Innovative Facility

The University of Chicago’s new innovative facility is the Laboratory School, Earl Shapiro Hall.  Designed for children from nursery school through second grade, the learning environment is meant to be another teacher by stimulating natural curiosity and room for independent action.

The Laboratory Schools of the University of Chicago’s founding principle is to provide children with an authentic engagement to the students natural desire to learn.  The spaces that are used for their education are one of the essential parts of making this principle achievable.  In this spirit, Valerio Dewalt Train and FGM Architects were tasked to make a building for the preschool, kindergarten, first and second grade students that is authentic and sustainable.

The core design response was to make a building that starts with the classroom, creating an environment that gives the students spaces filled with daylight and plenty of access to the outdoors.  In the classrooms, gathering spaces and other teaching spaces, the practical elements of the building were left exposed whenever possible.

“If you make a choice to expose the building structure, careful control of the detailing and finish quality becomes essential.  Mid-States Concrete Industries listened to what we were asking for and was prepared to work closely with us during the preconstruction phase to set high and achievable expectations for the precast elements in the building.  How to manage the level of finish, how to transport the finished products to the site, mock ups of the finishes, and working with us on the quality control measures during the erection have all been aspects of the effective dialog with Mid-States during this project,” said Randy Mattheis, AIA, Principal at Valerio Dewalt Train.

Lend Lease brought Mid-States onto the team early for the design assist phase of the project.  Working closely with the design team the schedule was kept on track.

“The Early Childhood project was an exceptionally challenging yet highly successful project due to the extra efforts by the Mid-States team.  Mid-States did a great job with erecting the building and the quality of the precast panels are some of the best we’ve seen.  We look forward to teaming up on the next one,”  said Werner Kleidorfer, Sr. Superintendent at Lend Lease.

“Outside of the constant jabbering about University of Wisconsin football, I could not have been more pleased with the safety performance of the Mid-States team at our project.  I learned a great deal from the crews about the precast erecting methods.  Anytime I had an issue or question, there was never a hesitation, it was taken care of immediately.  I look forward to the opportunity to work with Mid-States again in the very near future,”  Martin Leik, Project EH&S Manager, Lend Lease.

The entire Mid-States team is proud to have been a part of the Lab School project.  This is a very special building being used for amazing young people.

Students will attend their first day of classes in the fall of 2013. 

Click here to view our photostream.

Rendering courtesy of Valerio Dewalt Train and FGM


My Trip to Arlington

On May 11th I, along with one of my brothers, our aunt and two cousins, had the honor of attending the burial service for my grandfather, William Koski, at Arlington National Cemetery. My grandfather was one of the most important people in my life. To see him honored in this way was very special to all of us.

After the service, we walked around the 624-acre cemetery.  The headstones, perfectly spaced to form lines in all directions, all have a story to tell.  There were nine of us at my grandfather’s service, forever blessed by his life and sacrifice.  Realizing that every headstone has a family and group of friends attached to it like ours helped me to understand how great the people that make up this nation are.

My cousin and his wife are both in the Air Force and were in uniform as we toured the cemetery.  Several groups of students stopped to thank them for their service.  This did a couple of things, it encouraged us to see that so many young people “get it”, the second thing is that it had my cousin speechless a couple of times.  If you knew my cousin, you would understand how rare this is.

As we approached the Tomb of the Unknowns there was a feeling of respect and reverence that is hard to understand unless you have been there. The changing of the guard is an awe-inspiring display of respect and honor.

As we celebrate Memorial Day this year, we will celebrate with thankful hearts for the sacrifices of so many.

