Photos: Mandy Rhoden

“The precast concrete helped make this a very fun and engaging place where I would love to stay.”

Wanda Lau


Hotels and Motels

The Crash Pad: An Uncommon Hostel

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Providing an uncommon twist on the traditional hostel required an innovative approach to its architecture. Designers achieved this goal by using an all–precast concrete structural solution consisting of load-bearing wall panels and hollow-core slabs for the ceiling/second floor. The structural envelope played a key role in the facility’s ability to target LEED platinum certification, making it the first hostel to reach that level, pending a final review currently under way.

The precast concrete insulated sandwich wall panels were left exposed on the interior and feature a broom finish. Interior walls feature smooth drywall framing and were painted in bright colors to contrast with the exterior walls. Adding to the modern industrial aesthetic, the first floor consists of a solid concrete slab, while the second features a 1 in. (25 mm) cast-in-place-concrete floor over the hollow-core slabs. This created a quiet, sturdy structure on which guests frequently comment.

“The precast concrete helped make this a very fun and engaging place where I would love to stay,” says Wanda Lau, a member of the buildings awards jury. “The precast concrete helped the hostel be very minimalist but also elegant and down to earth. This project is a great example of how precast can be integrated with other materials.”

The 12 in. (300 mm) thick panels included 4 in. (100 mm) of expanded polystyrene insulation between two wythes of concrete tied together with carbon-fiber shear grid. This provided an R-value of 20. Some 26 panels, ty
pically measuring 12 ft (3.7 m) wide and 25 ft (7.6 m) tall, were erected in only three days.

The precast concrete panels were chosen because they were cost effective, were quick to erect, and offered  high-quality finishes. Also factoring into the specification were life-cycle costs and maintenance.

The panels’ thermal mass and insulation helped create a design that was more than 50% more efficient than a standard building. They also helped create sound-isolating interior spaces. This was important because the building includes a garden and pavilion, often used for nighttime events that are adjacent to private rooms. That adjacency required exceptional sound control.

Offsite fabrication of the panels allowed site work and other preparation to proceed concurrent with panel manufacture, allowing the building to be erected quickly and prepared for interior trades. Construction took only six months, with the precast concrete structure erected only two months after groundbreaking.

“What the judges liked most about this hostel was that it used the structure to help educate and inform its guests,” says Debra Kunce, a member of the buildings awards jury. “So many of the things in our buildings are hidden. By using precast, they were able to showcase it and highlight it. It’s a nice design.”

Location: Chattanooga, Tenn.
Owner: The Crash Pad LLC, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Architect: River Street Architecture, Chattanooga, Tenn.,
Engineer: Kinnaman Consulting, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Contractor: Collier Construction, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Precaster: Metromont Precast Building Solutions, Hiram, Ga.,
Precast specialty engineer: PTAC Consulting Engineers Inc., Pensacola, Fla.
Project size: 4320 ft2 (401 m2)
Project cost: $1.1 million