Precast Possibilites; An Intern Architect’s Take
From project managers in the field to interns conducting investigative research, the team at Kluber Architects and Engineers is constantly exploring new technologies that expand the firm’s client service capabilities.
Our goal is to present information in the clearest, most useful way possible for our clients. With subjects such as styles of precast concrete, it is vital to show how the structure and design of these materials contribute to their usefulness in facility design and cost control.
Precast concrete is a practical and desirable product because it is a highly efficient way to create appealing buildings while optimizing cost and construction factors. It gives architects enormous flexibility in design while delivering structural resistance to environmental threats such as fires, natural disasters, moisture incursion, wind or precipitation damage, even earthquakes and temperature fluctuations that can damage typical concrete construction.
To make this information more visually accessible and explain why precast concrete is a practical and desirable construction material, Kluber Intern Architect Parnell Tesoro developed a “Types of Precast” explanatory graphic to show the internal and external workings of this construction product.
As an Intern Architect at Kluber, Parnell is known for the great care that he takes when learning new concepts. Parnell developed the precast concrete graphic presented here to aid him during the design phase of the Central Park Place project. This building, a mixed-use redevelopment of the old Nichols Library, is currently under construction in downtown Naperville. The complexity of coordination and installation of the precast for this project is a story in and of itself.
Many of Kluber’s younger staff are creating resources as progressive life-long learners and taking initiative when it comes to new information needed for projects.
“This [graphic] is a helpful reference on other projects that may incorporate precast, not just for me, bur for anyone who has the idea of using it and may not know that these options are available.”
As Parnell explains, different types of precast panels serve specific purposes.
- Typical exterior precast panels – Consists of a sandwich panel of an exterior and interior layer of concrete with an inner insulation layer. Typically 10″ or 12″ thick.
- Precast Panel Reveal – This type of precast includes 2” grooves cut at different elevations to enhance aesthetics. The exterior face of the panel can add vertical and horizontal grooves to add aesthetic features at low costs.
- Brick Inlay Precast Panel – same as typical, but with a thin layer of brick applied on one side to give appearance of brick wall. Can be left gray or colored.
- Formliner precast panel – one side of the precast is created to convey a specific texture, such as stone. There are standard formliners available or custom liners can be economically prepared if needed to match the building to its surroundings.
- Stone veneer on precast – structured the same way as a typical precast panel but with stone or brick flush mounted on it.
A visit to a precast concrete construction facility is, therefore, a revelation in understanding modular planning and construction. As illustrated by Parnell, the basic forms of precast include the precast double tee, the double tee supported on haunches, the basic precast plank and a plan supported on a precast beam. Precast is created using a reusable mold or “form” that produces an element to be cured in a controlled environment and later transported to a construction site via truck. The precast elements are then positioned to construct the building and fulfill the goals of the client in a new facility.
When it comes to style, precast concrete is almost unlimited in terms of shape or coverage. It is designed to deliver a wide diversity of color options and finishes. Precast companies create these products off-site as determined by the client and architect, then stored out of the elements until ready for installation. Precast has evolved from basic structural elements to aesthetically pleasing exteriors. Precast can now be used in complex structures that most people would think precast couldn’t be used. “It’s not just your basic warehouse anymore, there’s a lot of looks that can now be accomplished with precast that may be more cost effective.”
It also provides flexibility in construction schedules by allowing buildout to proceed while the designs are being developed or year-round application in areas where cold weather might otherwise halt construction.
“It really is a fascinating construction material and process,” Parnell notes about his research. “Kluber has created some really beautiful buildings using precast concrete. I think our clients should strongly consider it depending on their needs.”
Precast Progress at Central Park Place in Naperville, IL