-Jeremy Olivotti

Hollow Core Camber

Every time we provide a lunch & learn on hollow-core plank there are several questions pertaining to the amount of camber on hollow-core plank.  Camber is inherent in all prestressed precast products. It is the upward deflection created by the prestressed forces in the strands located below the center of gravity. Camber is required to resist design loads and in the hollow-core plank it compresses the bottom more than the top. Span length, plank thickness and design load requirements will determine the amount of prestressing force needed in the plank. The benefit of camber in prestressed precast concrete products is that it allows for longer spans, shallower depth sections and higher load carrying capabilities than conventional building materials. Large cambers resulting from long spans and/or heavy loads will affect the quantity of topping, assuming a level floor is required. Two inches of composite topping at mid span is minimal, and additional thickness at the ends of the plank may be required to maintain level floor elevations. Camber should not be specified as a design parameter.
Differential Camber
Differential camber refers to varying amounts of camber between adjacent hollow-core planks. Camber differences occur because no two planks have the same exact strength gain, creep and exposure to the elements in storage. Planks in the yard exposed to direct sunlight will experience more camber growth than plank in the shade. Adjacent planks with different span lengths will differ in camber as will those with different prestressing strand patterns.
Theoretical Camber
Theoretical camber is the upward deflection based on design parameters. It is time dependent due to the curing of concrete and can vary from actual camber on site. The ideal storage time for plank in the yard is 2 to 3 weeks. Schedule delays with longer storage time can lead to camber growth. 

If you have any questions please call or post a comment here.

Worlds Fastest Roller Coaster

For two years we have been trying to plan a family trip to Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio.  For some reason our family thinks thrill rides that make you want to cry, scream and throw up all at the same time are fun.  This year my wife took control (not that I was ever in control), set a date and told me “we are going”. So like any other broke father of two I said, “sounds good”.

A seven-hour ride in an RV with my wife, two daughters (one is a teenager), brother-in- law, his wife, my niece, my nephew, my mother-in-law and father-in-law we arrived in Sandusky.  Of course with three guys working the directions we took a wrong turn and headed into the park down a road not made for large vehicles, at least that’s what the dozen or so signs said that we passed.  The view of Lake Erie was beautiful; the look on the people’s faces standing in their front yards shaking their heads at us was not. The rest of the story of the RV trip belongs in a psychology publication.

Top Thrill Dragster = 0-120 mph in 3.8 seconds and is over 400 feet tall.
Millennium Force is the longest roller coaster I have been on.  It is ridiculously fast and has a crazy first drop.  This ride was the first time I saw my father-in-law pray.
The Maverick– A fast and smooth coaster where the first drop is past vertical, it goes through a dark tunnel and was the first ride that my 10 year old nephew rode the front car.

I thought there was no way he would ride in the front, especially since the last time we went to the amusement park we had the poor kid crying on much smaller rides.  Once we were strapped in and past the point of no return I told Zack I thought he would chicken out.  His quick response made me smile.

“I told you I was going to ride in the front with you so I’m riding in the front with you” is what he told me.  If he keeps that attitude he will be successful at anything he does.

Doing what we say we will do is a policy and attitude at Mid-States Concrete.  This attitude has helped us build great relationships and repeat business with our partners.

As for visiting Cedar Point…Do it!  Go in May before school is out and try to go on a weekday.  The lines are much shorter.  If you stay at a hotel on the property you can also enter the park an hour before the public.

The Fonz (Yes as in Happy Days)

With nearly three miles of walkway along the Milwaukee River, the existing downtown river walk is an amenity that serves as a highly used, year-round pedestrian thoroughfare.  Constructed largely of piling supported precast members and decorative panels, the river walk segments traverse a wide variety of grade differences and conditions.  The City has made a concerted effort in the last few years to address ADA compliance and accessibility issues, which have traditionally limited access to certain portions of the river walk.   The newest of the river walk improvements produced by Mid-States Concrete Industries, is a lift tower, which was designed to accommodate a traditional wheel chair lift, within a precast tower structure which protects and enhances the appearance of a standard lift unit, in an outdoor environment.

