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TCA Announces Winners of International Design Competition: TCA/PCA Storm Housing 2007

By: Amy Numbers, Constructive Communication, Inc.

The Tilt-Up Concrete Association (TCA) has announced the winners of “TCA/PCA Storm Housing 2007,” an international design competition. Students in the field of architecture, currently in graduate or undergraduate programs, were invited to present conceptual designs for a storm-resistant housing complex located along the Gulf Coast using site cast concrete Tilt-Up panels for their shell components.

The competition sought to challenge entrants to creatively solve the problem of replacing large volumes of single-family housing for lower income levels in Biloxi, Miss. – one of the regions hardest hit by recent hurricanes along the Gulf Coast. Entrants were encouraged to present prominent, architecturally significant design solutions for housing units that could be placed in new rebuilt communities that provide measurable improvements to long-term durability.

“We were overwhelmed by the amount and quality of the responses,” noted Jim Baty, Technical Director of TCA. “Bringing their ingenuity and new ideas to the table, these talented students responded to this challenge of creating storm housing in a way that many in the Tilt-Up industry may not have been able to envision.”

In all, 141 students and faculty from 30 colleges and universities (both national and international) registered for the competition, and a total of 56 entries were received from six different colleges and universities including Alfred State College, University of Maryland, University of Utah, Howard University, University of Miami, and WAPB – Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning in Bialyastok, Poland.

All entries were judged by a four person panel including Jim Baty, Technical Director of TCA, Ed Sauter, Executive Director of TCA and practicing architect, R. Glen Stephens, Principal of Stephens Architectural Associates, and Alan Wilson, a registered architect and vice president at The Haskell Company. The following criteria were used to evaluate the submittals:

  • Creative use of the design concept in overall solution,
  • Application of the Tilt-Up construction method, and
  • Appropriateness of response in the context.

Judges were extremely pleased with the submittals. “The creativeness and imagination of these future architects and their designs was quite amazing,” said Glen Stephens. “The solutions reflected the wide possibilities available through Tilt-Up concrete in a residential project.”

In addition, Alan Wilson stated, “All the entries illustrate the inventiveness of the students, the variety of form that Tilt-Up allows, and the continuing evolution of Tilt-Up as both a construction technique and aesthetic response to design challenges.”

The first place winner was Jonathan McKearin, a graduate student in architecture at the University of Maryland. His proposed solution carefully responds to both the tragic disaster that precipitated the need for new housing as well as the intrinsic nature of Tilt-Up concrete construction. The design strategy utilized individual townhomes that are articulated by overlapping, interlocking volumes of bold color with each volume constructed with interlocking concrete panels. Through the tectonic expression of interlocking planes and volumes, the project quietly speaks to the role of each individual in the composition of a diverse, integrated community while figuratively enabling the members of the community to reassemble their lives.

Entitled “Putting the Pieces Together,” judges noted that this project followed its title. This project was selected as the winning submittal for the overall design and completeness of the presentation, including street elevation, wall section, panel layout, and nicely scaled and articulated third perspective – all reinforce the very strong design concept. Further, the concept of puzzle pieces was used literally in the presentation as a metaphor for Tilt-Up pieces being assembled into a building and figuratively as the people of the Gulf Coast putting the pieces of their lives back together.

Submitted by Ritsaart Marcelis from the University of Maryland, the second place project attempts to address the housing problem created by Hurricane Katrina through the use of Tilt-Up panels in combination with recycled steel frame walls, floor and roof assemblies. Specific design features of this submittal include the home being raised above flood level, 20 units on the site that are equally spaced, various customizable options and deep overhang to shield south exposure from sunlight in the summer. This project employed a “Card House” concept. Judges noted that the designer skillfully utilized the “cards,” creating an aesthetic which is both well considered and undeniably Tilt-Up. Further, they commented that while there are many ways to design “Storm Housing” using Tilt-Up, this is a well-executed solution that is clearly and unabashedly Tilt-Up.

Demonstrating a detailed understanding of the geographic area, the third place project features porches, a driving force to creating neighborhoods in Southern communities, created from elevated piano nobile. Submitted by Artur Marques Kalil, a graduate student from the University of Maryland, the homes
sit on “stilts,” which allows for a safety buffer from storm surges yet still allows the ground floor to be used for porch and garage area. Decorative punched openings in the ground floor utilize the design freedom that Tilt-Up affords while providing ventilation. The panels encasing the staircase are stabilizing structures perpendicular to large panels on sides of the house. Judges noted that this was a simple but elegant solution for storm housing that is essentially a modern adaptation of the traditional two-story front porch. The simplicity of the solution also makes it a realistic design response to replacement for the region.

“Clearly, one of the key factors in the quality of the work received this year as well as the number of projects awarded recognition was the involvement of the faculty. The commitment to curriculum participation made by Deborah Oakley at the University of Maryland and the professors from Alfred State College – Jeffrey Johnston, Michael Chisamore, Rex Simpson and Richard Carlo; made this design opportunity real for their students,” stated Baty.

Honorable Mention

In addition to the top three projects, nine additional projects received the honorable mention distinctions. Of the nine honorable mention projects, five were from Alfred State College and four were from the University of Maryland.

