Schematic Design while at RDC.

Project Overview

The three-story, 107,000-square-foot San Jose Police Department South Substation includes a board room for detectives, a public conference room, a backup dispatch room, a workout area, and even a play center for the children of witnesses. The building was designed to handle administration, investigations, and preprocessing functions.

On the building’s exterior, precast concrete GFRC panels alternate with glass expanses in a staggered, layered pattern reminiscent of an old computer punch card. The design was described by AIA design judges as a “flowing ribbon abstraction.”

A grid of San Jose is displayed in artwork at the project entrance. An infrared camera tied to LED lights takes an image of people as they walk through the building.

The project is LEED Certified and has won an AIA design award. Sustainable features include water and resource efficiency, natural landscaping, and use of low maintenance materials, such as precast concrete. Precast components are also locally sourced. The project includes a green roof and storm-water management system.

Precast Solution

Exterior of the steel-framed substation is designed with GFRC (Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete) precast panels. According to Roland Byers, Business Development executive for Willis Construction, “GFRC has proven to be the most durable, versatile, and light weight solution for designs with ornate shapes, deep sections, protruding soffits, or decorative molds.” GFRC’s sprayed manufacturing process makes it ideal for complex shapes.

Typical size of the tan precast panels is 8 ft by 25 ft and the panels feature a light sandblast finish.

Designers of the police facility wanted to project a random block façade that would protrude from the face of the building to create depth and to also provide shading for the interior.

“One of the reasons we chose GFRC,” says design architect, Mallory Cusenbery, “is because of its light weight. The lightness of the panels helped us create the 36-inch-deep overhangs for what we’re calling a ‘self-shading building skin.’ This is a solar response whereby the building’s [GFRC] skin thickens where the windows below have solar vulnerability, and thins on the north side where not needed. This way, we didn’t need to rely on attached sun shades.” The flexibility of color selection for GFRC also allowed the architects to exactly match the color of the summer grasses in the nearby hills.”