It’s no wonder demand for precast is rising, especially considering the numerous benefits structural precast panels offer — from quick installation to fire resistance.
1. Thermal insulation
All elements of a well-engineered structural precast panel work together to provide a high level of insulation. Manufacturers often use a combination of concrete and EPS foam that maximizes the foam in the concrete piece, increasing insulation capabilities. A building constructed of structural precast panels may reduce energy consumption by as much as 30%.
2. Sustainable materials
Quite simply, a building made with structural precast panels will consume less energy, but an idea that should be at the heart of any sustainability conversation is product life. The use of concrete dates back to Roman times and its durability is still on display all across Europe. That raw, ancient building material has remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years. Many of the materials used in precast concrete are, as a rule, locally sourced, including the cement, the coarse and fine aggregates, and the steel.
3. Long-term viability and flexibility
Structural precast allows for a very modular building envelope. As business requirements change and needs evolve, an existing precast building has the flexibility to be expanded and modified. With structural precast concrete panels, you can add or remove pedestrian doors and dock doors, incorporate daylighting options, and even remove 75% of a wall. And due to its modular design, total repurposing of a precast building is entirely possible; churches can become car dealerships, warehouses can become micro-breweries… the options are only limited by a property owner’s imagination.
4. Quick installation
Speed is a critical hallmark of structural precast construction. “With precast panels, you can establish a larger completed footprint in a shorter amount of time,” says George Miks, director of engineering.“If you think of a masonry wall, what they send out to the site are a bunch of blocks that have to be assembled and constructed out in the field.” When structural precast panels arrive at a job site, the pieces are ready to install. If things go smoothly out in the field, an experienced crew can install 20 to 30, 12-foot panels in a day.
5. Load-bearing capabilities and wind resistance
Structural precast concrete panels are comprised of high-strength concrete and prestressed steel strand. It’s relatively routine for precast concrete wall panels have a compressive strength of approximately 7,000 PSI. You can apply loads in excess of 100,000 pounds to the panels, Miks says. “When you build steel buildings, for instance, you have to put up perimeter beams and columns and then put steel skin against it. All of that steel has to support those enclosure panels,” Miks says. “With a structural precast wall system, you don’t need any of those perimeter beams and columns. You can just tip up the panel and have the roof steel members themselves attach to the precast. That also means you’ll be spending less on steel.” Precast also stands up to Mother Nature’s wrath, shrugging off tornadoes, flying projectiles and winds up to 250 miles per hour.
6. Fire and sound ratings
Concrete is obviously an effective barrier for fire; it simply doesn’t burn well. Precast concrete wall panels are capable of providing a two- to four-hour fire rating. Precast walls also stay intact even in hot chemical fires. Warehouses often use precast wall panels as dividers to protect goods on the other side of fire-prone areas. “The more delay you can create from one side to the other, the better chance of getting people out safely without incident and also the higher probability of protecting goods and services,” Miks says.
Constructing a commercial structure is a huge undertaking and a significant investment. Whether you’re charged with the growth of a company, serving your community or building a legacy of your own, precast construction is a solid, responsible option said Miks.