KFOR News in Oklahoma City had been broadcasting from the same location since its original building was constructed in the 1940s. The structure had undergone many additions, renovations, and updates during its nearly 80-year lifespan before the owners decided it was time for a replacement. Given the increasing size and severity of storms in the Midwest, they wanted a building that could withstand whatever Mother Nature doled out.
According to Clay Cockrill of Manhattan Construction, one of the primary design objectives for this project was the protection of the employees and their vehicles during severe weather events. “Because their weather and news teams are required to remain on-air during these events, the station ownership felt they were morally obligated to protect their employees from these storms.”
The building also had to meet tight budget and schedule constraints, and be constructed without disturbing ongoing newscasts. “The new facility was to be built on the same site while broadcasting and station operations were still being conducted,” says Chris Snider of CEC, the engineer of record. The project didn’t just need to avoid excess noise and traffic. “Careful construction and attention to existing conditions were required to prevent interruption of the broadcast signals,” he says.
The architect and CEC contacted Coreslab Structures in the schematic stage because they recognized that a precast concrete solution would help them address many of these challenges. Using precast concrete could accommodate the budget, reduce the construction schedule, and meet the “hardened structure” requirements for a strong and resilient building, Cockrill says. “All these factors pointed the design and construction team toward precast concrete.”
Shelter from the storm
The design features a 42,880 ft² studio with an additional covered parking area to protect 130 vehicles.
Precast concrete was used for structural components, including long-span-roof double-tee members that can handle downward wind pressure of 88 lb/ft² and an uplift of 115 lb/ft². The exterior finish also features precast concrete incorporated into structural load-bearing walls. The combination can withstand an EF-3 tornado, with the internal studio capable of withstanding an EF-5 tornado. Using precast concrete for the covered parking area further helped protect news vehicles and employee vehicles. “This means the station can remain on the air should a significant wind event or tornado pass over the station,” Snider says.
Cockrill notes that the precast concrete design made it easy to achieve the wind loading requirements while also delivering an aesthetically pleasing package. “Using formliners, we were able to add architectural interest to the facade, providing a beautiful building.”
Also, by prefabricating the structure and exterior panels, they reduced the construction schedule by several months compared to alternative construction methods.
The choice of precast concrete helped the construction team address a late-stage addition that might have otherwise derailed the project. After the precast concrete components had been engineered and drafted, the owner said the structure needed to support satellite dishes on the roof. Fortunately, Coreslab was able to accommodate the additional roof loads with minor modifications to the original plans.
The resulting studio offers employees an inviting and comfortable space that they know will protect them during the worst weather events. “The new, safe building allows the critical personnel to feel safe while they are working to help save the lives of the citizens of Oklahoma,” Snider says. “Not every project allows you to have such a big impact on your own community.”