Whole Foods, known for its sustainable foods and loyal customer base, retrofit an unoccupied commercial building into a new store in Lexington, Ky. One of the design objectives was to create a façade with a rustic feel and convey a sense of permanence in the community.
The building site had an existing shell with "leftover armatures” from the building’s prior life. Shook Kelly brought GATE on-board to construct a building around it that looked like it had some years on it and had a story to tell.
“It is a look that would have been difficult to achieve using any material other than precast concrete.”
— Steve Schweitzer
GATE Precast, Winchester, Ky.
The biggest challenge was delivering a structure with a worn appearance while delivering top-of-the-line energy conservation through insulation and new construction. The transitions of the panels and their materials had to coincide seamlessly with the color of concrete around the building.
“Through the addition of new exterior skin materials and canopies, the structure was retrofitted for its new life as a grocery store."
The use of formliners in the prefabrication process helped realize two of the building’s exterior material expressions — distressed, aged brick and salvaged barn wood.
GATE used a combination of three finishes to achieve the desired brick look. Two were used in the panels, and the third was applied after the panels were erected. Using pictures the owner provided of the desired finish, GATE’S team tried several types of tumbled brick and multiple techniques in the forming process to find a solution that delivered the look and feel without exceeding the limited budget.
They ultimately settled on two concrete mixes, with the two brick colors randomly assigned in a 60/40 split. To achieve the limewash effect, they allowed the concrete slurry to come into the mold on the corners and edges and randomly cover parts of the brick, breaking up the traditional brick wall mold.
“We were all doubting the unfinished mortar look because it seemed so sloppy,” Schweitzer says. “But once we saw the panels in place, it pulled Shook Kelly’s vision together and made the appearance so successful.”
To complement the brick, a hemlock wood liner was selected; this choice was a tribute to the wood-sided tobacco barns that were on the site prior to the project’s development. The panels were colored with gray pigment and finished with a light acid to emulate the rustic timber. Wood siding from the original barns was salvaged during site demolition and used elsewhere in the development as accents.
“The implication is that the same wood was used to form the precast concrete panels, giving the exterior a similar texture, grain, and pattern.”
To meet the energy code requirements, each panel is insulated with 2½ in. of polyisocyanurate insulation in the core.
“This allowed a quick one-step solution for the shell and a delivery of a total insulated wall system, which left flexibility for the tenant to figure out what they wanted to do inside.”
Precast installation took place in the winter, which can be especially tricky in Kentucky, where the ground may be frozen one day and thawed the next. Despite the weather, the erection was completed in 45 days.
“The advantages and expediency of precast is somewhat at odds with the “vintage” look the developer and Whole Foods endorsed for this building. Our challenge was to find a way to affect the design intent and do so within budget.”
— Shook Kelley
Whole Foods was recognized as the Best Retail Building in the 2020 PCI Design Awards.