Proj Overview

Project Overview

The new King Abdullah Academy in Herndon, Va., took advantage of the cost advantages and versatility of precast concrete to create an urban school that reflects the colors and architectural details of the desert.

The decision to use precast concrete in this project provided the owner with a custom appearance that met their unique needs while also giving them an extremely durable, long-lasting, low-maintenance facility that will allow them to better control long-term operating costs and help to keep tuition lower.

Precast Solution

The primary façade is precast concrete panels, with aluminum windows and curtain walls, and prefinished metal panels. Using precast concrete allowed the architects to create an exterior aesthetic that is simultaneously modern and inviting, while also expressing the unique multicultural heritage of the student body it serves.

The architects took full advantage of the design flexibility inherent in precast concrete to incorporate into the façade design many references to Arabic culture, including an agal band at the top of each story that is used in place of a traditional cornice to tie together the various parts of the building.

Creating the façade in large panels enabled rapid erection of the building envelope, which allowed the contractor to more quickly enclose the building. Being able to fabricate nearly the entire façade off-site also minimized the potential for weather delays and allowed for expediting the building construction while substantial site work was being completed. These goals could not have been successfully achieved in an economical way with any other material.


2016 Design AwardsDesign Award Honorable Mention: K-12 School Building
Project Team


Bowie Gridley Architects, Washington, D.C.

Engineer of Record

Cardno Haynes Whaley, Inc., Houston, Tex. 


Clark Construction, Bethesda, Md. 


King Abdullah Academy, Herndon, Va. 

Precast Producer

Gate Precast Company, Oxford, N.C. 

PCI Certified Erector

E.E. Marr Erectors, Baltimore, Md.

Key Project Attributes

  • Precast concrete's ability to be finely cast into intricate patterns allowed for a custom design in a cost-effective package.
  • Creating the façade in large panels allowed for quicker erection of the building envelope.
  • Precast concrete design evokes the colors of the desert.

Project/Precast Scope

  • Total cost of project: $98,000,000
  • Total square footage: 320,000 square feet
  • Create a durable precast concrete façade with custom detailing for this three-story school.
  • Project consists of 818 precast concrete pieces including spandrels, column covers, wall panels, punched windows, caps, benches, and a sign.
  • The wall panels averaged about 150 ft2 while spandrels averaged 175 ft2.