Project Showcase: Focus on Higher Education

Precast’s Versatility Makes the Grade. With a growing number of students attending college, many campuses have found themselves in perpetual construction mode. To address this challenge and satisfy both the student and university requirements, many forward-thinking institutions are turning to precast as an alternative to conventional construction.

Institutions have been selecting precast concrete because it integrates easily with other systems and inherently provides the versatility, efficiency, and resiliency needed to meet their requirements. Precast concrete structural and envelope systems provide exceptional life-cycle performance through reduced operation and maintenance costs. Wells has manufactured more than 400,000 sq. ft. of precast for higher education projects in the past three years alone, a few example of these projects include:

  • University of Minnesota Pioneer Hall: The majority of Wells’ work was done in the expansion of the south and north courtyards, with a great deal of ingenuity put into producing the architectural precast panels to match the historical look of the building. Each panel has two windows with architectural precast frames and an intricate cornice, all surrounded by cast-in brick. The brick itself is laid in a Flemish bond, and is a blend of three brick colors chosen to best match the color of the original brick. The frames around the windows were made using 3D printed molds, and the updated look is all brought together with rollcast panels made using the tilt table in the Albany, MN production facility.
  • North Dakota State University Residence Hall: Wells produced and erected 73,657 sq. ft. of precast concrete for the NDSU sophomores’ six-story residence hall. Precast construction includes 414 members of insulated wall panels showcasing a thin brick and sandblast architectural finish.
  • University of Minnesota Athletes Village: Wells manufactured and erected 309 pieces of precast concrete for the 340,000 sq. ft. for this project; products included wall panels and stairs.  Architectural insulated wall panels boast sandblast, acid etch, and formliner finishes and features.
  • Augsburg College Norman & Evangeline Hagfors Center for Science, Business and Religion: The exterior façade of this building features Endicott thin brick embedded in precast concrete to provide the visual appeal of traditional masonry with the durability and economy of precast. Wells produced and erected 294 pieces of 10 1/2″ insulated precast panels with cast-in Versa-Brix® 3D thin brick inlay system from Architectural Polymers.

College and university campuses in many ways resemble small towns. They require offices, classrooms, residential units, specialized laboratories, libraries, parking structures, community-gathering facilities, recreational centers, gymnasiums and even athletic stadiums.  Their design and construction can become even more daunting when the new buildings must fit seamlessly into an existing campus aesthetic, be constructed without disrupting activities around them, and be ready for the new semester when students arrive back at school.

To balance all of these needs, designers frequently turn to precast concrete envelope and structural systems. Clients are finding that precast concrete components can help them achieve their goals in a cost-efficient way. Total precast concrete structural solutions offer a variety of benefits in speed of construction, quality control, elimination of site congestion, sound and vibration control, fire resistance, and other areas. Architectural precast concrete panels offer many of these benefits, as well as the plasticity to blend with any existing aesthetic style, from historic to contemporary. Precast concrete also contributes to an energy efficient envelope system, which has become increasingly important, especially as sustainable design requirements continue to increase. The material’s use is growing as well because developers familiar with precast concrete’s benefits from other projects are becoming involved in more higher education projects as states encourage public-private partnerships.

Precast concrete colleges and universities are designed and built for the future. Every educational institution demands value, durability and beautiful design for building projects. Precast offers the best of all worlds, now and for generations to come.