by Rita Seraderian
With the increasing demand for skilled workers, there is renewed enthusiasm for vocational education and training. Businesses need journeymen and high school students are unwilling to rack up mountains of student loans. These technical and career centers frequently turn to precast concrete for its speed, durability and low maintenance. Examples across Massachusetts demonstrate how precast can play a part in the educational evolution.
DRA Architects of Waltham, Mass. utilized precast concrete concepts on four projects, creating efficient, flexible spaces that reflect the unique characteristics of each school. They have been ahead of the curve with their use of both architectural and structural precast concrete components.
Career tech schools are playing an integral part in educating and training our future workforce and precast concrete is enhancing their learning environment.
Roger Putnam Vocational High School, Springfield, Mass.
A precast panelized system met program requirements such as cafeteria, gym, library, and after-hours community access. Modular spaces like classrooms work well with precast and the large vocational shops allow for future flexibility.
Unlike traditional vocational schools, each career academy in Putnam features its own academic classrooms along with their dedicated shops. The high performance precast offered energy efficiency, durability and cost effectiveness. The panels presented unique visuals that would have been difficult and costly using other materials.
Taconic Vocational High School, Pittsfield. Mass.
The success of the Putnam project had a positive influence on DRA Architects and they selected precast concrete again for Taconic. There were similar aspects for both schools: large vocational shops, construction adjacent to the existing school, emphasis on long-lasting materials, and energy efficiency.
Taconic combines both academic and vocational secondary education. The use of the precast extended into the interior of the building as partitions in the heavy-duty shop areas. That eliminated the need for drywall and kept maintenance to a minimum. Portions of demising walls between the shops were designed to be removable.
Even though the building is not specifically designated as an emergency shelter, precast fits well into those scenarios. Multiple safety features were included in the design of Taconic and the precast components helped implement the school’s security strategies.
Wahconah Technical High School, Dalton, Mass.
Currently under construction, the new Wahconah Regional High School is slated to be open to students by the fall of 2021. Precast concrete modular construction will facilitate rapid enclosure for other trades to follow behind.
Cape Cod Regional Technical High School, Harwich, Mass.
Also under construction, the conceptual design features two wings of academic classrooms and a large space for vocational shops. Construction teams at both high schools are making rapid progress while school is not in session. Remote learning due to Covid-19 has limited the restrictions commonplace to school construction projects on active campus.
In each of the four projects, precast concrete was selected for its resiliency and to reduce life cycle costs. Precast buildings can accelerate construction time to meet tight occupancy deadlines typical of schools, reduce lifecycle costs so important to school board budgets, and provide a variety of architectural finishes vital to community and student pride.
For more info on precast school projects and to read the full stories, visit www.pcine.org.
Rita Seraderian is executive director at Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute Northeast.