Façade use grows
The designers agree that precast concrete has expanded in recent years into façade panels with a variety of finishes. “There are more dollars being spent on the exterior façades to create more interest,” says High Concrete's Achilles. The spark came with Baltimore's Camden Yards, which has become the standard-bearer for recreating an old-time look. That has led to more desire for brick walls and more intricate designs.
“Designers are adding architectural precast to exteriors where it was not considered in the past, whether it is to mimic limestone or brick,” says Achilles. Using embedded thin-brick is especially popular, as it creates a masonry look without the need to find experienced labor, tie up the site with scaffolding, or allow time in the schedule for possible weather delays. Its panelized approach also speeds construction, covering large wall areas with a few crane picks.
Interior walls also are using more precast, adds Moore's Landis. “Designers like the durability and aesthetics that are provided from inside the bowl,” he says. “It makes those areas complementary with the exterior.”
Solid precast walls are being used more often as skyboxes and premium seats, according to Heldenfels. “Our components for Cowboys stadium include a higher ratio of wall panels because they want a better divider between suites,” he says. Their use speeds construction, reduces costs, and provides more durability and sound-dampening capabilities.Suites are sweet
Suites are the most dominating change from past stadium designs. “There is a fairly large number of suites going into new stadiums,” says High Concrete's Achilles. “That's the moneymaker.” These spaces often are separated from grandstand seats, even being set above the other rows rather than within the bowl.
That requires more loading requirements for the tops of the grandstands, as well as more complex forms. This makes close communication among construction team members vital.
“The geometries of seating bowls are becoming more complicated,” says Moore's Landis. “There used to be just bleacher and chair sections. But now there are all kinds of levels, and the geometry changes as you go up or around the bowl.”
Designers and producers agreet stadium designs will continue to become more complex. Professional stadiums are becoming more specialized, due to the significant differences in seating requirements for each sport (typically 45,000 for baseball and 80,000 to 100,000 for football). As owners of other types of stadiums look to maximize their facilities' efficiency, they demand flexibility.
“Seating bowls will become more flexibile to allow for different configurations,” says Landis. “Owners want to accommodate many events through retractable and removable seating.” Those designs, which Moore already is using on some projects, impact anchors embedded in the precast concrete seating units so handrails can be added or removed.
When such versatility is required on such projects, precasters will be ready to handle the designs.
“Demand keeps increasing to satisfy every professional team and university,” explains The Spancrete Group's Becker. “And everybody is looking for a state-of-the-art facility.”
— Craig A. Shutt is a writer and editor with James O. Ahtes Inc. in Chicago. For more than 15 years, he has helped produce Ascent magazine for the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute. You can contact him email@example.comWeb Exclusive
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