Rugged. Beautiful. Sustainable. Reliable. These are all words that can be used to describe the new Douglas L. McCrary Training Center on the Gulf Power Pine Forest Road campus in Pensacola, Fla. The owner of this brand-new corporate training center wanted a structure that offered open flexible spaces, but it also had to be durable enough to serve as an emergency operations center for the utility when high-powered hurricanes and other storms blow through town. To meet the emergency operations center requirements, the building does not just have to withstand the impact of 200 mph (322 km/hr) hurricane wind loads. It needs to remain functional and usable immediately following the weather event. That’s one of the many reasons the team chose precast concrete, says Bob Cordes, facility manager for Gulf Power. “We liked the strength and the sustainability attributes that precast concrete brought to the project,” Cordes says.
The precast concrete design was able to meet the stringent performance requirements of the structure while providing an aesthetically pleasing, sustainable final product at an affordable price point, says Ben Townes of Townes + Architects. It would also help the building achieve LEED certification, which was another priority for the utility company. “The use of precast concrete was instrumental in achieving LEED points,” Townes says. The precast concrete components were manufactured regionally, and they both include recycled material and are fully recyclable,” he says. “Precast concrete also contributes to overall sustainability of the project by providing durability and reducing maintenance.”
The use of precast concrete double tees brought both a long-span capability and exceptional strength to the building. Reducing the number of interior columns and beams needed provided open, flexible interior space, Townes says. “It is an efficient use of the structural material that both lowered cost and improved erection times.”
That was key as the owner had a short time line for the project to have it ready for the coming storm season, he says. “We were able to leverage speed of construction with precast.”
The requirements for impact resistance of the walls and roof during a major weather event were met by using solid precast concrete wall panels and the double-tee roof structure. The wall panels are one piece from foundation to parapet, which reduces the number of joints and weak points that make conventional wall construction more susceptible to failure in high lateral load events, says Adrian Lovell of PTAC Consulting Engineers. “Eight inches of solid reinforced concrete has a natural and inherent capability to resist the forces of high wind and protect the occupants from windblown debris.”
The designers also added series of unique angles and forms to the exterior of the building to protect openings from windblown debris, and to add stiffness and the additional strength of a folded plate. “The angles created natural recesses to tuck in the window openings,” Lovell says.
That all lead to a beautiful, sustainable, and incredibly durable building. “This project is a real feather in our cap,” Courdes says. “It meets our sustainability goals, and we know that it will survive even after a major storm.”