6 Examples of Great Architectural Precast Concrete Applications

Architectural precast concrete was a catalyst to innovative construction techniques that influenced processes as well as architectural design. With the ability to be formed, poured and set off-site, construction of even the largest buildings and structures could be streamlined and expedited thanks to the marvel of precast concrete. This precast innovation was first introduced in the early 1900s and has made modern architecture what we know it as today. With such a longstanding history and proof of durability and stability, there are some truly prime samples of architectural precast greatness.

Kafka Granite has been in tune with architectural precast for decades. Through this time, it has been able to innovate and aid in advancement of a greatly useful product. By providing nearly 60 colors of quality crushed sand and aggregate to create a decorative finish in exposed aggregate precast concrete structures, designers have been able to explore different aesthetics and precast concrete manufacturers have been able to depend on a reliable product thanks to Kafka Granite.

The Importance of Architectural Precast

Construction is a time-consuming and expensive venture. Especially large structures could take years of construction simply to complete the exterior. In today’s on-demand society, waiting years to complete a construction project—especially for much-needed structures such as high-rise housing or parking ramps—just isn’t an option anymore. Contractors need to work as efficiently as possible while still allowing designers to source materials that fit their vision.

Before architectural precast concrete came to the market, construction often required skilled workers to be on-site in order to tediously build forms and pour the concrete. Not only was this a costly necessity, but it also meant other work couldn’t be completed simultaneously while the concrete was setting. Precast concrete enables architectural panels to be made in large numbers off-site while other construction tasks can be completed on-site. This means buildings can go up quicker and cheaper while maintaining architectural integrity and aesthetic.

A boom of popularity in the 1930s saw an impressive number of iconic buildings being made with precast concrete. Here are six stunning examples of buildings made with the help of precast concrete panels.

Sydney Opera House

The complex design of the Sydney Opera House was possible, in part, to precast concrete. The distinctive peaked and curved roof is made up of a series of precast concrete panels that are covered in glossy white- and matte-cream tiles, which took Swedish manufacturers a year to complete on their own. Although this structure took 10 years longer than expected to complete, there’s no denying that the 2,194 precast concrete sections didn’t add to the project’s delay.

 

Pan American Building

Completed in 1963, the PanAm headquarters served as a symbol of progressive mobility in the U.S. At more than 800-feet tall, the structure was behemoth marker dividing the sightline of Park Avenue. Inspired by Bauhaus design, it was similar to other iconic buildings nearing completion round the globe at the same time. It also sits atop Grand Central Station, making it a convenient building to many New Yorkers.

 

Diego Portales University

Exposed concrete slab walls add to the natural feel of these hulking structures so to complement its natural surroundings. The seemingly sporadic placement of windows and balconies are actually expertly positioned to work with the view and travel of air for maximum cross-ventilation. The Diego Portales University is an incredible sight to see that flawlessly incorporates the modern wonders of what concrete can do.

Walters Art Museum of Baltimore

The Walters Art Museum of Baltimore, Maryland opened in 1934 and has been satiating the thirsts of art-lovers everywhere since. Free admission is granted year-round, which means you can come by to see some of the finest curated art collections in the country or the impressive statement made by the architectural precast concrete façade anytime you please. The highlighted slabs, in this instance, mimic large canvasses in a way of their own, giving you a taste of what’s inside.

Jubilee Church

The architectural precast panels used to create this church are doing double duty. Not only are they the cornerstone of this structure’s design, but they also clean the air. These precast concrete fins contain titanium dioxide. Not only does this inclusion keep the church looking pristinely white, it also absorbs ultraviolet light from the sun that breaks down pollutants that come in contact with the church’s surface. The UV light decomposes organic materials naturally. Additionally, large white surfaces help diminish the detrimental effects of urban heat islands by reflecting the sun’s heat. How is that for some seriously hardworking concrete?

The Pierre

As a stunning example of how precast concrete embraces nature, The Pierre is a private residence that was built atop a natural stone deposit on the owner’s property in Washington State. Parts of the stone were cut away to make way for the home, but nothing went to waste! The cut-away stone was crushed and used in making the cement (talk about incorporation, eh?). While some might see concrete slabs as provoking an industrial feel, this home tucked into the San Juan Islands is here to prove naysayers wrong.

The Timelessness of Architectural Precast

From Brutalist to Bauhaus to totally natural, precast concrete can be formed to any aesthetic your construction project needs. If you thought the use of concrete slabs was restricted to prefabricated homes, bland parking ramps or industrial-inspired architecture, think again.
The varieties for which you can apply precast concrete are endless, and with an impressive variety of naturally colored stone, it is easier than ever before to truly customize the exposed finish of your precast concrete wall panels. When seeking a construction solution that is completely customizable and will save time and expenses, learn more about precast concrete. To ask questions and discover how to make architectural precast possible for your next project, call or message Kafka Granite. Our experienced experts can help direct you to quality precast concrete manufacturers that can incorporate our aggregates into your design.

Sierra Granite - Dimensional Cut

Cultured vs. Natural Stone Veneers

At Kafka Granite, we’ve been proud to be a leader in all things aggregates in the Wisconsin area and beyond for years. Through hard work and dedication, we’ve continued to evolve our offerings to meet the wants and needs of our customers. Our latest evolution has come in the form of new natural thin stone veneer.

With a wide range of natural thin stone veneers, we’re excited to unveil this new exclusive selection of masonry product. With a beautiful range of granite, marble, and quartzite, each cut and color of stone offers dazzling hues and crystalline uniqueness.

But when thinking about including veneers in your next new build or renovation project, you’ll be faced with the challenge of deciding between natural and cultured stone veneers. What is the difference between the two products and how can you decide which one is right for your project?

Natural Stone Veneers

Building stone has been in use for hundreds of years. If you’re a traveler, you’ve most likely seen this building material in the Roman Coliseum and many other historical structures throughout the world. While cultured veneers are a relatively new innovation, real stone veneers have a long and prestigious history.

Natural building stones are made by slicing off slabs of desirable rock such as granite, limestone, or marble, and then modifying that cut into the desired shape and weight for different applications. A typical building stone can range in depth anywhere from 3-5 inches and yield 35-40 sq ft per ton.

