Precast is practical, beautiful, and safe
The precast concrete industry is one of the most innovative in the entire construction sector, says Arto Suikka, Sector Manager at the Finnish Concrete Industry Association. ”Industrialized construction means cost efficiency, good quality, eco-friendly solutions, and great variety in architectural prospects. In other words, precast is practical, beautiful, and safe.”
No matter what the local conditions of a geographical area, precast is a most practical solution. ”In many European countries, precast concrete has a strong position in housing, commercial, and infrastructure construction,” says Suikka. ”This is thanks to the speed and quality of prefabricated production.” In many countries the availability and price of skilled labor is critical for a construction project, and these favor the use of precast concrete as it means a reduced amount of labor on the building site and reduced construction time, resulting in a higher level of productivity, lower construction site costs, and a more efficient use of capital. An important benefit of using precast is also that it enables contractors to keep to the schedule.
”As for on-site production, productivity has remained the same, but in industrialized environments, productivity has steadily increased,” explains Suikka. ”The flexibility of precast is increased with prestressing and high-strength concrete, allowing for long spans and great adaptability. In seismic areas—for example, in southern Europe—precast building has previously not been favored, but with continuously better joint techniques being developed, precast is increasingly promoted. In India and Brazil, for example, the demand for new housing is so enormous that they cannot meet the need without prefabricated concrete solutions.”
Precast is beautiful
When we talk about facades, precast concrete surfaces, there exists today a large variety of alternatives. New surfaces, better durability up to 200 years and better technical quality in wall panels have been developed. There are different mould surfaces: brushed, polished, exposed fine aggregate, or sand blasted surfaces, to mention just a few. White cement, pigment, and colored aggregates provide the best quality colors.
”Precast is truly versatile, both timeless and modern, whatever is required,” Suikka notes. ”It can be straight or curved, or even something else.” These features enable architects and designers to create unforeseen, unique facade solutions to please our eye and make us enjoy our city environment. In fact, no other material provides so many different possibilities. ”A fine example of the latest innovations is the Finnish Graphic ConcreteTM surface technology,” Suikka continues. There the retarder is laid onto the surface of a special membrane by using printing technology. The membrane is laid on the mould and concrete is poured onto it. Almost any figure can be transferred onto the final concrete surface. Various standard figures and textures have been developed and they are used in buildings on the inside as well as the outside. Graphic ConcreteTM is a patented system and it allows the precast concrete industry to produce stylish new concrete surfaces cost effectively and safely.
Precast is safe
The safety of building with precast comes from the superior quality of
prefabricated products; the quality is better and more consistent. The
production of concrete in a factory environment enables the use of better raw
materials and makes for better concrete. ”Design solutions can be
standardized, everyone knows them, and this also adds to the safety feature,”
says Suikka. Building with precast also means there are fewer workers buzzing
around at the site, as well as less machinery, which enhances safety as well.
According to Suikka, another contributing factor is precast’s eco-friendly characteristics. Globally, efficient use of energy is the key in limiting the impacts of climate change. When assessed over the whole life cycle of a building, concrete outperforms all other primary construction materials in terms of energy efficiency. The thermal inertia of concrete allows it to absorb and store surplus heat or cold, and release these back to the air (heat in winter and coolness in summer). Many research results show that the thermal inertia of concrete saves some 5-15% of the heating energy in buildings and even much more in cooling energy.
”Through the industrialized process with its quality, performance, and
prefabricated solutions save time, money, raw materials, energy, and nature. Engaged with several projects of corporate social responsibility, eco-management and eco-innovation, the precast industry is at the forefront of sustainable construction,” Suikka concludes.
Sector manager, M.Sc. (Civ. Eng.), Finnish Concrete Industry Association
Mr Suikka is Sector manager for precast concrete industry at Betoniteollisuus ry (Finnish Concrete Industry Association). Since receiving his M. Sc. in 1975 he has worked as designer and in precast industry in various jobs, and the past 19 years in current position. Since 1984 Mr Suikka has been a member of Precast commission FIB, and for past 15 years he has worked as an active member in various commissions of BIBM. Also he is a professional member of PCI.
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