Roberts Paideia Academy


Cincinnati, OH


Cincinnati Public School District, Cincinnati, OH


McGill Smith Punshon Inc., Cincinnati, OH


Monarch Construction, Cincinnati, OH

Project Scope

Sq. Footage:


Structural Precast Elements:

• All-precast high performance wall panels
• Double tees
• Hollow-core plank

Architectural Precast Elements:

• Precast cladding with thin brick facing
Roberts Paideia Academy
Roberts Paideia Academy
Roberts Paideia Academy
Roberts Paideia Academy

Paideia is a new philosophy in elementary education that emphasizes interaction and open discussion, and makes full use of the Socratic method. To facilitate this active learning approach, the Cincinnati Public School District turned to architect McGill Smith Punshon for a thought-provoking design that would embody the best-you-can-be vision of their flagship "magnet" school. What they got was a simple architectural statement in the International style, made entirely of precast concrete.

Precast Accelerates Construction Schedule
The new Roberts Paideia Academy started out as a steel frame brick and block school not unlike the aging facility it was replacing. However, as in other school projects on a deadline, the project team soon converted Roberts to precast cladding with thin brick facing, which would allow them to accelerate the construction schedule. Because the precast was made offsite while the foundation was laid, the switch saved weeks versus conventional block and brick. Next came a budget challenge-the district's funding couldn't support the project as planned. So, the architect replaced the thin brick precast with an acid-etched precast facade in red and beige shades. Taking advantage of precast's inherent plasticity, the design included horizontal and vertical reveals and articulation that streamlined the building and brought it a human scale. A special reveal pattern was added to complement tiles in accent areas. The project comprises several mix and finish schemes, including brown with acid wash finish, brown with sandblast finish, red with sandblast finish, and buff with acid wash finish. Using these techniques, the team achieved cost savings without sacrificing finished appearance.

No More Steel and Masonry
To take tighter control of cost and schedule, the architect pushed to take as much steel and masonry out of the job as possible. The decision to use All-Precast in a school was a first for the firm as well as the district. In addition to reducing costs and potential delays between trades, the All-Precast approach allowed for faster erection and superior interior flexibility to accommodate the many breakout rooms, debate rooms, and public speaking venues required by the unique Paideia curriculum. The All-Precast approach made it easy to achieve fire ratings, eliminating detailing and time-consuming, costly application of fireproofing. All-Precast structures are thermally efficient and LEED friendly. The thermal mass effect of concrete helps equalize HVAC operating demands, reducing energy consumption and increasing the comfort of students and staff. Building from the Precast "Kit of Parts" Any precast structure can be built from a "kit of parts" consisting of about a dozen types of components fabricated in standard and custom shapes and sizes that address a wide range of design requirements. In the Roberts All-Precast project, which High Concrete managed, structural members were subcontracted from Hollowcore Midwest Precast. The Roberts school gym is topped with precast double tees, as are the administrative offices. All of the flat roof areas utilized precast products (double tees or hollow core planks). High Concrete supplied the load-bearing High Performance Wall Panels, with an energy-saving assembly R-value of 11. High Performance Walls are single- or multi-story panels that provide an integral structure and enclosure system that can be erected economically and efficiently. The panels are insulated with polystyrene to meet the requirements of any project, and can contribute up to 28 credits toward LEED certification. Many of the Roberts school panels were replicated to further control costs in the precast factory. The exterior walls were composed of three different concrete mixes to achieve the correct red and beige shades. An octagonal music room was accented with a slightly darker shade of beige. Four kinds of acid-etch finish gave the building variety and depth. On the school interior, precast panels were subcontracted and used to create the appearance of finished drywall where ordinary block would typically be found. Precast stairs were also utilized throughout the project, allowing immediate access to all levels during construction.

Precast Planning Paves the Way to a Smoother Project
All the electrical conduit, outlet boxes, and mechanical openings for the Roberts school were cast into the insulated precast walls. This meant the project team had to bring the mechanical and electrical contractors into the project up to three months earlier than in block and steel construction. The result of this early planning was improved coordination among trades, and better communications. As evidence, the architect cites 160 total Requests For Information (RFIs) on the project, versus more than 300 RFIs for typical construction. Bad Soil Delay Cleaned Up by Precast The decision to use all-precast also proved wise when bad soils forced a change to Deep Foundation and Soil Stabilization at the beginning of construction. This delay was offset by the fast availability and quick erection time of the precast structural and architectural components, which brought the schedule back in line with adjusted expectations. Construction was completed on schedule and in time for school to open in the spring of 2007, allowing the Paideia Academy to move into the new facility while other schools moved into the existing school building as swing space. High Concrete Group is proud to have played a key role in bringing the cost, schedule, and aesthetic advantages of All-Precast to this important project of the Cincinnati Public School District. High Concrete Group LLC is one of the nation's largest precasters, the top precast parking garage producer, and a leading producer of architectural panels. Its five Precast-Concrete- Institute-certified plants serve five of the nation's top 10 metropolitan areas and 13 states from Connecticut south to Virginia, west to Missouri and north to Wisconsin.

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