On May 22, 2011, an EF-5 tornado tore through Joplin, Mo., demolishing dozens of buildings. The town’s multilevel hospital actually stood through the storm but sustained significant damages, necessitating its replacement. Less than four years later, a brand-new, state-of-the-art $345 million hospital has opened its doors, setting a new standard for tornado readiness.
After the storm, an assessment of the original hospital showed that while the precast concrete architectural cladding exterior on the building held, many brick and block walls failed as well as most of the glass. When the design team began creating plans for the new hospital, they started with the part of the original structure that worked— precast concrete —then they looked for ways to improve it. To achieve a storm-hardening design, the new structure included a durable exterior cladding of precast concrete, concrete roofs with hurricane-grade penthouses and fastened equipment, and high-impact glass secured by the precast concrete to increase wind loads.
In addition to durability and resiliency, precast concrete also helped with the schedule and aesthetic goals. The owners needed the hospital to be replaced as soon as possible so they could once again serve this vibrant community. And they wanted a solution that made a strong visual statement. Using precast concrete enabled them to achieve all of these goals.
The designers were pleased with the way the necessary level of storm resistance was delivered through the use of a precast concrete. More-durable high-performance facades are just the beginning of an era of large-scale structures that are built to be more impact-resistant as devastating tornadoes become more common. The lessons learned from rebuilding this hospital will likely have an impact on how owners look at designing and building hospitals for many years to come.