In recent history, thin stone veneer has been developed to give them same high-quality finish as building stone, but to cut down on labor and transportation costs, and take natural stone to new applications that were previously cost-prohibitive with building stone due to the necessary footings and support.  In comparison, natural thin stone veneer typically ranges from ¾”-1 ½” in depth and weights 10-15 lbs per sq. ft.

If you’re comparing the cost of building stone against thin stone veneers, the building stone variation typically comes out the winner when it comes to lower costs in regard to materials, but with a heavier weight, the thin stone veneers are less expensive to ship and install.

The average building stone can easily last upwards of 50 years, or longer depending on conditions and upkeep. There are many historic buildings that still maintain their original stone veneer siding. Granite, marble, and quartzite wears naturally with natural stone color throughout.

Cultured Stone Veneers

Cultured stone is a manufactured alternative to natural stone veneers to some. While cultured stone can be modified to look close to natural stone, the differences between the two go much deeper than their surface appearance.

Cultured stone is created with a mixture of cement, aggregates, and pigments. These ingredients combined result in a stone-looking material that is generally more economical than natural stone veneers. Provided that these materials are mass produced rather than handcrafted, many big box stores carry manufactured stone veneers, making ordering convenient for some. But you may just find that the cultured stone use for your project is also the same faux stone being used in other builds all across your town.

Building stone starts at a thickness depth of around 2” while the thin variety only goes up to 2”. The final stones end up weighing in at under 15 pounds. Being under 15 pounds, the material qualifies as an adhered veneer. The cement used to create these lookalikes is what helps to keep the cultured veneers light. You can choose to dry stack your manufactured veneers or use a traditional mortar and stone configuration.

While tempting due to availability and potential cost savings, cultured veneers can end up costing in the the long run. Being colored with artificial pigments, the color is no through-and-through, resulting in a less natural weathering.  Additionally, being manufactured primarily of concrete, cultured veneers require continual maintenance and care over the span of their life.

Learn More About Veneers with Kafka Granite

Whether you’re ready to place your order for natural stone veneers today or are still conflicted as to which type of veneer is right for your next project, give us a call today. Our experts would be more than happy to discuss the benefits of natural stone.

Kafka Granite Organic-Lock Stabilized Pathway Mix Installation

Organic-Lock has long been viewed as the strongest organic binder on the market today. At Kafka Granite, we’ve been partnering with Organic-Lock for years to create our stabilized aggregate pathway materials. Thanks to our partnership with Organic-Lock we’re able to offer durable pathway materials that can hold up to anything from busy parks to torrential rains.

Organic-Lock is designed to stabilized aggregate surfaces, making it the perfect binding agent to be added to our unique blends. Through this combination, we’ve been able to offer products that can result in natural-looking, permeable surfaces that can hold up to extreme conditions. Today we’re walking through how to properly install our pre-blended Organic-Lock aggregates on your job site.

What is Organic-Lock?

Organic-Lock is a powdered binder made from renewable resources. It is specifically designed to be blended with crushed aggregate to create natural looking pathways and surfaces. But how does it work?

First, the binder locks the aggregate in place to minimize erosion and worksite maintenance; saving you time and money in the long run. When it rains or your pathways become saturated by moisture of any kind, the liquid permeates the aggregate where it then comes into contact with the Organic-Lock binder. When this happens, the moisture and Organic-Lock binder together turn into a gel that coats each piece of the aggregate. The gel then expands in size and works like glue to hold the pathway together. This process greatly reduces erosion and keeps your finished pathway in one piece longer. This video contains some great illustrations to further highlight how this unique mixture works.

Preinstallation

Your pre-blended aggregate and Organic-Lock mixture will be supplied by Kafka Granite. When prepping your installation surface, you’ll need to focus on moisture content and optimal site preparation. Your delivered mixture will always have room to improve, so we recommend using the snowball or step test to find the ideal mixture of water and aggregate for your batch of material. Ideally, you want your mixture to have an 8-10% moisture content. Here’s how to use those two methods to get your aggregate to this magical moisture level.

The Snowball Test:

When first assessing your material, scoop up a handful in one hand. Try to compact the material into a snowball shape. If it crumbles and can’t hold its form then you need to continue adding moisture. If you can compact it into a ball but it has a noticeable wet sheen then your moisture content is too high.

Too Dry

Too Wet

Just Right!

The Step Test:

In place of the snowball test, you can use the step test to determine your mixture’s readiness. Once again, form a rough ball, then place the ball on the ground and step on it. If your mixture has too much moisture it will have a wet sheen to it, if it’s too dry it won’t be able to hold its shape. An ideal mixture should show a perfect impression of your boot’s tread while holding its shape without any wet sheen visible.

If your mixture is showing a wet sheen the best thing you can do is add additional dry material until you can complete a successful snowball or step test. Once you have reached the ideal moisture content for your mixture, replicate your exact measurements for the rest of your material.

Left: Too Wet | Right: Just Right

 

Installation

The most important aspects of a successful installation of our stabilized mixture are subgrade and base construction, surface watershed management, spreading, compaction, and installation completion. This video will walk you through successfully executing each of these five steps to ensure an astounding finished product.  

The installation process for our stabilized mixture is simple. Our products come with individualized product installation specifications, so there will be no guesswork when it comes to the amount of subgrade you need, how compacted your base should be, or what type of base you should use depending on your region’s DOT recommended crushed granular road base.

This portion of our video guide will also help you to assess potential issues for your pathway system; such as sprinkler heads, uneven terrain, a dense canopy cover, and more. We’ll equip you with all of the installation guidelines and best practices, such as maximum slope, that you’ll need to ensure that your pathway is installed correctly the first time. Saving you time and money by eliminating costly do-overs. If you have any further questions about our stabilized Organic-Lock products give us a call today.

Thin Stone Veneer

The Difference Between Thin Stone Veneers and Building Stone

Veneers present endless application potential. From interior fireplaces to exterior facades, natural stone veneers can be used to add depth and drama to any space. Kafka Granite is excited to share our new natural building stone products with our loyal customers. Architects, designers, and contractors can now fulfill all of their natural stone veneer needs with Kafka.

Building Stone

Building stone has been in use for centuries. If you’ve ever been to Rome, you’ve most likely seen the veneers in use in the Roman Coliseum. And since that time, humanity has searched for more and more ways to incorporate the breathtaking stones found naturally in nature into their final designs.

