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Lorenzo de Zavala Middle School

Lorenzo de Zavala Middle School is a unique school. Designed from the ground up to take advantage of a challenging site, the school and curriculum invite exploration and discovery of the surrounding wetland by the over 900 students who attend. However, to be truly successful, the interesting design had to complement creative construction materials and techniques. Tilt-Up met both the District’s need for durability and value, and the Architect's desire for aesthetic interest and design flexibility due to the variety of forms and uses allowable with Tilt-Up. The Contractor was an integral member of the team by creatively phasing stacked panel casting and lifting of the over 250 panels to coordinate with the job, while observing the restrictions to wetland access and health maintenance regulations. The total cost of the project is $17,219,000.

The district desired a building that was economical, durable, and attractive. Tilt-Up construction allows a less expensive alternative to masonry, and is far more durable than E.I.F.S. or stucco. In fact, the designers worked with the District to provide cost savings analyses that proved the value of Tilt-Up concrete over brick or E.I.F.S. veneer. In addition, the concrete panels have a structural function, allowing the elimination of much of the exterior bay of steel columns. The District also enjoyed the fact that coated concrete was extremely rugged and can be repainted if needed. Lastly, the District appreciated the clean lines and crisp forms found in Tilt-Wall construction.

Due to very limited land availability in the area where the school was required, the District had a fundamental challenge from the project’s beginning. The District with the Design Team’s assistance had to choose between two site options. The first site option required condemnation proceedings on over seventy-five houses and property – a very costly and politically challenging enterprise. The second site option was to use the last portion of undeveloped land in the area. The second site, however, had environmental and terrain challenges making development very difficult. Ultimately the District and Design Team selected the second site due to its lower purchase price, which compensated for higher development costs, and the site's potential for a unique learning environment. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designated Wetlands and Waters of the U.S., sloping terrain, and an adjacent neighborhood limited the land available for building and staging. Exclusion zones around protected areas further restricted the Contractor's site access.

The design requirements departed from traditional Tilt-Up construction. Poor soil conditions necessitated a structured slab comprised of grade beams and double tees with a topping slab. The slab load limitations required all casting and erecting to occur off the slab. To facilitate panel casting, the Contractor constructed temporary panel casting beds primarily in areas designated for future parking and crawl spaces. To further economize on casting space, the Contractor cast the panels in stacks. Due to architectural and structural requirements, many Tilt-Up panels rested on panel ledges in grade beams and foundation walls, while other panels hung from the structure in a manner similar to precast concrete panels.

The school design uses Tilt-Up concrete to full effect. Sections of the school employ panels in various methods and forms: Some areas have traditional panels (although erection and foundation were different than typical). The design capitalizes on repeated panel sizes for economy. The gymnasium features panels over nine inches thick and thirty-two feet tall. Exterior walls at the classroom building feature panels hung from the structure similar to precast or plant cast concrete panels. In addition, site cast fins accent the exterior of the “grand stair” adding to visual interest. Several panels are internally insulated (sandwich panels). The school features a number of panels inside the building, forming accent walls at major circulation and lobby areas.

Foremost, the District wanted a school where the design and unique site contributed to children’s education. Rather than shy away from the unusual surroundings, the Design Team and District sought to embrace the Wetlands as the focus of the school. Likewise, the District developed curriculum for the new school that focused on the ecological laboratory (Wetlands) at the heart of the campus.

Reveals impart visual interest and relief to the concrete panels. Elastomeric coatings with a sand finish provide a durable finish. Panel colors of simple warm-tone shades contrast the buildings to both the verdant landscape surrounding the school and the unfinished cast in place concrete walls with a horizontal formliner patterns. Yellow accent walls highlight entrances and recall school colors.

Main banner image for Lorenzo de Zavala Middle School

Project Location

Irving, TX 75061
United StatesA


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Project Images


Project Team (TCA Members)

General Contractor:
Concrete Contractor:
Datum Engineers Inc
Nox-Crete Products Group

Project Specifics

Project Category:
Building Types:
Number of Floors:
Tallest Panel:
32 ft 5 in (9.89 m)
Largest Panel:
754 sq ft (70.0 sq m)
Heaviest Panel:
86,929 lbs (39,430 kg)