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March 4, 2020


Long established as the commercial hub of the Southeast, Atlanta has experienced an abundance of growth in the past decade driven by an influx of new investment, development, and residents – further straining the city’s aging infrastructure.

As part of the solution, the city is embarking on a massive overhaul of the 400-foot deep Bellwood Quarry at Westside Park — a recognizable filming backdrop for TV shows and movies—from a kudzu-invaded wilderness to Atlanta’s largest water reservoir, linked to treatment plants and an accompanying 280-acre multi-use recreational space.

The Atlanta-based PRAD group, a firm experienced in environmental watershed projects, has been a key player in several phases of this long-range venture. Senior architect Tom Steele, the lead designer of the Bellwood Quarry and treatment plant pump station structures, explained how Echelon’s insulated concrete masonry units fit the distinct – and challenging – specifications for the project.

“Low-maintenance materials were a priority for both the Hemphill and Bellwood Quarry sites,” the designer noted. “InsulTech provided the insulation, durability, and minimal maintenance we wanted to achieve, in a three-part system that made it cost-effective.”

As it routinely does, Echelon provided in-person assistance at both sites in order to help streamline the installation of the innovative InsulTech™ Insulated Concrete Masonry System.

“This was the first time InsulTech was used in Georgia, so we all required some training with the system,” explains Drew Lamberson, project manager/estimator with Bibler Masonry Contractors, Inc. “The GMS and Echelon teams did a really nice job educating all of us. Once we understood how it worked, it saved time and labor because we finished the interior and exterior walls, insulation, and waterproofing all in one step.”

By combining structural CMUs, EPS foam insulation, air/water barrier, and exterior veneer into a single 12 ¼-in unit, the InsulTech system has been shown to dramatically reduce labor time and costs as compared to traditional insulated cavity walls. Just as importantly, the system delivers true continuous insulation rated at R-16.2 – far exceeding requirements of IECC 2015 – without sacrificing the masonry aesthetic.

Steele discovered just how adaptable the InsulTech system was during installation at the Bellwood Quarry Pump Station, which involved executing a multipurpose design to house the pumps as well as electrical systems, conference and office spaces, a workshop, and restrooms.

“For the interior, it made sense to have hard surfaces that were insulated and had some thermal protection since the space where the pumps operate will not be climate controlled,” said Steele. He said temperatures can range from 55ºF to up to 100ºF in the summer months. “InsulTech was perfect for this,” noted Steele, adding that he actually flipped the InsulTech 3-part block, so the Trendstone™ in Sundown color faced inward, for a nice aesthetic.

The architect’s vision resulted in a magnificent blend of form and function. The grand structure features a native precast concrete outer shell over the InsulTech block, with a focal-point entranceway bookended by two soaring pilasters, which form a gateway for a striking arched-glass doorway. The complex will serve as the anchor for the evolving Westside Park aesthetic, and will soon be complemented by the adjacent Bellwood Reservoir, the next addition to this sweeping transformation.

Although smaller in scale, The Hemphill Water Treatment Plant Pump Station – consisting of a workshop and electrical facility – required some complex coordination by masons and the Oldcastle team to properly coordinate the three exterior colors.

Since these buildings will blend into the Westside Park landscape, Trendstone™, Trendstone Plus™, and Mesastone™ CMUs were chosen as the finished outer faces for the InsulTech system.

He created a pattern that alternated between Trendstone and Trendstone Plus, both in Haydite color. The “Plus” version delivers a smooth terrazzo finish, which added a glittering effect to the exposed wall—with Mesastone textured CMUs in Sedalia color as a light-colored accent strip. “It has a little more flair than a typical industrial building yet is still something that will stand for a long time and not need maintenance,” explained the architect

The PRAD Group has developed innovative multiple eco-friendly solutions to Atlanta’s booming expansion and again turned to Oldcastle as a single-source for several sustainable products from structural masonry to concrete pavers.

In order to optimize stormwater drainage on the new site, the team at PRAD selected Belgard’s Aqualine™ 9L Permeable Paver which allows rainwater to filter into the soil instead of pooling on impervious concrete. “Aqualine had the right combination of LEED points and drainage properties we needed, as well as its ability to stand up to the regular heavy truck traffic,” explained Steele.

This was the same paver used in 2016 for the Atlanta streets near the Hemphill project, which had the distinction of being the largest Permeable Pavement retrofit project in North America.

Phase One of the project is projected for completion in the spring of 2020, which is expected to drive additional development and investment. This Oldcastle-backed project, and many to come, are helping to ensure that Atlanta continues to live up to its nickname—Empire of the South.

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