Building stone typically ranges in depth from 3-5 inches. With this range of thickness, building stone require foundation footing. This special footing is needed to address the special thickness, weight, and size challenges that come along with building stone. But with the use of proper footing or flooring strength, building stone can be used in almost any setting.

Building stone tends to average between 35-40 square feet per ton, but the final weight of your building stone may vary depending on the type of rock used to create the veneer.

When comparing the price of installing building stone against thin veneers, the former typically win out in terms of product cost, but may surge ahead when it comes to installation costs. When it comes to installation, the sizeable weight and size of building stone needs to be accounted for. Being heavier than its thin counterpart, building stone can be viewed as more difficult to work with as they require more time and effort to install. But a seasoned professional will be able to handle this application with ease. With more weight per sq. ft. of coverage, this also dramatically affects shipping costs compared to thin stone veneer.

Thin Stone Veneers

Thin stone veneers are an attractive option for many, as they reduce freight and installation costs without sacrificing the quality and beauty of the natural stone. A typical thin stone veneer weighs somewhere between 10-15 pounds per SqFt, eliminating the use of the foundation footings necessary when using building stone. This allows the product to be more easily installed in a variety of interior applications, remodels, and tall heights where building stone may be cumbersome.

Thin Veneer Corner

Thin Veneer Corner

While thin veneers have not been around as long as building stones, this resource is still full of potential. A thin veneer is a great alternative for those looking for a natural stone solution that is both easy to work with and pleasing to the eye. Thin stone veneers are made from the same high-quality material that building stones are, they are simply cut into ¾”-1 ½” depths.

As mentioned previously, thin stone veneers are significantly lighter than building stone meaning that the material can be applied to nearly any surface and doesn’t require quite the same level of planning and consideration that building stones do. This modification makes thin veneers a popular choice of both internal and external structures as additional modification do not need to be made to support the weight of these light stones.

And due to their lightweight nature, thin stone veneers are very easy to install. Being easier to handle and transport, every step from cutting to setting tends to be a bit less labor intensive. Additionally, with their lessened weight, a thin stone veneer project can typically be completed faster than a building stone one, leading to savings when it comes to labor.

Thin stone veneers are very similar in weight to artificial stone, meaning that you can get the benefits of cheaper products, such as ease of application and shipping while enjoying the benefits of higher end stone, like a more visually pleasing finished product.

You may be worried that due to their weight and depth, thin stone veneer is weaker than building stone, but both stones are incredibly strong. While building stones are intrinsically stronger, both thin veneers and building stone has the capacity to last a lifetime.

Find the Veneers you Need with Kafka Granite

At Kafka Granite, we’re beyond thrilled to share our newest natural thin stone veneer with our loyal customers. Whether you’re looking for show-stopping mica-enriched quartzite or traditional granite colors, find your next veneers at Kafka Granite.

Custom Blend Stabilized Pathway - Kenyon College - Gambier, OH

Revitalizing the Historic Middle Path Pathways at Kenyon College

When the charming and historic Middle Path running through Kenyon College’s campus became pitted, messy, and dangerous, Kafka Granite stepped up to the plate and provided the perfect stabilized DG pathway solution to give this aging pathway new life. Having helped many high-traffic areas resurface their existing pathway systems, we knew that we were up to the challenge.

Using Decomposed Granite for Kenyon College

Some might think that the name “decomposed granite” implies a lesser significance than that of the stronger sounding marble, granite, or stone, but in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Sometimes, it’s the little things that make all the difference, as was the case with Kenyon College.

When it came time for Kenyon College of Gambier, Ohio to tackle the mounting problems being posed by its historic Middle Path, Kafka Granite was called to come up with a custom solution that would preserve the historical significance of the path while making it safe for future generations. Through a forensic approach, thorough testing and deep collaboration between Kafka Granite and the college’s design and landscaping team, the historic charm and aesthetic of Kenyon’s Middle Path was preserved by the use of a one-of-a-kind stabilized pathway system.

Using a Stabilized Pathway System to Save the Middle Path

The famed Middle Path is a 3,600-foot-long, 8-foot-wide walkway was originally crafted from local river stone. The landscape of Kenyon’s campus is delicately structured around the well-traveled path, rendering it a staple to the scenery. The smooth, round characteristic of the river stone, however, was creating deep wells, soft patches, and excessive displacement that made for puddles, mud, ice and unsafe travel in inclement weather. Calling Ohio home, the College was frequently plaqued by many differnet types of weather conditions, so they needed a durable aggregate that would hold up to anything the state could dish out.

Kenyon sought a solution that would maintain the aesthetic and experiential dimension of the sound of the stone’s crunch underfoot while providing more stability and compaction for less aggregate displacement while being permeable enough to avoid puddles. Replacing the path with concrete or asphalt would offer more stability, but these materials wouldn’t preserve the charm and overall aesthetic of the much-loved pathway, and would lead to oversaturation in the rainy months.

We were able to create a stabilized pathway solution that was the perfect ratio of organic stabilizing binder and crushed stone. Additionally, we were able to produce the perfect aggregate that was both the perfect color and gradation to give the school’s pathway material optimum compaction and performance. A variety of product mock-ups were rigorously tested on-site at Kenyon using a variety stabilizing binders, specifications, and installation techniques before settling on the combination of a custom Kafka Granite color combination and Organic-Lock stabilizing binder.

Custom Blend Stabilized Pathway - Kenyon College - Gambier, OH

The Installation Phase

We were present at the construction site, which allowed our experts to oversee proper installation as well as answer any questions to grounds crew ran into. Through a close relationship in which multiple experiments and tests were run, our two teams combined were able to identify the best binder for the school’s historical pathway system.

The final organic binder utilized in the stabilized DG was Organic-Lock by Envirobond, which made for the perfect solution to Kenyon’s problem of a deteriorating pathway. With Kafka’s pathway mix blended with Organic-Lock, Kenyon College’s stabilized pathways will experience less erosion than their predecessor, which was the original problem that prompted Kenyon College to reach out to Kafka Granite. Furthermore, the new DG stabilized pathway system will yield less mud and dust while remaining permeable for optimal drainage. The new pathway blends in seamlessly with the natural beauty of the Kenyon College campus and has the added benefit of being ADA accessible, meaning that everyone will be able to enjoy its beauty.

