Photos: Gate Precast Co.

“This project was an excellent example of an all-precast solution.”

Gil Heldenfels



CTA Beach Comfort Station (4 Stations)

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Having seen seven of its comfort stations destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, officials at the Coast Transit Authority in Gulfport, Miss., leveraged federal funds to create new structures that improve on the existing amenities and resist storm-force winds and surge. The four stations were built with precast concrete components requiring 48 fabrication molds for each one.

“This project was an excellent example of an all–precast concrete solution,” says Gil Heldenfels, a member of the special awards jury. “It helped meet challenging design requirements while providing a functional and attractive building for the beach-going public.”

The owners accessed programs run by the Federal Emergency Management Association and the Mississippi Emergency Management Association to fund the projects. The new stations include handicapped-accessible restrooms, waiting areas, decks, bicycle racks, and covered areas for beach use (provided by the new height requirements).

The stations feature hip roofs with different pitches, which were cast with an integral terra-cotta color and a standard water-repellent admixture that limited wayer absorption to 6% by weight and 14% by volume. The integrated roof battens feature an acid-etched finish to create a sugar-cube appearance on both front and back surfaces.

The large number of molds needed to cast the 52 precast concrete elements resulted from the variety of geometries and shapes in each station. These included the hip roofs, archways with recessed trim, and walls panels with integral cornice and windows. Plumbing and electrical chases were cast into these roof and wall panels to eliminate any exposed conduit.

As designed, the structures will withstand 200 mph (320 kph) winds and the high loads resulting from storm surge. The surge requirements will affect only the piles and foundations, as the precast concrete structures are supported above anticipated surge levels. Upkeep will be minimal regardless of weather conditions. No painting is required, and no roofing or siding will need to be replaced if high winds occur, which often happens with other designs. The naturally-ventilated restrooms were designed to be hosed down for cleaning, so rainwater that gets inside via absorption won't be an issue.

“Precast provided the durability and the resiliency to sustain this design concept in the future and help the owner meet its need for comfort stations while still withstanding all the environmental conditions,” says Jeff Carlson, a member of the special awards jury. “Durability was very prevalent to avoid future repairs. Using a total-precast structure gave them the ability to avoid that maintenance on a regular basis.”

Location: Biloxi, Miss.
Owner: Coast Transit Authority, Gulfport, Miss.
Architect: Eley Guild Hardy Architects, Biloxi, Miss.,
Engineer: Simpkins and Costelli, Gulfport, Miss.
Contractor: Roy Anderson Corp, Gulfport, Miss.
Precaster: Gate Precast Co., Hillsboro, Tex.,
Project size: 20,000 ft2 (1,900 m2)
Project cost: $4.8 million ($1.2 million per station)