The Riverwalk project (click to view pictures) in Milwaukee, WI is a unique project in a couple of ways. The structure was erected from a barge. This took a good deal of planning between the CM, Gilbane, the precast project manager and the barge company, Gillen. The project was an important addition to the river walk area. It is used to provide handicap access between the upper and lower levels. It also has a statue of “The Fonz” in front of it.
PACE Architects chose precast over various other materials because of it’s inherent durability, flexible assembly attributes and the ability to produce detailed components in a controlled environment to achieve consistent results.  Precast planks and decorative panels gave the team the ability to produce a structure with thinner, lighter components, which still appeared “substantial” as a final product.  Additionally precast allowed for the ability to hide the metal lift structure, embed weld-plates for support of the roof system and accommodate anchoring of sunshades to the various faces of the tower.

Brian Kobasick, Architect/Principal stated: “It just made sense to opt for precast as the material that would “deliver on design” and stand-up to long term use in a public environment.”   “We couldn’t be happier with Mid-States’ attention to detail and the care and efforts that their team brought to this project.” 

R-Value of Precast Wall Panels

What is the R-Value of a precast wall panel?  The answer of course will depend on the type and thickness of the insulation.  It will also depend on the type of wall panel.  The type of wall panel can help the system perform at a greater value than the insulation itself or it can make the system under-perform significantly compared to the material value.  Understanding how the building is to be used and how it is to perform is key in determining what type of insulation and the panel type that is to be used.

In a composite panel the wythes act together.  This composite action is typically achieved with solid areas of concrete and/or metal trusses.  This can create thermal bridges in the panel, reducing its performance R-value.  The thermal image above is an example as to how this happens.  There are many cases where a panel with 3″ of extruded polystyrene is specified as R-15, but performs much lower due to the thermal bridging, approximately 60% or more.

In non-composite panels, the concrete wythes act independently.  This design is used when high insulation value is required.  The wythes are isolated by high-performance rigid insulation and are connected together solely by non-conductive connectors.  This type of panel can perform at a R-value that is higher than the material R-value of the insulation.  Companies, such as Thermomass,  can calculate the wall panel performance by analyzing the building envelope. 

The thermal performance of edge-to-edge insulated precast concrete wall panels with no or minimal thermal bridges maintains the R-values for continuous insulation as defined by ASHRAE 90.1-2010, thereby lowering energy costs.  In some climates, increasing wall and roof R-values by as little as 5 can reduce energy costs by 5 to 20%.

For more information on R-values of precast wall panels contact us about our Lunch & Learn program.

Information provided by PCI and Edward Losch.

What Do You Want to be When You Grow UP

An astronaut, a singer, the president, a professional baseball player, a professional Lego builder, a stunt man, Luke Skywalker, a DJ, a pilot, an army man, a marine biologist, a rock star, an artist, a motivational speaker, a comedian, a Saturday Night Live actor, my grandpa.  The list could go on and on, in fact it is kind of fun to remember all the different things we wanted to be when we were kids.

One of mine was to be Ozzie Smith, the hall of fame shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals.  First of all, I have always been a Cub fan but as a kid I was drawn to The Oz.  Always smiling and cheering on his team, making amazing diving plays in the field and who could forget the flip he would do before every game?  That one didn’t work out that well for me, I was pretty good at shortstop but I couldn’t hit to save my life and was only able to blame it on the bat so many times before my coaches started to figure it out.  As for the back flip, I couldn’t even do it in the swimming pool.  That didn’t stop me from trying to imitate him every time we played baseball.  It was almost like having a silent mentor.

What did you want to be?  What could get you so excited that you would pretend you were that person? Why did it seem so cool? 

Fast forward, too many years to say, what gets you excited now?  Is it the same things?  They probably bring back fond memories but do not create the drive in you they once did, although I wouldn’t mind challenging you to a Lego building contest any time anywhere.  If you have children, watching them dream is very exciting.  If you have teenagers, well, remember when they were little and how much fun that was. 

Who inspires you now? 

Post what you wanted to be when you were a kid. 

-Jeremy Olivotti