Furthermore, stabilized DG offered a thin loose top layer of aggregate, which replicated the feel of the original path. By being able to conduct thorough testing, provide a solution that was aesthetically ideal, and oversee the entirety of the installation process, our team was able to aid in preserving the historic charm and sophistication of Kenyon College’s iconic Middle Path.

Find Your Perfect Pathway Material at Kafka Granite

At Kafka Granite, we offer more 60 unique colors of aggregate and a full portfolio of innovative products, such as our all new natural stone veneers. From recycled materials to stabilized aggregates, we have the pathway mixes your project needs to meet its goals, be it preserving the past or meeting the demands of the present. If you would like to learn more about the Kenyon College project you can read the full story in the November 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Custom Precast Polished Veneer featuring Caramel Quartzite - Project by Valori Precast - Cadence Park - Irvine, CA

2018-2019 Architectural Trends

Can you believe it; 2018 is almost over! We’ve had a crazy third and fourth quarter, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. This year brought many changes and advancements to Kafka, including the introduction of our new specialty building stone series. As we grew and expanded, so did the greater architectural industry. As we head into the new year, we’re looking back at the most popular design trends of 2018 and making predictions as to what will be hot in 2019.

The Biggest Design Trends of 2018-2019

Natural esthetics, sustainability, and eye-catching colors will rule the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019. These new 2019 design trends span across interior and exterior design, with a little something for everyone. Here are some of the trends that we were happy to embrace in 2018 and a few that we’re looking forward to in 2019. We can’t wait to see what else the new year has in store for us.

Bringing the Outdoors Indoors

Interior designers have begun to focus more on making the interior aspects of their corporate projects more cohesive with the accompanying exterior features of a project. Today, design trends are showing us that people identify having a natural-inspired space helps them to relax and focus. From offices to retail establishments, we predict that designers will continue to hunt for ways to bring the outdoors in when it comes to design in 2019.

A few easy ways that this can be accomplished include using raw materials, such as stone veneers or natural elements like plant life to round out their design aesthetic. Kafka recently introduced many new veneer options to the market, and we’ve already seen these products be used to incorporate a touch of outdoor relaxation into interior spaces. On the whole, we predict that stone veneers and additional natural products will become popular for accent walls, front desks, and interior accents in 2019.

Sustainability

While contractors have been focused on acquiring important credentials such as LEED or SITES certifications for years, the clients behind most builds are now starting to focus on sustainability as well.

In a culture that is constantly looking for ways to innovate when it comes to being eco-friendly, construction and design present many outlets for such pursuits. From zero-emission cars to solar-powered appliances, every aspect of modern life has slowly become greener. And when it comes to 2019 design trends, sustainability will continue to be a hot topic for designers and builders.

At Kafka Granite, we have been offering green alternatives to popular construction and design materials for years. We use a variety of recycled materials, such as rejected toilets and sinks, old electronics glass and mirrors, copper slag, firebrick, and more to create some of our most popular products. These eco-friendly products have already shown immediate results for design professionals across industries. In the past few years, prestigious projects like the revamp of Chicago’s iconic Navy Pier were able to obtain the highly coveted certifications, such as theSITES Gold Certification through GBCI, using our recycled aggregate blends.

Embracing the Pantone Color of the Year

Every year Pantone releases their pick for “Color of the Year.” While in years past this was more of a fun way to kick off the new year, over the years, the selections have gone on the have much more of an impact than just a passing headline.

The yearly Pantone Color of the Year (CoTY) now has far-reaching implications. Everyone from appliance manufacturers to home goods distributors works tirelessly during the weeks that follow the release of the CoTY in December to create products that match the year’s hottest new colors. By February, shoppers can expect to see the year’s color saturating their daily lives. The 2018 Pantone Color of the Year was Ultra Violet. Pantone has already selected 72 colors from eight different color pallets from which they believe the final 2019 Color of the Year will be chosen. Our bet is on something close to fuchsia.

What Trends Would you Like to See Emerge in 2019?

We’re excited to dive into 2019 and see what the interior and exterior design industries have to offer us when it comes to design trends. In the new year, we plan on continuing to unveil new and exciting thin stone veneer. Whether you’re slated to break ground on an interior or exterior project in 2019, know that Kafka Granite is here to fulfill all of your aggregate and veneer needs through new, on-trend products.

The Benefits of Architectural Precast Concrete

From department store walls to parking garages to beautiful facades, architectural precast concrete serves a bigger part of building America’s structures than you might realize. By enabling small and large-scale construction projects to be built quicker and with more precision than ever before, architectural precast concrete is a staple in modern construction.

Kafka Granite has been supplying a wide variety of natural stone for architectural precast concrete since the 1980s. From our own quarries and sites across North America, a broad variety of raw material is brought to our state-of-the-art crushing facility in Wisconsin. The highest standards are applied to our aggregate from step one to done, which means you can expect the best product possible for your architectural precast project.

How Precast Concrete Made History

The concrete industry in the U.S. didn’t find its footing until the end of the nineteenth century, and before precast concrete became in option, construction projects required skilled workers to be on-site to tediously build formwork for cast-in-place concrete. Not only was this a time-consuming and inefficient process, but it was also a very costly one. The U.S. relied on stone, brick, and wood instead of concrete for construction projects far longer than other countries.

The 1910s saw the beginning of precast wall panels being manufactured and marketed for the construction of economical housing. The appeal? Precast concrete could be manufactured to mimic stone or other patterns, making for housing that was affordable and attractive. The origins of precast architectural concrete saw the manufacturing of concrete slabs that were 9 feet tall and 4 to 10 feet wide. These premade slabs could be quickly slotted together for fast and cost-effective home construction.

The 1930s saw increased use and the introduction of exposed aggregate to the process. The benefits of precast concrete were impossible to deny and had it becoming a standard for construction. Some benefits found early on included:

      Minimal formwork needed as cast forms could be reused throughout projects

      A controlled production environment could achieve a higher-quality product

      Reinforcements could be placed more easily than on-site cast-in-place forms

      Curing time was greatly reduced

      Aggregate concrete panels were lighter in weight than panels without aggregate

The 1950s and ‘60s saw an increasing love affair with architectural precast concrete in part due to better construction equipment to handle large slabs, such as cranes. Better manufacturing technology and processes also caused a boom in texture, color, and pattern variety, making it appealing for both residential and commercial use. Precast panels featuring exposed aggregate became especially popular and featured on iconic buildings such as the Walters Art Museum of Baltimore, Maryland and the Pan American building in New York City.

