Precast Solidifies New Rec Center

BC Recreation Center / Photos by Anton Grassl Photography


Boston College’s new precast concrete recreation center solidifies its culture of fitness and recreation. The $127 million, 245,000sf facility provides students with a one-stop fitness destination. The four-story structure includes a 25-meter swimming pool, multi-purpose courts, an elevated jogging track, climbing wall, wellness room, yoga studios, fitness rooms, training rooms, locker rooms and other amenities.

Cannon Design’s vision of the Margot Connell Recreation Center energizes and engages students while aligning the architecture with Boston College’s Gothic style. Various pieces inside and out of the building honor that aesthetic.

BC Recreation Center

To create the space, designers needed a material that could support vast, open recreation areas on multiple floors and withstand pounding feet, dribbling balls, and other high-intensity sports.

“The structure had to span long distances over a swimming pool and basketball court while still providing adequate support to control the vibration from foot traffic and activities within the building,” explains Todd Haley with Unistress Corp. The aquatics center features custom precast concrete bents spanning 110 feet across and spaced at 22 feet on center.

Precast concrete has the ability to satisfy all of the structural requirements for the recreation center while still achieving the aesthetic needs of the high-profile complex. The structure includes two long-span precast concrete frame types that deliver a column-free space. In addition to gravity loads, the frames provide lateral force-resisting systems to satisfy seismic criteria and meet the functional and aesthetic requirements.

Restrictions on structural depth with long clear spans were constrained by the need to design for stiffness tuned in to the structure’s vibration response, and joints had to be designed to remain in compression under all potential loading. This unique situation resulted in pre- and post-tensioning not typically seen in precast products and complex reinforcement design that had to fit in a small footprint of the precast columns and bents.

The use of precast concrete was critical during construction in the winter months. The 301 precast concrete elements were erected in five months.

By making the insides of the center visible to the outside, and paying special attention to proportions, the building accommodates large volumes and meets circulation requirements. Utilizing the strength of precast concrete to stack four levels helped to achieve the college’s goals of transparency and additionally welcomes their programmatic goals.

The project team included owner, Boston College, Chestnut Hill; precast producer, Unistress Corporation, Pittsfield; architect and engineer, Cannon Design, Boston; and general contractor, Skanska USA Building, Boston.

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