Terra-Cotta Veneer Enlivens Logan Rental Facility

Logan_CONRAC_Blakeslee_009Boston – The first-ever use in North America of terra-cotta veneer on structural precast concrete panels helped create a dramatic appearance for the new CONRAC (Consolidated Rental Car) facility at Logan International Airport in Boston.

The 1.2-million-square-foot, four-story facility provides car-rental operations (including fueling, car-washing and cleaning services) for a number of rental companies. The terra-cotta panels help create a contemporary appearance that fits with the surrounding airport facilities while also acknowledging the older brick facades of the nearby residential neighborhoods.

“The terra cotta provided the warmth and color of brick but also a modern look, as it could be used in larger pieces and different sizes that appealed more than the smaller, standard brick sizes,” says Camille Bechara, project manager and lead designer with Parsons Brinckeroff, the architectural and engineering firm on the project.

An initial plan to create a metal frame onto which the terra cotta would be secured was value-engineered when the precaster assured the team the veneer could be embedded into structural panels. That change saved approximately $1 million in material and labor costs. It also required the precaster to ensure that the panels’ structural loads would not cause problems for the veneer. The concept had been used in Germany, which encouraged designers that they could make it work.

The panels, fabricated by Blakeslee Prestress, were cast 51 feet tall, 12 feet wide, and 10.5 inches thick, with ¾-inch terra cotta sheets cut into 2- by 3-foot panels to be set into the panels. They were secured in a formliner, and haunches were cast into the panels’ reverse sides to support three levels of double tees for the four-story building.

The structure features 60- by 60-foot bays consisting of precast concrete columns and double tees. Structural H-frames support loads along the perimeter, with interior moment frames provided between columns and girders to allow column-free interiors. Erection of the 2,215 components took less than seven months.


The structure also was designed to achieve LEED Silver certification. Precast concrete aided this goal through its use of local materials and manufacturing, recycled materials, minimal construction waste, and other features. The terra cotta material also provides a noise buffer that helps minimize noise and echoes.


“We liked the flexibility that the precast concrete framing system provides to give each rental-car company complete flexibility in designing its layout,” Bechara says. “Each has exclusive rights to lay out its space and direct cars as they want because there are no columns to impede them.”




CONRAC Parking Structure


Location: Logan International Airport, Boston


Project Type: Parking structure and support facilities


Designer/Structural Engineer: Parsons Brinckerhoff, Boston


Garage Façade Architect: Fennick McCredie Architecture, Boston


Customer Service Center Architect: PGAL, Boston


Owner: Massport, Boston


Contractor: Suffolk Construction Co., Boston


PCI-Certified Precaster: Blakeslee Prestress Inc., Branford, Conn.


Terra cotta Supplier: Palagio USA, Fort Lee, N.J.


Precast Components: 2,215 double tees, girders, columns, seismic H and moment frames, wall columns, spandrels, stairs, solid slabs, and wall panels.