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Embedded Enterprise

ARCHITECTURAL PRECASTER TIMES TEXAS SATELLITE WITH MARKET FLOURISH

By Don Marsh

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John Arehart is Vice President and General Manager of Enterprise Precast’s Omaha and Corsicana plants.
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Corsicana Plant Manager Scott Davis arrived at Enterprise Precast after tours of duty in Tennessee and California concrete operations.

A diversified economy and population growth are tempering the effect depressed energy prices would traditionally have had on the Texas construction market, where commercial building work held strong this year on the heels of surging 2013–14 activity. One of the most recent arrivals in architectural precast production, Enterprise Precast Concrete of Texas, LLC, is set to close out a year when historic rainfall totals—40 inches or more in some central and eastern parts of the state, or four times their normal annual precipitation levels—were as disruptive as oil dropping to $40/barrel.

As the commercial market showed signs of sustained recovery from the recession, Enterprise Precast eyed Texas for a satellite to its Omaha, Neb., headquarters plant, and a companion to a Dallas-based sister business, Enterprise Concrete Products LLC, specializing in structural prestressed for highway and rail markets, as well as parking structure frame members. A suitable, 15-acre site fronting Interstate 45 afforded Enterprise Precast a 24,000-sq.-ft. building with a 25-ton overhead crane used less than a year for steel fabrication. Located in Corsicana, the property is about one-third the way down I-45 from Dallas to Houston.

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Well tuned to embedded brick panel production, Enterprise Precast has made a fast start at the Corsicana plant, tackling a mammoth, two-phase contract for the reconstruction of Kyle Field at Texas A&M University, College Station. Work spanned 311,000 square feet of panels with General Shale Thinbrick, plus 35,000 square feet of acid etch finished product.
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A three-day series of events surrounded the 2015 football season home opener and rebuilt stadium dedication, during which Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp observed: “Kyle Field projects a message not just about football, but about the overall excellence of our great university.”
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“We have a great customer base, and after many years of folks urging us to come to Texas, we decided to put our business model to work in a new region, and the timing fit perfectly,” says Tom Egan, Jr., president of Enterprise Properties, Inc., Omaha.

“Based on a 400-mile market radius for an architectural precast plant, this site gives us minor overlap with Omaha, and allows us to serve key areas of Texas and the Gulf Coast,” adds Enterprise Precast Vice President and General Manager John Arehart, responsible for the Corsicana and Omaha operations. “When building and site preparation started in Texas, we were looking at around 600,000 square feet of panel output annually. Less than a year into production, we realized that target could have gone higher.”

Plans were set in motion to add 200,000 square feet of output capability, now scheduled to come on-line in 2016—three years after Corsicana crews finished their first panels. Enterprise Precast’s Texas ramp up extended to six months due to plant equipment lead times and foundation work that included a skip hoist and aggregate bin pit. In the first year, the producer drew a handful of team members seasoned in precast production from Nebraska, Florida, Indiana and California; local recruits were mostly new to concrete or construction. Headcount climbed from 30 initially to more than 60 by 2015.

Enterprise Precast has brought Texas more than basic architectural panel capability. It specializes in sandblast finishes, embedded thin brick and acid etching—the latter technique available in Dallas, for example, but rarely seen in a market like Houston. Competency in embedded brick panels serves a Lone Star State architectural precaster well. Masonry is especially strong thanks to commercial and residential building design customs, Texas geology and, more recently, widely adopted ordinances from municipal authorities mindful of the aesthetic shortcomings typifying buildings enclosed with materials other than concrete or clay. Tight schedules on certain multi-story building contracts calling for masonry exteriors can make embedded thin brick precast panels the only option.

EARLY SCORES

Hospital, data center, university project activity, along with office buildings for insurance underwriters and other businesses, underpin Texas’ healthy commercial construction outlook. Enterprise Precast has observed the flourish from Nebraska and the Enterprise Concrete Products perspective. The Omaha and Dallas plants’ track records positioned the company to commence Corsicana production on projects involving architectural/engineering/construction leaders Gensler, HKS, HDR and HOK plus Austin Commercial, Balfour, Beck Group, Hensel Phelps and Manhattan Construction.

The new plant opened with an order log including two contracts representing more than eight months’ capacity: Kyle Field at Texas A&M University in College Station, calling for wall and spandrel panels, plus column cover pieces, totaling 346,000 square feet, much of it embedded thin brick; and, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston’s $438 million, 316-room Jenny Sealy Hospital, requiring 90,000 square feet of architectural precast.

“Kyle Field reconstruction took place over two phases, with portions of the old stadium demolished at the close of the 2012 and 2013 college football seasons,” notes Corsicana Plant Manager Scott Davis. “We worked with brick supplier General Shale to meet precise color specs to ensure harmony with neighboring campus buildings. Kyle Field is the first project using General Shale’s Heritage Thinbrick.”

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The batch plant and controls support a production schedule where crews are casting panels for three or four projects at a time, tapping equipment for up to 10 different colored mixes daily. Moisture sensors located in aggregate bins and also inside the mixers provide consistent concrete with every batch. Wisconsin-based Mixer Systems Inc. programmed the complex control package that has the automated system running fluidly, and enables remote access for troubleshooting and updates.
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Enterprise Precast of Texas has six portable and six fixed aggregate bins supplying a batch plant with twin, 2-yd. mixers, charged by skip hoists. A traveling weigh batcher ensures materials are sourced to within 1 percent target. The producer uses three conventional aggregates each from Martin Marietta Materials and Big Sandy Sand Co., while Fister Quarries Group Inc. delivers the Corsicana plant exotic aggregates from all over the country. Twin silos store Lehigh White Portland Cement and Ash Grove Cement (Type I/II) powder.

Enterprise Precast attained Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) A1 (Architectural Products) Certification at Corsicana on its first project, located in Louisiana. That enabled crews to begin Jenny Sealy Hospital panel work, which required PCI A1 certification and filled an initial six-month start-up plan. Production for the Texas A&M contract, awarded by Manhattan Vaughn Joint Venture, followed shortly thereafter and continued in two phases through early 2015.

Projects since the last Kyle Field-bound trailer left the yard have included a contract for the DFW data center near Ft. Worth; it marks the launch of CarbonCast insulated sandwich panel production at Corsicana. The Enterprise Precast flagship plant is a member of AltusGroup, which licenses CarbonCast technology to North American PCI producers. CarbonCast’s C-Grid carbon fiber reinforcement is especially suited to impending building code energy efficiency requirements, as it yields a true edge-to-edge, insulated precast panel free of thermal breaks. Joining the DFW project on Corsicana’s CarbonCast order log is Granite Tower, with panel fabrication commencing in early 2016. The inaugural projects total upwards of 250,000 square feet.

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Enterprise Precast fabricated 68,000 square feet of product in multiple acid etch finishes for the 12-story Legacy Tower in Plano, Texas, designed by HKS and built by Austin Commercial. The building and parking structure called for large wall panels, window units, spandrels and column covers.
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The seven-story Preston Center office building in north Dallas was completed in the summer of 2015. Designed by BOKA Powell Architecture and constructed by Austin Commercial, its façade combines precast concrete and glass. The architectural precast is emphasized with a heavy angular band, two-tone window units, and large column covers. Enterprise Precast shipped just over 50,000 square feet of product from Corsicana for the project.
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