Architectural precast concrete has come a long way since it came into popularity. It has revolutionized the structural environments we live and work in, making building America more efficient, durable and cost-effective than ever. Today, some of Kafka Granite’s aggregate can be seen in precast concrete wall panels on skyscrapers, sports stadiums, and other commercial projects throughout the world.

How Kafka Makes Precast Concrete Beautiful

While architectural precast concrete can be formed into virtually any shape, size, or pattern, Kafka Granite’s variety of aggregates can bring a bold essence unmatched by others. When selecting an aggregate or sand to add to your architectural precast concrete project, Kafka can match the precise standards your project needs with our state of the art crushing and cutting facility. With one of the widest aggregate color portfolios, you will be able to find the perfect aggregate blend to compliment your project. From bright and bold greens, oranges and reds to subtle and rustic neutral tones, the variety can also be crushed to custom sizes, while the most common are 9/16 x 3/16” and 3/16”-.

Common Applications of Aggregate in Architectural Precast Concrete

Architectural precast aggregates add a desired aesthetic to any project you have in the pipeline. These precast concrete forms are truly multipurpose and have been used as the perfect solution for multistory office buildings, parking structures, medical complexes, sports stadiums, and more.

There are many reasons behind the widespread use of architectural precast concrete. In addition to the aforementioned aesthetic designs that can be achieved, this product also provides immense durability. Precast concrete is entirely fire-, rot-, termite-, and mold-resistant. Solid construction can also withstand tornado-force winds, which means the people inside of these structures can stay safer in the face of natural disaster.

Stationed in Wisconsin, Kafka Granite is all too familiar with how much adverse weather can impact a project’s progress. Precast concrete enables structural components to be made and cured in a controlled indoor environment where weather isn’t a factor. So while rain, snow or excessive heat might stop work on a construction site, progress is still being made in precast concrete manufacturing.

The tight quality control during the manufacturing phase of architectural precast means that walls, floors and more will show up on the jobsite ready to placed, leveled and fully installed—and faster than you could imagine.

Get Building Today with Kafka Granite

The history and innovation of exposed architectural precast concrete has revolutionized the way America is building. From a local municipal building to a state of the art stadium, it saves time and money, which means the buildings and infrastructure we rely on can come together sooner. The addition of exposed aggregate will help you create a beautiful and timeless aesthetic as it’s one of the most common surface treatments for precast concrete today.

If you have questions about sourcing aggregate for architectural precast concrete,  call or message one of our experts today. Kafka’s products can add a one-of-a-kind appeal to your architectural precast wall panels, leaving your project memorable for decades to come.

90% Starlight Black, 5% Salt & Pepper, 5% Snow White Custom Stabilized Pathway - American Greetings Headquarters - Westlake, OH

Basic Principles of Commercial Landscape Design

Commercial properties are often large, sprawling expanses that may be the site for a corporate campus, warehouses, office buildings, or more. Despite not being a small or cozy area, expansive commercial landscapes don’t have to remain barren or boring. Kafka Granite is familiar with making large-scale projects look beautiful inviting, as can be seen by our work on the Navy Pier, Buckingham Fountain, and Loyola University. We understand trying to strike the right balance between creating a good-looking space while maintaining its functionality.

By providing landscaping materials that are both beautiful and incredibly durable, Kafka is able to offer the product you need to make your commercial landscape architecture stand out from walkway to retaining wall. Whether you’re starting with a blank slate or have some pathways or parking lots in place, let us help you with designing your commercial landscape. Not only will we help you to transform or complete your project, but with our green alternatives you can take your project one step closer to obtaining a SITES or LEED certifications.

Combine Form and Function

The very first step to ensuring your commercial landscaping is stunning, and logical, is to make a plan. How extensive or simple this step is may depend on the size of your lot or the scope of your project; the larger the lot or project, the more planning you may have to do. If you’re sure of what your property needs when it comes to the landscape, then you might be able to do this part by yourself. If you’re uncertain about how you want the layout of your landscaping to “flow,” then the eyes of a professional landscape architect may be necessary.

Draw a map of your property and make note of where structures and trees already exist as well as where the sun hits during the day as this could affect where you plant certain types of sun-loving flora. Once permanent items are marked, the next step is to play around with where you envision things like parking lots, outdoor seating, pathways, gardens or courtyards. Remember that pathways and courtyards don’t have to be so linear or square—make sure to test out different curving lines or shapes, and see what feels best. Additionally, consider how you truly want the space to be used. Can you see your staff wanting to sit outdoors for lunch? Do you envision guests walking along an especially scenic part of the lot? Is there a steep grade that would benefit from a retaining wall? By thinking about how the space will be used, you’ll be better able to plan for what you build in it.

This initial phase is also a good time to try and tie your landscape architecture to the design of your building. You can complement the colors or textures of existing structures by using different colors of granite or flowers within your gardens. Create a tentative color palette for your overall design to serve as an inspiration for the rest of your project.

Make a Good First Impression

The landscape architecture of your business is also important in that it can make or break a visitor’s first impression. If your business is one that sees a lot of visitors, who are clients or otherwise, focus on making a good first impression. This means making the entrance a focal point so that it’s easy to find and is welcoming. Establish a clear path from the parking lot to the entryway.

When it comes to essential elements like trash bins outside the entry, consider using tasteful and good-looking alternatives to the plastic garbage can. By using alternatives like a crushed granite decorative precast waste receptacle, you can make garbage go away with an aesthetically pleasing container. What’s more is that decorative precast features can be made using any color of granite to match or complement materials used elsewhere, and they can include outdoor furniture like benches, tables, and more. Kafka Granite for example, offers over 50 different colors of decorative precast aggregates.

 

Choose the Colors and Materials of Your Landscaping Material

Now that you’ve decided what features you need from your landscaping and how you’ll make a welcoming first impression for your guests, it’s time to figure out what materials you’ll want to use to make your plan a reality. Questions to ask yourself to help figure out what materials you’ll need include:

What will your pathways be made of?

