To guide the process, Wells gets involved early in a design-assist capacity, typically during preconstruction, to determine achieved architectural aesthetic as well as discuss optimal panel widths, dimensions and configurations to optimize componet costs and accomplish project-specific design goals. (See Preconstruction and Design)
Efficient and Faster without Losing Quality
In the long run, precast designs are more energy efficient and require less maintenance. That translates into lower long-term costs and a minimized carbon footprint for the school system. The focus on sustainability, however, often begins long before the school is built. To meet its own sustainability goals, Wells will often use locally sourced materials to shorten transportation distances, reduce the cement content in its precast by using sustainable limestone, and incorporate a variety of insulation types in its panels to prevent energy loss.
But perhaps prefabricated concrete’s most attractive attribute when it comes to K-12 design is its speed of installation. Once the panels arrive at the site, construction happens quickly, playing well into the fast-paced schedule of a typical K-12 project. A fast enclosure time is particularly helpful where there are seasonal variables to consider as well as the academic calendar at risk. With the building in place, trades can continue working in even the most extreme hot or cold climates. That, in turn, provides the project team with greater control over the schedule and a safer work environment.
During the recent construction of an over 195,000 sq ft K-12 school, Wells overlapped the design, production and erection phases to reduce the overall project schedule from the 55 weeks originally figured in the initial project schedule to 40 weeks. The contractor on the project performed a study and by comparison, it would have taken approximately over 80 weeks had the same work been done, with masonry, steel and a traditional workforce. In the end, 705 precast pieces were set in just13 weeks, allowing the school to open in time for the fall semester.
This speed and time savings is achieved along with enhanced quality control. Wells manufactures its panels within six PCI-certified locations across the U.S., with most of its products poured indoors where temperatures and the environment are easily regulated.
A Safe Place
To meet the current ICC 500 building codes, prefabricated building solutions are increasingly being turned to for storm shelter designs. It’s seen as a practical and efficient way to achieve the “ICC 500 Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters;” supporting this demand, Wells has worked on more than 80 such shelters in just the last ten years.
ICC 500 isn’t new. Officially adopted in 2014, if required the standard mandates that public funded projects include an adequately sized on-site storm shelter capable of withstanding wind speeds of up to 250 mph. That’s obviously important in an educational setting, keeping children and occupants safe and functioning as overflow for the community during disasters. These high-occupancy buildings are designed for a minimum occupancy time of two hours, and equipped with ventilation, fire and safety measures, sanitation and lighting. And as an added benefit, precast is naturally fire resistant.
Wells takes the design of these structural systems seriously. Our in-house engineering team ensures that the design of the building envelope is strong and durable enough to provide adequate protection from flying debris. We also address the danger of uplift with enhanced roof strengths and modified wall panels that can withstand increased wind pressures.