Designers love the opportunity to create a building that will become an icon in an urban landscape. But when that structure also has to be built within a limited budget and timeline, on a tight jobsite, in the midst of urban commotion, it is a complicated challenge to take on.
In the case of the 13-story Residence Inn by Marriot in Grand Rapids, Mich., using precast concrete made it possible to meet all of the owner’s requirements with a beautiful, durable design. “We felt precast concrete was better suited than other systems [for this project] because of the complex geometry of the site/building,” says Robert Szantner, president of Yamasaki, the architects for this project.
The off-site fabrication would shorten construction time and reduce disruption in the heart of the busy city, while providing the flexibility to deliver a facade that reflects the original 19th-century stone structure, mimicking the limestone elements typically found around the city.
The design features curved precast concrete panels formed using a steel-based mold radius and inserts to create multiple profiles of the radiused shape. Because each form was capable of casting 5 unique shapes by adding or subtracting the inserts, the team could use just three molds to achieve 15 shapes. “The use of BIM [building information modeling] to detail the forms and pieces facilitated an accelerated form procurement process and production ticketing,” says Chad Van Kampen, design-build program director for Kerkstra Precast.
On the exterior, the first three floors feature highly detailed panels that mimic limestone, whereas the upper levels are painted structural precast concrete. The panels were preglazed to eliminate the need to install windows, and all structural connections were hidden in the pieces so that they are not exposed to the elements. The preglazing meant the construction team was able to erect fully enclosed floors as the building went vertical.
Hybrid steel framing comes to Michigan
The triangle-shaped site was extremely tight, with only one side accessible to the precast concrete erection team. To accommodate the setting, the designers chose a hybrid steel–precast concrete solution that required minimal structural members, leaving more clear space. It was the first structure in Michigan to use a hybrid steel framing system with concrete-filled beams and columns.
This decision allowed the team to use 8-in. precast hollow-core concrete elements, which eliminated the need for perimeter interior columns and maximized room area. “Having no vertical elements to impact the room layout was paramount in making this project happen,” Van Kampen says. It also gave the owner the flexibility to gut and remodel the interior at any time without affecting the structure.
During erection, space was limited so the team used a crawler crane that moved along one side of the structure. This allowed the two adjacent streets, which access a busy sports arena and several concert venues, to remain open to vehicle and pedestrian traffic throughout construction, says Ed Carey, executive vice president of G2 Erectors. “The whole design of the precast concrete building turned over faster, and trades were able get in sooner to aid in overall schedule.”
The result is an inviting structure that maximizes the building’s footprint with a durable, lasting design. “Most designers look at precast concrete as being a flat and heavy element,” Van Kampen says. “ This project, with it three different radiuses, proved that precast concrete can conform to tight radiuses, be efficient through fabrication, and provide an elegant facade.”