Augsburg College

Minneapolis, MN

Podcast with HGA

The structure is a four-story, 136,000 sq. ft. academic building with classrooms, laboratories and offices for teaching, studying and researching science, business and religion. As the centerpiece of the University Campus Space and Master Plan (2011), this signature building – its siting, design, construction and its ultimate use by the community – sets a new expectation for the entire campus as it illustrates a sense of beauty, harmony with place, and commitment to neighborhood hospitality

The Center if Science, Business and Religion will be the catalyst for expressing the University’s aspirations for a 21st century urban campus. Connected to the institution’s core identity of deep traditions, durable faith, and inclusive and experiential learning, these guiding principles were important structural standpoints for the project.

The design of the center is based on a chevron plan that emphasizes the intersection between the scientific, business, and religious disciplines housed in the building. At the center of the intersection is a glass walled, three-story learning commons that serves as the social and academic heart of the building. A small suspended chapel on the third floor completes the top of this space.

Three full stories (and one partial fourth story) of classrooms, offices, and laboratories are efficiently organized to take advantage of natural light, respond to flexible laboratory planning needs, and offer flexibility for active learning classrooms.

The intention behind this learning center is to encourage collaboration among branches of academia. First, the building is student-centered; everything about it is meant to support learning experiences – from the formal to informal spaces.

The exterior of the building features a background of brick and glass ribbon windows, punctuated by “bay windows” that correlate to areas of collaboration inside the building. The punctuations are detailed with colored mullion extensions that emphasize the various disciplines brought together in the building and respond to the diversity of the campus and its surrounding neighborhood.

The exterior façade features Endicott thin brick embedded in precast concrete to provide the visual appeal of traditional masonry with the durability and economy of precast.  The precast producer provided 294 pieces of 10 1/2″ insulated precast panels with cast in Versa-Brix® 3D thin brick inlay system from Architectural Polymers.

The center was the focus of a successful fundraising campaign, which met and exceeded its goal of $50 million. The project broke ground in April 2016 and opened January 2018 as planned.

“The overarching design goals to integrate the architecturally exposed structural system along the perimeter of the building in conjunction with architectural precast exterior wall spandrel panels created unique design, engineering and execution challenges for the Architect, Engineer of Record and Precast Concrete Producer to solve prior to construction. The partnership formed during early design phases between these project members was critical to the overall success of the interior and exterior aesthetic.”  Jake Turgeon, P.E.  –  HGA


Design Challenges

The design team, knowing the uniqueness of the structure, included the precast team early on into the weekly design meetings.  This collaboration allowed the designer to take advantage of customizing the precast.  The open lines of communication resulted in many creative and unique features for the project.

“Some of this collaboration included a tour in which the entire design team visited the producer’s plant and mock-up samples to obtain a better understanding of the production process and capabilities of the producer.  This enabled the design team to embrace the concept that whatever they imaged, could be recreated in precast concrete to make stunning, iconic façades.” Michael Koch –  HGA

As the team was going through the design process, it was discovered that the cantilever portions of the cast-in-place floors would get in the way of the crane lines during precast erection.  To solve this, the team used precast flat slabs to create the cantilevers that were installed as the precast was installed.  This allowed the design to be more creative with the size and shape of the cantilevers.

The interior finishes allowed only 4” for the precast to connect to the structure.  If they projected more than 4” on to the structure, they would then be exposed, which was undesirable. The precaster developed a solution by using unique steel shapes and weld sizes to connect the precast to the structure. There were exposed connections in the stairs that required special design consideration to meet aesthetic requirements.

The main entrance included an interior precast soffit with the same thin brick and pattern as the exterior. This piece hung from a structural steel frame above and was installed using special fork lifts. Special thin brick shapes were used to create the 130 degree building corner at the main entry.

Even with this special angulating brick, the precaster was able to match the mortar joint color, texture and shape of the field set brick.

The number of different window sizes lead to thin precast shapes in challenges with designing the precast to handle the wind load requirements.  Special connections spaced at 48” on center were used in each panel to handle these lateral load requirements.


Project Details

A total of 34,626 sq. ft. or 302 members of precast concrete was manufactured and erected for this project. No rating systems were used.  Components included:

  • 8” solid slabs at balconies
  • 37398 sq. ft. of 10 ½” insulated walls with cast in thin brick (279 pieces)
  • 307 sq. ft. of 5” solid walls at entry (4 pieces)

The contractor selected precast as the building material due to the economies – lean construction, inherent qualities, pre-insulation wall panels, products manufactured off-site, under roof and are delivered ready to install when needed. They also appreciated the innovative process of compressed project schedules, reduced safety concerns, reduced site disruption and reduced overall project costs by requiring fewer trades for construction and fewer people onsite.

By using a precast insulated panel, we had a continuous insulated enclosure, this avoided field applied insulation at the slab edge and behind the columns.

Contractor: McGough
Architect: HGA
Engineer: HGA
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Gary Pooley

Regional Sales Manager
763.493.3625