Two key themes were found in the design submitted by Brennan Drake of Alfred State College – minimize flood damage and green design. His plan utilizing Tilt-Up construction was made entirely out of metal, concrete and ceramic, which eliminates mold hazards in the structure if flooding occurs. In such an event, the structure would remain undamaged, with the exception of broken glass and water damaged furniture. Also, realizing that millions of trees are cut down each year to build wood frame houses, building with concrete creates intrinsically sustainable structures and allows a great percentage of forest to be untouched.

In her extensive research of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, Sara Berg of Alfred State College recognized that low-mass, wood-frame buildings and houses did not stand up to the hurricane’s deadly forces and subsequent flood waters. In her design, she utilized Tilt-Up construction to provide a more sturdy structure than the traditional wood frame. She also lifted the structure on concrete stilts, which served two purposes: 1) reduce the likelihood of flood waters from reaching the residential main floors, and 2) improve ventilation, which is greatly needed in a hot and humid climate like Mississippi. She also designed a rounded, streamline roof that allows the wind to blow over the structure and set back windows in concrete with strong external opaque shutters that can be pulled down from inside when an impending storm approaches.

The central themes of the design by Jason Cheung and Robert Sanz of the University of Maryland were elevate, enhance, protect and rescue. They designed a stand-alone residential building using Tilt-Up construction in order to provide a more stable structure capable of withstanding hurricane forces. Their plan included a structure raised 12 feet above the ground to protect the residents from flood waters. In addition, columns working together with tilted envelope walls allow for a raised first floor which elegantly displays the possibilities of Tilt-Up design. Finally, a rooftop courtyard doubles as a peaceful getaway during pleasant weather or a helicopter rescue site in times of emergency.

Structural integrity, speed of construction and aesthetic finishes were addressed in the design by Jake Haggmark of Alfred State College. His submittal included a precast concrete roof sitting on Tilt-Up concrete walls, which allows wind to travel above the home rather than pick it up. The issue of housing many people quickly led to the development of duplex structures using two different layouts to accommodate a variety of family sizes with a Tilt-Up partition wall between units to increase the rigidity of the building. Tilt-Up construction also allows for many different external finishes to be applied expressing individualism. Further, stucco in a variety of colors is ideal because it helps preserve thermal mass, can be applied quickly, and is weather resistant.

Concrete is often regarded as a cold and rigid material. However, Matthew Abrams of Alfred State College was able to use Tilt-Up construction to manipulate the form and shape of his design to provide a residential feel instead of poured walls that form a box. His design consisted of punctures that formed atrium spaces, which allows natural light to fill the residence as well as provides for a separation of public and private spaces with the use of different levels in the home. Fin walls that protrude out of the front façade allow privacy and protection from wind.

Ryan Berry of Alfred State College researched Tilt-Up construction prior to developing his design for the competition. Realizing that Tilt-Up was a diverse way of building with many possibilities, he gave his buildings strong vertical features that evoke a sense of strength and stability in an unstable region. The design also included outdoor living areas, which are a necessity in the warm climate of Mississippi. Through his design, he dispelled the misconception that concrete is not an aesthetically- appealing option for residential environments.

Three main ideas are instrumental in the design by Beret Dickson and Jonathan Healey of the University of Maryland. First is the idea that entire neighborhoods need to be rebuilt, and quickly following a tragic event such as Hurricane Katrina. The team developed their new area with Tilt-Up construction incorporating an efficient system of crane distribution and form pouring for rapid structure development. The second idea was that the new living areas need to be a cohesive combination of comfort and security. Elevated two-story single-family units were modeled from the Creole tradition with deep front porches and an upper level private retreat. Finally, the team wanted the neighborhood to be a place where the residents could reflect on their past, but look forward to a bright, secure future.

Biloxi House 1 is the design of University of Maryland students Lisa LaCharite and Farzam Yazdanseta. The flexible prototype has elements that can be adjusted to fit different lot conditions and/or resident needs. The design includes decking that stands 8-foot above ground level and oriented longitudinally north and south pointing toward and away from the coast parallel to the procession through the space. A large porch near the water is designed to increase the living space by bringing the “indoors out.” Columns under the porch support the load and provide an open space beneath the house for sheltered outdoor activities.

Yathim Leung of the University of Maryland utilized Tilt-Up construction as an efficient and economical solution to providing housing for thousands of displaced residents of Biloxi, Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina. The design included 3,640 square foot duplex housing units with outdoor living space for family activities.

TCA presented the awards to the 12 winners at the Annual Convention on the University of Maryland campus in College Park, Md. on Oct. 5. All the entries were on display at the Convention to share the insight of these students with the Tilt-Up industry’s top professionals.

“As judges, we reviewed these projects in a vacuum, not able to relate entries to a particular student or university program,” states Baty. “What was quite evident once we concluded our results is that two programs placed an emphasis on this opportunity with their students and greatly enhanced their knowledge of the systems and the applications. Alfred State and the University of Maryland are to be commended for this additional effort.”

Based on the overwhelming positive response to this year’s contest, TCA and Portland Cement Association (PCA) have announced that they will sponsor an annual competition with similar dates for submittals next year. The information on the 2008 competition will be made available in late December or early January.

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TILT-UP TODAY, a publication of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, is THE source for Tilt-Up industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the Tilt-Up industry. A subscription to TILT-UP TODAY is included in a TCA membership. Subscriptions for potential TCA members are also available. If you would like to receive a complimentary subscription to the publication, please contact the TCA.