What Are the Benefits of Precast Concrete Construction?


When it comes to large-scale construction projects, efficiency and cost-effectiveness are crucial factors that can make or break a project. With a plethora of challenges affecting cost, flexibility, and speed, planners and architects are constantly on the lookout for innovative solutions to help them get the job done. Traditional cast-in-place concrete construction has been a reliable option for years, but it pales in comparison to the superior advantages and strengths of precast construction. With that in mind, let’s examine precast construction and the numerous benefits precast concrete brings to the table.

What Is Precast Concrete?

Precast concrete is a construction product made by casting concrete in a reusable mold or “form” in plant-controlled conditions. Unlike traditional concrete, which is formed, poured, and cured on site in varying weather conditions, precast concrete is made in a manufacturing environment, usually at an off-site facility. It is then transported after it is cured and finished, meaning when it reaches the construction site, it’s ready to be placed into its final position. This process offers tremendous versatility during the design and construction phases of a project, and it can be adapted for a wide variety of structures, from buildings and bridges to tunnels and pipes. In fact, some of the most famous and complex structures in history were built using precast concrete. Other construction materials like steel, wood, and masonry all have their place, but the benefits of precast concrete are numerous and undeniable. Here are some of them:

Tindall workers at a manufacturing facility pouring and placing concrete.

Superior Quality Control

One of the most significant advantages of using precast concrete in construction is higher quality control management and superior tolerance. Because the production of precast elements occurs in a factory setting where the concrete mixing, curing, and quality checks adhere to standardization and careful monitoring by a specialized resident staff, precast elements achieve higher levels of consistency and quality than traditional concrete construction methods.

Precast producers operate in a dedicated facility, and most have the capability to batch their own concrete. This allows for careful control of the concrete mixture components and the production of custom mix designs when required. They also procure, store, and maintain the raw materials that go into their products, providing for sourcing consistency and a more efficient process. Beyond the quality advantages, this also eliminates the old standard of shipping ready-mix concrete over roads and highways.

Precast producers can achieve an even greater level of quality by keeping their manufacturing operations under a roof or within an enclosed facility. Doing so, and in some cases, introducing heat to curing conditions, allows precasters to pour year round in nearly all regions of the country. All these elements work together to reduce the typical defects and variations common with on-site concrete construction, making precast concrete products a more consistent and dependable option for many construction projects.

Accelerated Construction Speed

Another significant advantage of precast concrete is its ability to expedite construction projects. Precast construction can reduce construction schedules primarily because fabrication of the components takes place concurrently with site and foundation work. When compared to other methods of construction, the amount of time needed for site and foundation work is the same. What changes between the methods is the amount of time required to build the superstructure and enclosure. Since precast concrete elements are ready for installation when they arrive at the job site, considerable time savings can be achieved. Roughly six to seven thousand square feet of surface area can be erected in a single day using only a crane and a small crew.

Further, having a sole source of supply for the structure and enclosure system mitigates coordination breakdown and improves logistics. Fewer trades are involved, which minimizes the overall coordination efforts, making precast construction an invaluable asset for contractors seeking a quick and consistent alternative.

Bar chart comparing on-site construction time by weeks for Tindall precast concrete and other construction methods.

Cost-Effectiveness and Efficiency

Precast concrete offers substantial cost savings throughout the construction process. To understand this, it is important to look beyond material cost comparisons and examine how it impacts all the variables. Compression of the construction schedule means reduced interim financing and a faster path to revenue generation for the project owner. By reducing material waste, transportation costs, and labor expenses, precast concrete also contributes significantly toward lowering general condition costs during construction. Bulk manufacturing of precast concrete elements allows for economies of scale, which reduces unit costs. When compared to other materials, its longer service life and lower life-cycle costs result in reduced operational and maintenance expenses as well.

Additionally, the absence of on-site concrete pouring minimizes the need for formwork, scaffolding, and on-site curing, resulting in fewer delays and lower labor costs. With fewer workers required for erecting precast structures, projects can be completed more safely, quickly, and cost effectively, ensuring budgets are met.

Unmatched Design Flexibility

From both a layout and an exterior aesthetics perspective, precast presents virtually limitless design possibilities for architectural expression. Because it is wet cast, precast concrete can be molded into various shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. In fact, most precast producers operate in-house carpentry and steel fabrication shops to create forms and steel reinforcement elements. When murals or more elaborate designs are desired, precasters may acquire highly specialized reusable urethane, fiberglass, or plastic molds to achieve the desired effect. Since they can batch their own concrete, they also have the capability to develop unique colors or include exotic aggregates in the concrete mixture.

While precast concrete is often associated with utilitarian structures, it can also be seamlessly integrated with other materials, such as metals, glass, or masonry units, allowing for the creation of visually appealing facades. Moreover, precast concrete can be integrated with other structural systems or be designed to accommodate all loading conditions, such as gravity, wind, seismic, and thermal loads. This versatility ensures that precast concrete can meet the specific needs of any structure.

Energy-Efficiency and Sustainability

Precast concrete can play a crucial role in improving a building’s energy performance and sustainability. Precast panels provide thermal mass and insulation, which deliver energy savings. Thermal mass refers to a material’s ability to store heat and release it slowly over time, while insulation helps to prevent heat transfer between the building’s interior and exterior. By reducing the temperature fluctuations inside the building, precast concrete lowers heating and cooling demands, resulting in reduced energy consumption and less stress on the power grid during prime operating hours. This creates not only a more cost-effective structure but a more comfortable one as well.

Considerations for Precast Concrete Construction

While precast construction offers numerous benefits, it requires careful planning and coordination to ensure successful execution. Early design considerations and component selections can seem daunting initially, but precast producers do some of their best work at the preliminary stages of a project by providing suggestions for layouts in collaboration with the design team’s efforts. Starting with only a schematic, in most cases, the precast producers can model a structure and ultimately develop a set of construction drawings.

Precast concrete must account for site conditions, and construction crews must arrange for specialized transportation and equipment handling methods to accommodate the casting of elements. However, for companies like Tindall, who have over 60 years of industry expertise and a diverse project portfolio, these additional considerations are simply part of the job and don’t outweigh the numerous benefits that precast concrete has to offer.

Arhaus, a mixed-use structure with commercial spaces and parking levels within a city surrounded by cars.

Conclusion

Precast concrete has become a transformative force in large-scale construction, revolutionizing how construction companies get larger jobs done. By offering unparalleled efficiency, cost effectiveness, and design flexibility, precast concrete has emerged as a game changer in the construction industry. By collaborating with reputable manufacturers such as Tindall, construction professionals can unlock the many benefits of precast concrete and achieve extraordinary results in their projects. From infrastructure to building systems, Tindall does it all, leading the precast concrete industry by consistently delivering top-tier results faster and within budget. For questions regarding precast construction, contact Tindall today!

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