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Doka’s Formwork System Achieves Pristine Architectural Concrete Finish on University of Pennsylvania Campus 

As more and more building owners begin to embrace the architectural possibilities of concrete, achieving a high-end concrete finish has become a top priority on many job sites. Such is the case on a mixed-use student housing project currently under construction on the University of Pennsylvania campus, where the exposed concrete on the 14-story structure demanded an impeccable finishing job. Although “architectural concrete” or “fair-faced concrete” have been coined as the accepted verbiage to describe such a pristine finish, there is still some discussion about the best way to achieve it. In general, most concur that success is tied to three main variables: a proper formwork system, the right concrete formula and the care that is taken when pouring the concrete and stripping the forms.

With the first of these concerns in mind, B. Pietrini & Sons, the concrete contractor for the 350,000-square-foot Walnut Street 14-story housing project, turned to Doka USA to provide a variety of formwork solutions. Before the project began, planning efforts focused heavily on form design and layout to make sure the architectural details of the structure could be constructed without a hitch. Because the concrete exterior will be left exposed once the project is complete, it was paramount to select formwork that would aid in this quality of finish. All of Doka’s formwork systems allow the contractor to specify any type of form facing and tie-hole pattern, meaning that B. Pietrini & Sons was free to choose the option that would give the best finish. 

“Because of the design intent, the quality of the finished concrete really matters in this project. That is why we chose Doka to supply the formwork for this project because we needed extensive engineered drawings, good quality equipment and on-time deliveries,” stated Mike Vail, Project Manager, B. Pietrini & Sons. 

The architectural concrete motif also can be found on the building’s interior as the architect designed 36-foot diagonal beams constructed using exposed concrete as a main feature. The main floor of the project, which is 36 feet in height, will be used for commercial and retail space. However, not all of the building’s levels were the same height—four of the 14 floors varied in height up to 36 feet. Framax Xlife was used to form all of the columns on these floors. 

The special pattern of holes makes Doka’s Framax Xlife panels ideal for the economical forming of outside corners, wall connections, bulkheads and columns. According to John Podkrajac, Doka Account Manager, Framax Xlife provides an exceptional finish and the strong clamping system was well suited on this project for the 39-foot-plus pours. The columns for the remaining 10-foot floors were formed using the lightweight Frami system, while the shear and core walls were all formed using Top 50 large-area formwork, along with MF-240 climbing platforms, which were mounted on all of the exterior walls to ensure safe working conditions. The main entrance of the building is set off by two V-shaped columns, which were also formed using the Top 50 system. The Top 50 modular gang form system is constructed out of standard parts that can be assembled in any configuration for a wide range of applications. Shape, size, tie pattern, and plywood can be adapted to suit your jobsite requirements.

Work began on the project in February 2007, and the use of the Doka formwork has helped accommodate the relatively tight construction schedule—the Top 50 forms were pre-assembled and delivered to the site, and the ease of erection for the Framax and Frami formwork (both of which can be assembled using just a hammer and two lightweight clamps) helped produce quick cycling results for the columns. When it is completed in 2008, the building will house ground-level retail space, a mixed-use mezzanine level and 11 floors of student apartments for Penn students.

About DOKA 
With nearly 50 years experience in formwork engineering, DOKA serves customers in more than 35 countries and has participated in construction of some of the world’s best known structures including the world’s tallest skyscraper (Burj Dubai), the Hoover Dam Bypass bridge, along with many other projects of all sizes. From wall and slab formwork systems to automatic climbing technology and superior safety solutions, Doka can deliver any type of formwork needed for residential, industrial, commercial, transportation, infrastructure as well as stadium and sports arena projects. For more information, please visit www.dokausa.com, or call 877-DOKA-USA.


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