Concrete Masonry Units Beat Out Precast

Photo by Travis Duncan,
courtesy of Midwest Block & Brick

The Fulton State Hospital in central Missouri is a mental health facility that consists of facilities for maximum security, developmentally disabled and rehabilitation services. Opening its doors in 1851, it is one of the oldest public mental health facilities west of the Mississippi River. Over the next 90 years, as the need for psychiatric care increased throughout the state, several buildings were constructed at the complex to accommodate the increased service. Over the last 75 years, the small rooms, narrow hallways and poor sight lines of the facilities have proven to be woefully out of date. In 2015, the Missouri Department of Health started on the path towards replacing the outdated facility.

Initially, the designers of the new $211 million project considered building the replacement structures out of modular, precast concrete sections. However, a coalition of concrete masonry experts worked together to show the design team how concrete masonry could improve the new facility. The emphasis on long-life cycle, storm/fire safety and flexibility of construction fell in line with the architect’s vision for a campus made up of buildings with a distinctive, sleek roofline.

Most of the interior walls will feature durable, lightweight block produced by Midwest Block & Brick in their Bridgeton, MO plant, approximately 90 miles from the project. The painted lightweight block can stand up to vandalism and provide lower, long-term maintenance costs. “Lightweight block does have a consistency to its texture that when painted, brings a little nicer appearance to the interior,” says Mark Wilhelms of Midwest Block & Brick.

Related Report: Evaluation of Single Wythe Masonry Energy Use with Lightweight (Smart Wall) Systems by W. Mark McGinley, Ph. D., PE

The use of lightweight concrete masonry units is also helping to keep the construction schedule on track. Given the tight timeline for the project, speed of construction was a key factor. Project masons can lay lightweight block faster than a traditional heavyweight block. Labor productivity is just another reason the designers opted to change the buildings from precast concrete to concrete block.

In the end, around 1.1 million concrete masonry units are being placed in the walls that make up the new state-of-the-art facility. The updated Fulton State Hospital opened in late 2018.

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Photo Gallery

  • Photo by Travis Duncan, courtesy of Midwest Block & Brick
  • Photo by Travis Duncan, courtesy of Midwest Block & Brick
  • Photo by Travis Duncan, courtesy of Midwest Block & Brick