-standing, Net Zero Energy police station in the nation, which means the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site.
The design features a precast concrete façade around the perimeter of the building, which naturally allows for a highly secure perimeter, yet when used in conjunction with bulletproof glazing for secure areas, also conveyed a sense of openness, transparency, and welcome. “This is where precast was the obvious choice hands down,” Edwards says. “It just so happened that cost, ease and speed of construction, finish selection, and maintenance were added values gained by the project.”
The majority of the exterior features ironspot thin brick embedded in the precast concrete panels, over an exposed precast concrete base with a limestone-like finish, which reflects the architectural design of the neighborhood. Each of the 14 precast concrete columns in the plaza integrate an internally lit graphic celebrating the 14 neighborhoods served by the station.
One of the side benefits of the precast concrete envelope was a $4000 weekly savings in temporary heating. Edwards notes that on a record-cold February evening, even though the heat was turned off at 11 p.m., when contractors arrived the next morning, the building temperature had dropped only 5°F. “The envelope was so tight that it exceeded our already aggressive pressure targets, making the building super energy efficient.”
To meet the tight schedule, design of the precast concrete occurred simultaneously with the design of the building, allowing the precast concrete elements to be reviewed and approved for construction as the drawings were completed. The precast concrete components were manufactured during the time the permit was being issued, so that as soon as the building permit was issued, the precast concrete components were ready to be installed. Once on site, the 156 façade panels could be erected in just 9 days.
“This speed resulted in intense time and money savings, which enabled our team to come in $1 million dollars lower than our two competitors,” Edwards says. “In short, precast helped the team deliver a world class, LEED Platinum, Net Zero Energy police station to the citizens of Cincinnati for roughly the same cost of our competitors’ LEED Silver base design with no renewable energy source.”