Precast Concrete Gymnasium Prototype Provides Blueprint for Urban Schools

Gym in St. Albans, Queens


The Universal Physical Education Program, launched through the New York City mayor’s office, is aimed at current Pre-K – 5 schools that lack an indoor gymnasium. The program utilizes a section of the school’s play yard to develop a stand-alone multi-purpose gym building. The architectural firm, MDSA, created a precast concrete prototype gymnasium annex that can be applied in various urban school settings with minor modifications.

A multifunctional and high-performance building envelope was required for the Universal Physical Education Program. Instead of using the agency’s long-standard concrete masonry units and brick cavity walls, the design team proposed architectural insulated precast concrete panels as the building envelope and structure.

The prototype design was customized for eight schools in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. Coreslab Structures (CONN) Inc. manufactured the precast concrete for four public schools, PS 81Q, PS 246X, PS 36Q, and PS 112K. The scope of work for each site differed depending on existing site conditions and the extra amenities desired by the client and user.

Gym in Mott Haven, Bronx

Each gym was constructed within existing play yards; therefore, a compact and highly efficient footprint of 5,724 gross sq. ft. was developed to fit within the individual sites while retaining the greatest amount of open space. The building prototype design includes the main gym space equipped with six basketball hoops, an overlaid volleyball court, an instructor’s office, storage, janitor’s closets, student and staff restrooms, and a large vestibule with coat storage. A mechanical mezzanine is above the accessory spaces adjacent to the double-height gym space.

Utilizing the aesthetic versatility of precast concrete, the architect customized the exterior precast details and finishes for each site to make the new gymnasium annexes blend seamlessly with the existing schools. While the overall building layout, including the number and location of doors, windows, and louvers remained the same, the precast mix design, brick color and pattern, projecting cornices, and trim were revised to mimic the existing school’s details.

Architectural insulated precast wall panels helped to achieve a well-sealed and high-performance building envelope that does not rely on intricate field detailing of the air and thermal barrier. The precast fabrication and concrete foundation construction were completed simultaneously, allowing precast erection to begin immediately after the foundation work was completed. High-performance windows and doors were set in line with insulation to complete the high-performance envelope, resulting in reduced energy loads and increased occupant comfort.

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