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  High Concrete Structures Delivers For Detention Center

Standing proudly in the midst of Philadelphia’s historic City Center, the new Federal Detention Center could easily be mistaken for one of the city’s grand old structures. But in fact, it is a holding facility for detainees awaiting trial or sentencing. As such, design specifications drawn up by the Federal Bureau of Prisons called for precast concrete alone with a masterful blending of strict security requirements with architectural integrity and respect for the historic locale.

The task of breathing life into those specs fell to project designer Tom Appelquist of Ewing, Cole, Cherry, Brott of Philadelphia. “In light of the security and architectural qualities desired by the owner, we worked with High Concrete Structures, Inc. to push the limits of precast concrete’s capabilities.” He explains that, aesthetically, the structure starts with a rough finish at its base created by a rubber form liner that mimics granite. Score lines and various levels of sandblasting create contrast and texture on the upper levels.

Precast concrete supplied by High Concrete Structures blended strict security requirements with architectural integrity to blend into Philadelphia’s historic City Center.Another unique feature of the structure is the treatment of the cell windows. Here, each window frame was cast within the precast panel to form a complete unit. Although each pane of glass is actually only four inches wide, the windows appear considerably wider because the precast is beveled outward from the recessed four-inch window opening.

Precast concrete was chosen for its inherent security, timeliness, and design flexibility.Overall, Appelquist cites the inherent security and timeliness, in addition to design flexibility, as factors in his selection of precast concrete over competing materials. For the project, High Concrete Structures provided 128,000 square feet of architectural precast wall panels, including 5,000 square feet of polished precast concrete.

The architectural distinctiveness of the project did not go unrecognized by the industry. The Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) named the Federal Detention Center the year’s Best High-Rise Justice Facility. In their assessment of the project, PCI judges observed that the building “does a marvelous job of serving as a security institution while still maintaining architectural interest.”

High Concrete Structures provided 128,000 square feet of architectural precast wall panels for the Federal Detention Center.The panel also cited the transition from the ground to the roof line, adding that “even the lighting attempts to break the scale down and present it in a very elegant way.” The judges observed that the center “uses the efficiency and affordability of precast to give texture and vitality to the facade for the sake of the city around it.” They conclude matter-of-factly that the structure is “one that doesn’t brutalize its surroundings by having only the cheapest kind of facade materials.”

On the contrary, say those familiar with the building, the new Federal Detention Center fulfills its sober purpose with an elegance and style fitting of its surroundings.

Architect: Ewing, Cole, Cherry, Brott
100 North Sixth Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
General Contractor: Keating Building Corporation
One Bala Avenue, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004 

Building Size: 13 floors, total 320,000 square feet.
Total Building Cost: $68,334,000 
Cost Per Square Foot: $189.24

Precast: High Concrete Structures
; Security Windows: Hope’s; 
Entrances & Storefronts: Vistawall; Flooring: Tate Access Flooring; 
Elevators: Thyssen Dover.

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