Do you prefer cobbles, pavers or decomposed granite? Each material will have a different aesthetic appeal and one may match the look of your building’s architecture more than the others.

What color will your pathways be?

Color is always a tough decision whether you’re painting a wall or choosing an aggregate. Do you want a natural look? Perhaps you want a look where the pathway truly pops? When you come to Kafka Granite for crushed granite walkways, you’ll be met with over 50 color options. With variety like that, you have your pick of neutrals, greens, reds and more.

What kind of traffic will be on your pathways?

Something you may have considered in your planning stage is how your pathways will be used—are you expecting just foot traffic or will there also be bike, golf cart, ATV or light vehicular traffic? By measuring the wear and tear that will be taking place on your paths, you can choose the best material available whether it’s standard, stabilized or wax polymer. We’ve spoken extensively about the difference between these three pathway materials on our blog.

What is your parking lot going to be made of?

Not every parking lot has to be an endless sea of asphalt. Don’t be afraid to incorporate your parking lot into your grand landscaping architecture design. In lieu of asphalt, imagine using permeable paverss with environmentally friendly permeable paver grit.

What surrounds your gardens?

Depending on your landscape architecture, the gardens or foliage in your design may be natural and unenclosed, or they may require a bit more structure from distinct edging and retaining walls. Retaining walls can be made from boulders or more angular decorative rip rap if you’re looking for a unique and beautiful option. And when it comes to your flowerbeds, will you be using decomposed granite landscaping stone or mulch as your base? These options may seem small but they can make all the difference when it comes your project’s end result. 

How much money or time can you put toward maintenance?

If the answer is, “Very little,” then perhaps high-maintenance gardens aren’t the solution for your landscape. Crushed stone-based xeriscapes can are becoming more popular as they require less maintenance and water, and they are a beautiful alternative to thick gardens. Consider this factor when ultimately deciding how much hardscape to incorporate into your design.

Get Started on Your Commercial Landscape Architecture Today

If you’re looking to get started on a commercial landscaping project, make sure you do it right. Coming to Kafka ensures you get the best materials and the best selection on the market to achieve exactly what you envision. Call us today to find a dealer near you or to speak with one of our expert consultants. If you’re a landscaping materials dealer searching for a way to carry a great selection, chat with us to find out about our dealer program. With so many colors and materials to outfit every part of your landscape’s design, you’ll be thrilled you chose Kafka Granite.

Stabilized Salt & Pepper Pathway - Brooklyn Bridge Park - New York, NY

Healthy Landscaping: Fitness Parks for the Greater Good

City parks and nature reserves are places where whole families can go for a fun retreat from the rigors of the day. Outfitted with a variety of amenities ranging from groomed pathways to open fields to playground equipment and basketball courts, parks are a way for everyone to unwind with a breath of fresh air. Kafka Granite has played a role in paving parks and pathways with high-quality aggregates for decades. From large projects like Brooklyn Bridge Park in the heart of New York City, to smaller local parks and community recreation facilities, Kafka knows the importance of creating healthy public spaces that anyone can enjoy.

With incredible varieties of pathway mixes and ballyard materials, we’ve been able to help pave recreational walkways and athletic surfaces for a wide variety of public and private applications. That’s a lot of fun memories being made on our aggregate mixtures. Throughout the decades, we’ve seen the evolution of city parks as we know it, and there is a new trend in public arenas that has us excited: exercise parks. In lieu of the traditional teeter-totters and merry-go-rounds for children, exercise parks are built with health-related stationary equipment for adults to boost their heart rates and enjoy physical activity in the company of friends and community members.

The Need for a Healthy Outdoors

It’s no secret—obesity has become a veritable pandemic throughout America. Scales are tipping as new data shows that more than one-third of U.S. adults are considered obese with 1 in 20 reaching extreme obesity. An addiction to sugar, easy access to cheap processed foods, and longer working sedentary working hours have created a population of people who need more options for getting fit. Many barriers to exercise include poor proximity to a gym or the cost to join the gym. Additionally, a lot of people don’t like the feeling of being boxed into a gym—the smell, the congestion, and the crowds can be turn-offs for many.

Exercise parks are an excellent alternative for people looking to get fit for free in the great outdoors. They’re also a way for cities to show that fitness and health are public priorities that will help everyone live longer, happier lives. As more cities realize that accessible fitness spaces are good for everyone, the more you can expect to see them pop up. Priority for construction is in “fitness deserts,” or areas where there aren’t many (or any) fitness options.

These areas also open the floodgates for people who are new to working out; they can try a simple machine at first and work up to more at their own pace. And the convenience is virtually unbeatable. Long gone are the days of watching your kids play at the park from the seat of a park bench. Instead, adults can keep an eye on young ones from their perch on the elliptical or weight machine.

Wide Variety of Exercises and Benefits—for Free!

You may be wondering how an exercise park can include more equipment than playground staples like monkey bars or ladders. The evolution and affordability of weather-resistant, tamper-proof exercise equipment is surprising. Equipment targets the full range of muscle groups and joints, and they’re easy to use by people of all skill levels and abilities. From bodyweight equipment such as chest presses, body curl stations and parallel bars, to cardio machines like ellipticals and hand cycles, these parks truly serve as a well-rounded fitness arena for anyone to use, anytime of the day.

While many exercise parks include one clearing with the equipment planted in a common area, some parks are starting to incorporate fitness trails. A walk or jog along these trails will have you coming across a variety of fitness stations that each target different muscle groups or fitness activities. Not only will the fresh air keep participants motivated, but the natural surroundings are sure to be more pleasant to get fit in than a muggy and crowded gym. Kafka has, of course, been more than happy to help urban developers find the perfect standard or stabilized stone pathway mixtures that make the perfect exercise trail.

Planning an Exercise Park Can Be Easy

Does your next outdoor project include planning and building an exercise park? Kafka Granite can help. A successful exercise park is going to need to be supported by any number of additional attractions, such as walkways to and from the park, ballparks for play, and bike paths for commuters to reach the park. The materials chosen for these additions needs to be able to withstand high amounts of foot traffic, digging and cutting from busy feet, and a variety of weather types. Kafka may have just the solution you’re seeking.

