When the leaders of the Pan Am Games envisioned their new Sports Centre, they wanted it to be a showstopper. The new venue is the largest sport new-build project for the Pan Am Games, and the largest investment ever made in Canadian amateur sport history.
Choosing a precast concrete design helped them achieve the grand size and dramatic look and feel, while still staying within the rigid schedule and highly scrutinized budget. “The project obviously needed to be completed in time for this summer’s games; and since it is a high profile project, it was in everybody’s best interest that the budget was not exceeded,” says Mark Campbell, project manager of WSP Canada that recently acquired Parson Brinckerhoff Halsall, the engineer for the project.
The design features a uniquely pitched structure, and striking custom patterning that replicates themes from nature. The facade features sloping custom precast concrete panels that play against the counter slope of the main pool and field house to the north, and defines the edge of a new civic plaza to the south. “The building’s distinct silhouette and design was inspired by the geology of the southern Ontario landscape and the dynamic sports activities it houses.” Says David Clusiau, Design Principal of NORR limited Architects Engineers and Planners. “The custom surface pattern on the exterior precast cladding and the sculptural design of the precast dive tower were key parts in communicating this theme.”
The custom pattern featured on the facade combines a lightly sandblasted field with bands of exposed aggregate and reveals a pattern reminiscent of fissures and veins in a rock formation. This effect is reproduced inside the building with precast concrete cladding on the dive tower that features glass ceramic tiles rather than exposed aggregate to represent quartz veins sparkling in the background.
The dive tower, which was prefabricated at a remote site and then installed through the roof in pieces, had to meet precise tolerances to achieve international accreditation. “The quality of the precast concrete was such that this was flawlessly achieved,” he says.
The use of precast concrete also helped the designers achieve high-performance goals that were important to the owners. The building features a fully pressure-equalized rain screen system that is extremely durable and robust, and the siding extends above the roof plain in a number of locations to provide parapet screening around the cooling tower and generator units.
Precast concrete slabs were also used for portions of the second floor where greater ceiling spaces were required in the floor below, and precast seating was used for the competition pool viewing areas to achieve larger spans with minimal depths, Campbell says. ”The overall effective use of precast for various elements throughout the building, including the cladding, slabs, bleacher seating, and dive tower, enabled a cost-effective solution to specific design issues and provided an easy integration of the elements with the remaining structure.”