Precast Concrete in Construction

Modern uses for pre-cast technology include a variety of architectural and structural applications — including individual parts, or even entire building systems.

Prefab is also a popular material for constructing office buildings. The walls of the building can be manufactured while the on-site foundations are being built, providing significant time savings and resulting in early occupancy.

Precast concrete is a construction product produced by casting concrete in a reusable mold or “form” which is then cured in a controlled environment, transported to the construction site and lifted into place.  

The precast concrete structures industry focuses on prestressed concrete elements and on other precast concrete elements used in above-ground structures such as buildings, parking structures, and bridges…

In 1950, the first major precast concrete structure appeared in the United States — the Walnut Lane Memorial Bridge in Philadelphia. This bridge is recognized by many as the beginning of the precast concrete industry in the United States as we know it today. A few years later, the Precast Concrete Institute was formed to begin to set standards for this emerging industry.

What types of projects use precast concrete?

Many suspect the precast concrete industry began in ancient Rome, as the extensive network of underground tunnels that exist to this day seem to indicate the use of precast building materials.

1. Precast concrete structures

Parking Structures: In parking structure design, durability, economy and installation are three key points of consideration, which is why precast concrete is usually the building material of choice. You’ll find several different precast concrete products in parking garages — columns, traffic barriers, stairs, paving slabs and more.

Foundations: Precast concrete is used to create entire buildings — more about that below — but in cases where it isn’t utilized for the entire building, it may still be used for the foundation. Many residential homes and other buildings have precast concrete foundations, regardless of what is used for walls and floors in the rest of the building.

Bridges: You’ll find precast concrete materials are used for beams, arches, girders, deck slabs, caps and more. Regardless of the size of the bridge, precast concrete gives engineers the ability to create a structure that blends in with the environment and is compatible with any historical surroundings.

2. Prefab for buildings

Precast panels can be moulded for a variety of functions, which is why you can find all types of precast components in buildings of all types, including industrial units, superstructures such as bridges and flyovers, hospitals and residential homes.

Office Buildings: The unique characteristics of precast concrete products allow for unique building designs that are attractive and functional. Take advantage of precast concrete columns paired with architectural panels to create large and open spaces.

Multi-Unit Housing: Precast concrete products have superior fire resistance — known to reduce fire insurance rates — and also act as a sound barrier. These characteristics make it a perfect choice for hotels, dormitories, apartment buildings and complexes, senior living communities and similar structures.

Hospitals and Medical Centers: For many of the same reasons precast concrete is preferred for multi-unit housing, it also provides a strong foundation for hospitals and medical centers.

Elements of Precast Concrete Building

Formwork is the name for the mould which provides the method used to create the precast concrete. 

The concrete is poured in and is supported by the formwork until it is strong enough to stand alone. Each unit can be manufactured to meet the architect’s requirements and can incorporate different joining and fixing solutions.

1. Precast Footings

Precast footings are foundations that are easy to install and use as soon as they arrive on site. They are extremely strong and provide a stable and level base from which to build.

2. Beams

Precast concrete beams are an integral feature of many buildings today. They are particularly suited to floor construction in houses, flats and commercial buildings and provide a low-cost flooring solution. 

Edge and spandrel beams which have a sill, go around the edge of the construction adding strength and with the sill providing the base from which floor slating can start. Spine beams are like spandrel beams but have two sills.

3. Columns

With both strength and flexibility, precast concrete columns add strength and flexibility and increase the life of any building. 

Columns can be made to the architect’s design and incorporate any special features or fittings. These columns can be erected as much as five times faster than in-situ methods of concrete production, so are labour saving.

The Advantages of Precast

With precast concrete you can use the mould as many identical panels as you require. The process is quick, the factory setting facilitates the setting up of good quality control arrangements which result in a high-class product each time. 

However, as the process only requires semi-skilled operators, labour costs are kept down. Furthermore, construction isn’t dependent on the weather. The precast concrete can be easily transported to the site by lorry when the construction is ready for them.

For projects residential and commercial, precast concrete means engineers enjoy greater latitude in planning and design. Precast concrete products arrive on site completely customized and ready for fast installation. When you choose precast concrete products, you can accelerate your project’s schedule and enjoy the cost savings that emerge from using concrete products that are precast offsite.

Parametric Design For Optimized Design Processes

Parametric design is therefore particularly beneficial for items that are typically used across multiple projects, such as precast or steel components including buried structures, reinforced staircases, columns and beams, or openings like doors and windows. 

Including parametric design in projects can optimize the design process, ensuring production drawings can be created in less time, for less money.

Supporting Prefabrication With 3D Modeling Software

Advanced 3D modeling software offers many advantages and opportunities for increased efficiency when working on prefabricated projects. By removing many repetitive tasks and providing tools and working methods that increase the accuracy of the final drawings, 3D modeling software can ensure that prefabrication does not just benefit, but the design process as well. 

Your prefabrication projects can benefit from quicker and more precise designs, try Allplan 2021 and discover the wide range of powerful tools available.

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