With a palette of nearly 60 colors to choose from, any exercise park can get a bold injection of color or a natural aesthetic with Kafka Granite stone through high-end pathways materials. And with a broad range of ballyard mixes, your ballfield won’t be left out when redesigning your entire park space. The materials used in both our pathway and ballpark mixtures can withstand rigorous activity while providing active park goers with safe footing while on their way to or enjoying their favorite outdoor activities. Additionally, with our permeable aggregates, both pathway and ballyard mixes, your park visitors will be able to enjoy your park’s facilities regardless of rain or shine.

No one wants to slosh through mud to get to your exercise park or neighboring ballfield. Maintaining clear pathways will eliminate one more obstacle that’s keeping your community members from getting active. Both the elderly and young will rely on dry, non-slip pathways to get them where they want to be in your finished exercise inclusive park. If the entire park goes from fitness haven to swimming pool, the value of the equipment is lost and deterioration could set in if the machines are left surrounded by a moat of water keeping would-be exercisers away.

Instead of making health-hungry citizens wait days for a path to clear to reach their new favorite exercise park, install a solution like a stabilized decomposed granite surface. Natural, permeable, and durable, this option would be able to hold its own against rigorous exercisers and torrential downpours alike. It’s also easy to install, maintain, and replace over the years. Less obtrusive than cement or asphalt, it’s a popular pathway choice for outdoor facilities.

Jumpstart Your City with Healthy Goals in Mind

If you’re stuck wondering what the perfect addition to your city would be, consider an exercise park. Grants can be obtained to help alleviate financial restraints and the benefits for the community are undeniable. Playgrounds are evolving and adults can now have some fun, too. Instead of taking a backseat to their kids running around, adults can get in on the fun and break a sweat, too.

If you’re considering incorporating an exercise area into your next park, or if you’re already in the planning phases of construction, don’t hesitate to give our experts a call and ask about our ideal landscape material options. Avoid getting stuck with unsightly asphalt and nonporous cement. Instead, use a beautiful, durable, permeable and more supportive surfaces to help everyone achieve their fitness goals.

Burma Red Hilltopper Infield - UW Madison Softball - Madison, WI

Keep Your Ballyard from Getting Muddy Or Dusty

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and Kafka Granite only has one thing to say; “Let’s play ball!” Kafka is proud to manufacture a variety of premier ballyard, warning track and clay mound materials. We have helped create stunning fields for every field from little league to the majors. Visitors can view Kafka ballyard materials at Yankee Stadium, Northwestern University, and the Buffalo Grove Sports Complex, to name a few.

Our top-quality ballyard materials are made of decomposed granite mixtures that have been crafted to withstand a variety of environments. From torrential rains to blistering heat, our ballyard mixtures can take a beating and still performs at their highest level. With our wide range of ballyard products, we are able to work with your budgetary requirements and deliver a top-quality finished product. At Kafka Granite, we offer three variations of ballyard mixtures; Standard Mixes, Stabilized Mixes and Hilltopper* Mixes.

Traditional mixes that are comprised of clay, silt or sand become muddy and collect standing water in rainy conditions. By utilizing a proprietary decomposed granite blend, our ballyard materials are highly durable and permeable, meaning that they allow rainwater to quickly drain. This feature will drastically decrease the number of rainouts you experience each year and will keep your ballpark mud and dust-free.

Standard Ballyard Mix at Kafka Granite

Burma Red Standard Topdressing

Kafka offers both Burma Red Standard Topdressing and Standard Warning Track Mixes. Our Burma Red Standard Topdressing is a great addition to existing fields due to its excellent drainage characteristics. With our Burma Red Standard Topdressing, you can eliminate puddles on your field and substantially reduce rain-outs.

Additionally, our Burma Red Standard Topdressing is a cost-effective way to refinish your existing ballfield to achieve safe footing, consistent ball hops, and smooth sliding. We recommend a depth of ¼-inch to  ½-inch when adding Burma Red Standard Topdressing to an existing ballpark.

If you are looking for a cost-effective way to refinish your existing ballfield while improving your field’s draining capabilities and correcting any imperfections that have accumulated over time, our Burma Red Standard Topdressing is the best option for you. Our Burma Red Standard Topdressing can be used on the infield, warning track, batter’s box or pitching mound.

Estimated Standard Topdressing Coverage Rates

 

BASEBALL FIELD

(90 bases with a 95’ arc)

Exposed Skinned Area 1/4” Topdressing 1/2” Topdressing
Grass Infield 11,550 sq ft 12.5 tons 25 tons
Skinned Infield 18,300 sq ft 20 tons 40 tons

 

LITTLE LEAGUE FIELD

(60 bases with a 50’ arc)

Exposed Skinned Area 1/4” Topdressing 1/2” Topdressing
Grass Infield 3,850 sq ft 4 tons 8.5 tons
Skinned Infield 6,700 sq ft 7.5 tons 15 tons

 

SOFTBALL FIELD Exposed Skinned Area 1/4” Topdressing 1/2” Topdressing
55’ arc with 25’ foul territory skin 10,443 sq ft 11 tons 22 tons
60’ arc with 25’ foul territory skin 11,190 sq ft 11.5 tons 23.5 tons
65’ arc with 25’ foul territory skin 11,974 sq ft 12.5 tons 25 tons

Standard Warning Track Mixtures

Our unique Standard Warning Track Mixtures offer a highly durable warning track solution for those looking to replace their current warning track. Our Standard Warning Track Mixtures come in three vibrant colors: Burma Red, Red Cedar and Ruby Red. With its signature crunch, Kafka Standard Warning Track Mixtures help players know when they are approaching the outfield fences to prevent injury.

Our Standard Warning Track Mixtures are durable and are created to withstand the abuse of maintenance vehicles and harsh weather alike. Due to its coarser nature, our Standard Warning Track Mixtures require less maintenance than other traditional Warning Track Mixtures. We recommend that our Standard Warning Track Mixtures be installed at a full depth of 3-4 inches around the entire perimeter of your ballfield. Our team of experts can help you estimate the amount of Standard Warning Track Mixture that you need for your next ballfield project today.

