Most people think of hospitals as the place you go when you are sick or injured. But what if these healthcare centers became destinations for wellness, where the community could go to learn practices that would help them lead healthier lives? And if so, what would that structure look like? These were the questions that inspired the design of Texas Health Frisco’s New Bed Tower in Frisco, Tex.
The owners wanted to create a center that could act as a “health facilitator” for the community, providing better outcomes by connecting healthcare staff, families, patients, and the model of care to the surrounding natural environment. That vision was part of every decision made in the design of the new eight-story hospital, four-story medical building, and attached parking structure—including the use of precast concrete to bring it to life.
“With respect to degree of difficulty, this project certainly ranks as one of the top ten most challenging for Gate Precast Texas,” says Norm Presello, senior project manager for Gate Precast Company.
The City’s planning and development guidelines required an exterior natural masonry material for the project, and several systems were considered, including brick, natural cut stone, ceramic panels and precast concrete.
The designers thought precast concrete was the best choice; however, building officials had concerns that a precast concrete design would be perceived as a cheap-looking material. To convince them, the designers had detailed mock-up samples created to show how the natural concept and biophilia aesthetic could be manifested in the surface treatments, aggregates, mixture coloring, and patterns of the precast concrete.
After demonstrating how precast concrete could deliver the sophisticated look and feel that the city was requesting, along with considerable time and cost savings, precast concrete was accepted for the project.
Cues from Nature
The designers wanted the façade to feature natural patterns of biophilic design. The exterior skin of the building played a crucial role in telling that overall story, says Presello. “Precast concrete was selected as the best material to represent the design narrative at the pedestrian and building scale, and reinforced the overall concept.”
The design idea is expressed as a “rugged landscape” reminiscent of a dry and eroded riverbed carved into the site. Using a set of design parameters, the precast concrete producer’s integrated design and prefabrication team created a façade pattern that mimics striated rock with textured surfaces, grooved cells, and vertical fins.
The use of digital design tools increased communication and transparency between the teams, enabling an iterative design process that pushed the design concept beyond its perceived limits. It also ensured the final designs were within operational, quality, and budget parameters, and eliminated any risk of rework, Presello says. “It resulted in greater aesthetic control for the design team, more efficient production by the plant fabrication team, and ease of installation for the construction erector team.”
The final panels feature three different colored concrete mixture designs along with four different finishes, provided in a three-tiered undulating surface pattern. The 9-in. precast concrete wall sections include 2 in. of closed foam insulation, allowing the precast to perform as a mass wall system to better control heat gain in the hot summer climate. “The design pattern combined with the sandwich panel edge-to-edge insulated features gives us all a great sense of satisfaction and pride,” Presello says.
A post-project review found that the design-assist process with the precast concrete producer saved the project 2% on the precast concrete budget and cut a month from the construction schedule compared with a traditional design-bid-build project.
Presello believes these types of innovative design tools will help precast concrete producers achieve new levels of creative expression in computer numerical control fabrication techniques going forward. “We can always count on HKS to push the limits of excellence and looked forward to the collaboration and challenge on this project.”