The new campus maintenance center for the College of DuPage campus in Glen Ellyn, Illinois., may have been designed to be durable and maintenance-free; but when the sun sets over the newly built structure, the only thing you notice is how the highly textured precast concrete panels glow magnificently in the evening light. “This building demonstrates how beautiful a precast concrete building can be, using integral color and formliners creatively,” says Jay Johnson, principal and architectural project manager for Legat Architects.
The $9.4 million, 35,789 square feet (3325 meters squared) building would replace a pre-engineered metal building, providing the operations and planning and development staffs with a new modern center of operations that includes a large, heated vehicle storage area with mechanic bays and a wash bay, as well as shops, offices, and storage space.
When developing the design, Johnson’s team was tasked with creating a high-performance structure that would also reflect the same aesthetic expression of other student-focused facilities on each campus—all on a much tighter budget. They concluded that precast concrete was the best choice. “Precast wall panels offered both a distinctive exterior wall and a durable interior skin without requiring multiple trade contractors,” he says. That saved material costs and sped up the schedule—the precast concrete panels were manufactured in approximately 40 days, and basic erection of the panels took only one week. “The panels also provided for the sub-structure and superstructure, which allowed for steel joists and deck to be erected very quickly.”
The exterior walls facing east and west feature a natural wood grain finish, which the precast concrete producer achieved using random-plank patterned formliners and an “Indian Brown” tint. The walls facing north and south, however, are composed of non-textured, mocha-colored panels to accentuate other planes. On the east side of the facility, a large wall of this material also screens the rear yard where mulch, gravel, plants, and other campus maintenance materials are stored. The use of precast concrete for these walls not only screens the materials, but also braces the screen wall and separates the materials.
The resulting structure is beautiful and durable, and blends perfectly with the rest of the campus, Johnson notes. “This project shows how precast concrete, a material typically perceived as a solution for large, nondescript industrial buildings, can be used to create a high level of design customization and visual appeal on a modest budget.