New precast standards bring the goals of project owners and architects into alignment

The award-winning 1200 Intrepid Ave project at the Philadelphia Navy Yard was a High Concrete Group project.

The new certification program helps project owners, architects and designers choose the right architectural precast concrete producers for their jobs, allowing projects to be completed faster and more cost-effectively without sacrificing design quality.

But to get the most out of the new program, architects and owners need to understand some of the nuances that separate the four levels of the pre-cast Architectural Certification.

When the institute introduced the standards in the fourth quarter of 2021, the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute said its previous one-size-fits-all certification program that it had used for more than 50 years no longer met the needs of the architectural, engineering and construction community.

“Designers asked PCI to consider developing new software that highlights the quality skills available from the industry,” said Bob Reiser, President and CEO of PCI, when the new standards were revealed. “The PCI Board of Directors has accepted the challenge and after several years of hard work by PCI members and staff, the program is well underway.”

What does this mean for architects, builders and owners of new commercial buildings? Representatives of High Concrete Group, one of the largest ready-mix concrete in the country, said the new four-layer PCI system better aligned with project stakeholders’ expectations.

“While it is easy to see why architects and end-users will certainly gravitate toward the intricate and intricate aesthetics that precast concrete provides, these designs may conflict with some of the client’s priorities,” said John J. Siroki, President of High Concrete. This is why it is important to work with a precaster company who has an in-house design and engineering team to help ensure the right balance between aesthetics and function. ”

But in the context of PCI’s new standards, that doesn’t mean that architects and end users need to sacrifice quality, said Jimmy Swiggart, Director of Sales at High Concrete.

“Today’s precast product options are not the precast concrete of years ago,” Swiggart said. They are not limited to institutional-looking walls. There are many features that can be added to any precast product, and the new standards allow the manufacturer to produce products that are very economical yet very aesthetically pleasing.”

The new PCI system divides prefabricated architectural products into four categories. The most stringent, known as “AA”, has the most stringent product and installation requirements, covering cladding or non-bearing products that feature curved or three-dimensional surfaces.

Two other classes, AB and AC, also cover cladding products or finished products that are not load bearing but with less demanding tolerances, which define permissible differences in product dimensions and location. The least architecturally rigorous category, AD, relates to precast structural products.

Architects may be tempted to specify AA-level precast products for architectural applications, but most of the time their clients’ needs can be met with less stringent – and more budget friendly – AB or AC standards.

“High tolerances for AA can be achieved, but what architects need to know is that there are costs associated with AA,” Swiggart said. “Across all the jobs we look at over the course of the year, you might get one project that really fits AA, but there is a lot of extra setup time, making up time and pumping time. Because the tolerances are so tight, we have to really make sure our shapes are absolutely perfect. Then, once the piece is pulled off the models, it is ensured that the color and finish are absolutely excellent.”

Less than 20% of precast concrete has been certified capable of doing work at AA level, a designation that is not easily achievable. To join this exclusive club, Swiggart said High Concrete has been involved in extensive and ongoing PCI auditing and monitoring at its two plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

But even with that level of commitment, Swiggart said the company doesn’t hesitate to tell a customer when they might be well served by selecting products that meet the less stringent AB category.

“The AB product itself is really a highly advanced prefabricated architectural product but with lower costs than the AA product, which is important at a time when many contractors and owners are concerned about rising material and labor costs,” he said. “For most projects, everything you need or want in a precast wall is covered by AB.”

No matter what level of precast concrete an entrepreneur ultimately chooses, Swiggart said all precast products bring the same benefits to buildings.

“It is often overlooked by architects and owners, but prefabrication offers a significant reduction in the operational costs of the completed building,” he said. “Precast panels provide edge-to-edge insulation, which is required today by many building codes. Concrete absorbs heat or cold and releases throughout the day, ultimately reducing the demand for HVAC equipment in a building. Precast also has a lifespan Too long, reducing the owners’ maintenance or repair needs.”

Any industry-wide change could lead to disruption. But in this case, switching to using the new certification program should give project owners, architects and designers better clarity and inspiration when selecting and selecting precast concrete for their projects, Swiggart said.

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and High Concrete. Bisnow News employees were not involved in the production of this content.

Studio B is Bisnow’s content and interior design studio. To learn more about how Studio B can help your team, reach out to [email protected]

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