In Yarmouth, ME, community growth and the influx of students facilitated the need for school expansion of four separate school districts. The educational facilities at Yarmouth Elementary were in good condition but the limited capacity became more noticeable in recent years. As part of a larger initiative to expand capacity, this project renovates the existing structure and expands the school by 50,000 square feet.
Inspired by Maine's natural beauty, the Architect on this project, Harriman Associates intended to include figurative architecture in the design, utilizing trees and birds to add visual interest to the façade. To achieve the creative façade, precast concrete wall panels with Graphic Concrete® were manufactured by Strescon Limited.
Strescon Limited manufactured and installed 33 architectural precast wall panels featuring Graphic Concrete® at Yarmouth Elementary School. The panels feature four unique graphic concrete designs; two birch tree patterns and two geese patterns that reflect the school's natural setting. The patterns chosen for this project were selected from the Graphic Concrete catalog, however, almost any image or pattern can be imprinted on precast concrete. The birch tree pattern panels enclose the school's new music room and gymnasium entrance while the geese pattern panels infill existing doorways in the school's courtyard and around the exterior of the building.
Concrete surface deactivators/retarders are commonly used to create exposed aggregate finishes on precast concrete. Deactivators are traditionally painted onto the form or casting surface; once dried, the architectural concrete is placed. Deactivators work by stopping the hydration process down to a controlled depth, allowing the underlying concrete to cure normally, and the surface "paste" to be washed away, leaving an evenly exposed finish. Graphic Concrete® was developed in Finland and improves on this process by providing an efficient way to produce a patterned concrete surface.
Strescon provided Graphic Concrete® to accent precast stair elements on a previous project, however, this is the first project that Graphic Concrete® provided the full surface treatment of precast wall panels.
The patented technology involves applying a surface deactivator to a special paper (membrane) of the pattern or image desired, with almost no limitations. Strescon worked closely with the Graphic Concrete team to ensure the appropriate deactivator was selected based on the concrete mix. Once all the parameters were determined, the images were printed onto rolls of the membrane. The printed paper is cut using the provided cutting guides and placed in the form. There are numerous ways to ensure a perfect result when using graphic paper, however, Strescon opted to fabricate a vacuum table at their plant. The vacuum table would be similar to an air hockey table, except that the circulation air would be reversed, causing suction through holes in the form's surface that would hold the paper in place during casting. The final product showed a stunning contrast between the black sand and white cement in the panels, resulting in detailed patterns that brought the designs to life.
Project Architect Harriman, "views every project as an opportunity to enhance the well-being and experience of our communities." Utilizing this approach combined with the unlimited capabilities of precast concrete, Strescon Limited, and the design team collaborated to create the imaginative, nature-inspired façade that reflects Maine's natural beauty as well as the creative minds of the children who attend Yarmouth Elementary School.