Universal Alloy Light Press Plant

Ball Ground, GA

Wakefield Beasley & Associates; Querkraft Architects

Choate Construction Company

One look at Universal Alloy’s new light press plant and there’s no question as to why it stands out among other manufacturing facilities of its kind. While precast concrete has been widely used in the construction of manufacturing facilities for some decades, these buildings tend to be simple, utilitarian boxes with little design flair. That was the not the case with the new 110,348-ft² Universal Alloy light press plant in Ball Ground, Ga.

The design for the plant, which will manufacture high-strength extrusions for the aircraft industry, included 106,000 ft² of manufacturing space, along with a 90-ft-high bay for vertical heat treat equipment, and three 75-ft-deep pits for loading and quenching the aluminum extrusions.

The owner and design team chose load-bearing precast concrete panels to avoid weather delays during construction, and to take advantage of the superior structural advantages. They went with 12-ft-wide, full-height panels to reduce the piece count and erection duration, which improved the overall job schedule and reduced the number of trades on site.

The panels included C-Grid carbon-fiber mesh, which meant they could be insulated to meet the energy code and still be designed as a composite structural element. The panels also span structurally from the foundation to the roof structure, which eliminated the need for additional wind braces, further benefitting the cost and schedule.

But the benefits of precast concrete on this project expand beyond performance and durability. It is also beautiful to look at thanks to a façade that appears to be three-dimensional (3-D), an effect achieved through the innovative use of color, texture, and design. Painted vertical accent stripes on the panels in combination with saw-tooth tops create a 3-D illusion that the panels project in and out like an accordion, adding architectural pizzazz to this rectangular manufacturing plant.