Stabilized Ballyard Mix At Kafka Granite

Stabilized Infield Mix

If you are tired of puddles that just won’t drain, our Burma Red Stabilized Infield Mix is the perfect solution for your ballfield. Pre-blended with a stabilizing organic binder, our Burma Red Stabilized Infield Mix is one of the best permeable infield mixes available. By utilizing an organic binder, our infield mix provides a firm, resilient playing surface that results in minimal mud or dust accumulation. Our Burma Red Stabilized Infield Mix has an excellent water-bearing capacity and load-bearing strength.

Even after heavy rains or high traffic, our Burma Red Stabilized Infield Mix will stay in place while retaining its flexibility and cushion. Stadiums can drastically cut down on wind and water erosion damage by utilizing a Burma Red Stabilized Infield Mix. All of the previously mentioned features combined result in near immediate play after rainfall, and fewer hours will be needed for ballyard maintenance.

Stabilized Warning Track Mix

Our Stabilized Warning Track Mix offers the same great features as our Standard Warning Track Mix, but requires less maintenance and can withstand heavier traffic. The Stabilized Warning Track Mix is ideal for larger projects, or areas that receive excess rainfall. With the addition of the stabilizing binder, the Stabilized Warning Track Mix retains water longer, requiring less manual watering. This Stabilized Warning Track Mix is ideal for universities and large sports complexes.

See How Kafka Granite Stabilized Infield Mix Stands up to the Elements

Estimated Stabilized Infield Coverage Rates

 

BASEBALL FIELD

(90 bases with a 95’ arc)

Exposed Skinned Area 3” Compacted

Depth

4” Compacted

Depth

Grass Infield 11,550 sq ft 165 tons 231 tons
Skinned Infield 18,300 sq ft 262 tons 366 tons

 

LITTLE LEAGUE FIELD

(60 bases with a 50’ arc)

Exposed Skinned Area 1/4” Topdressing 1/2” Topdressing
Grass Infield 3,850 sq ft 55 tons 77 tons
Skinned Infield 6,700 sq ft 7.5 tons 15 tons

 

SOFTBALL FIELD Exposed Skinned Area 1/4” Topdressing 1/2” Topdressing
55’ arc with 25’ foul territory skin 10,443 sq ft 150 tons 209 tons
60’ arc with 25’ foul territory skin 11,190 sq ft 160 tons 224 tons
65’ arc with 25’ foul territory skin 11,974 sq ft 172 tons 240 tons

Kafka Granite Stabilized Infield Mix and Warning Track Installation Instructions

Before you begin installation of your new Warning Track or Stabilized Infield Mix, make sure that you are familiar with the field’s drainage patterns and how the surrounding areas affect the field during heavy rains. Both infields and warning tracks should be sloped at ½% to drain laterally off the field.

  1. Measure and layout infield or warning track according to field dimensions.
  2. Flag sprinklers if already installed.
  3. Excavate future infield or warning track area to allow a minimum 3-inch depth. Complete drainage construction if desired.
  4. Prepare native soil to use as a base. Sand is not an acceptable base. Level, preferably with a laser grader.
  5. Water native soil base. Allow time for drying before proceeding to next step. Soil should be damp, but not muddy.
  6. Compact native soil using a one-ton drum roller. A plate compactor can be used in tight areas.
  7. Spread Kafka Stabilized Infield or Warning Track Mix with a front end loader. Lay down loose material to allow for a minimum of 3-inch compacted depth. The estimated coverage for Kafka Stabilized Infield and Warning Track Mix is 70 square feet per ton for a 3-inch depth and 50 square feet per ton for a 4-inch depth.
  8. Level with laser grader to achieve ½% slope.
  9. Thoroughly water to activate the stabilizing binder. It is better to over-water than under-water. Wait 24-48 hours, depending on the climate and the amount of water used. The field should be damp, but not muddy.
  10. As soon as the field allows, compact with one-ton roller. Do not use a vibratory plate or the compactor or vibratory setting on roller drums, as it may cause the binder to separate from the aggregate.
  11. Check for low areas, add additional infield or warning track mix as needed, and compact.
  12. Install base anchors and home plate.

Hilltopper* Ballyard Mix at Kafka Granite

Hilltopper* Ballyard Infield and Warning Track Mixes are the kings of ballyard mixes. With the help of today’s cutting-edge technology, we have been able to pair our custom aggregate blends with a water-shedding polymer coating developed by Stabilizer Solutions.

This unique technology creates a ballyard that is waterless, dustless, and completely free of mud, which will save your grounds crew hours in maintenance and watering. Our Hilltopper* Ballyard Mix has been used in such exciting venues as Harvard University, Dartmouth College, University of Iowa and more. Additionally, visitors can see our Hilltopper* Ballyard Warning Track Mix at Yankee Stadium!

The decomposed granite used in our Hilltopper* Ballyard Mix has been crushed to the best size to provide stable footing, consistent ball hops and optimal sliding conditions. You’ll see with our one-of-a-kind Hilltopper* Ballyard Mix that water beads on the surface of the field and then rolls away before your eyes. Our Hilltopper* Ballyard Mix is ideal for newly constructed ballyards, where we recommend a depth of 3-4 inches for our infield mix. If you’re ready to implement a Kafka Granite Hilltopper* Ballyard Mix at your ballpark our team is prepared to help you find the perfect solution.

Hilltopper* Mound Clay

Save time and money with our Hilltopper* Mound Clay Mix. Our Hilltopper* Mound Clay Mix contains the same polymer coating as our infield and Warning Track Mix and can be used on the mound, in the batter’s box, or wherever a clay alternative is desired. With Kafka’s Hilltopper* Mound Clay Mix, no water screening is necessary.

Our Hilltopper* Ballyard Mixes
  • Preserves flexibility and cushion
  • Eliminates the need for watering
  • Dramatically reduces maintenance demands and costs
  • Creates firm and stable playing surface in all weather
  • Withstand rain, wind, snow and drought

Play Ball with Kafka Granite

Whether you decide to add some Topdressing to your existing field, refinish your field with a Stabilized Mix, or choose to implement a Hilltopper* Ballyard Mix in your next stadium build, our specialists can work with your budget to find you the perfect ballyard solution. Our team of experts is sure to knock your next ballpark project out of the park!

 

Hilltopper* is a registered trademark of Stabilizer Solutions. Kafka Granite no longer utilizes Hilltopper* in the composition of their ballfield mixes.