Meeting the Educational Facility’s Needs
As the children of baby boomers grow up, school districts nationwide need to expand learning facilities. Often, these needs must be met rapidly, as budget and approval processes don’t take into account that school doors must open when the school bell rings each fall — or summer. Being one-month late is not an option.
To meet this fast-track need while providing a variety of other key benefits, more schools are being designed using architectural and structural precast, prestressed concrete components. The components include:
both nonload- and load-bearing precast concrete panels, often with an interior sandwiched layer of insulation;
hollowcore and double-tee floor/ceiling planks;
precast columns and beams; and
double-tee roofing components.
When these components are joined in a total precast concrete system, the synergy produces unmatched advantages — in total cost effectiveness, reduced construction time and improved quality and durability. A school building designed from the start with a total precast system provides the best design possible. Designers also are using precast concrete modular systems to create finished spaces even quicker. These projects — featuring precast ceilings, walls and floors — are delivered to the site and simply connected together. Bathroom modules can be completely outfitted at the precaster’s plant prior to delivery.
A total precast concrete system saves money in many ways, both short- and long-term. The savings include costs often hidden within overall construction budgets and create advantages that continue to save throughout the building’s lifetime. These life-cycle savings help control operational budgets, resulting in lower construction costs today and lessened tax burdens tomorrow.
It takes significantly less time to design a precast concrete school building than one built of masonry, because of the lessened detail required in precast’s panelized system and the ability to quickly replicate components on each floor or wing.
Precast components can be fabricated while permitting and foundation work progress. Precast components typically can begin erection as soon as the site is ready and foundations are complete. And, as the single-source supplier, precasters help maintain the critical-path scheduling required to meet deadlines.
Foundations can be placed one day and precast load-bearing or nonload-bearing panels can be erected the next day. Wall panels, double tees and hollowcore planking also erect quickly, often cutting weeks and months from the schedule, allowing construction to get into the dry quicker. Interior trades then begin work earlier. The fast enclosure lessens weather or material damage during erection, reducing the contractor’s risks — and costs.
Because precast components are fabricated under tight, factory-controlled conditions at the plant, harsh winter weather does not impact the production schedule or product quality. This guarantees the schedule by eliminating the need to addcushions into the timetable to accommodate unforeseen schedule creep because of weather.
Precast concrete insulated sandwich panels provide an interior layer of insulation that boosts energy efficiency. They also create a finished interior wall that avoids the time and cost of furring and drywalling. The wall is highly durable and vandal-resistant, making it an ideal option throughout a school building and especially in high-use areas, such as gymnasiums and pools. Precast’s just-in-time delivery and its array of efficiencies create a speed advantage that grows throughout the construction process, saving costs and meeting deadlines. The use of precast concrete can cut approximately one-third off the required timetable.
Unlimited Appearance Options
School administrators want their facilities to project a strong, secure image with a traditional appearance that relates well with existing campus buildings or scale of the neighborhood. Precast concrete components can achieve this in a cost-efficient way with added benefits.
Using inset thin-brick techniques on precast’s panelized systems can create the look that many school districts seek. Precast’s inset brick eliminates the long scheduling needed for laid-up brick while removing several trades from the site. It ensures a high-quality, even-spaced appearance that is difficult to achieve with actual brickwork — while eliminating on-site inspections.
Using traditional brick as the building enclosure can lead to a congested work site, wasted materials, added time and construction materials, problems with blocked weep holes from falling mortar, inconsistent labor expertise, weak mortar joints, efflorescence and disruptions because of bad weather. All of these quality concerns and time delays are eliminated with precast concrete systems.
Precast concrete panels offer a plasticity in shapes, curves and geometries that can create any desired look. They interface smoothly with glass and other modern materials.
Precasters’ ability to tint concrete and provide several tones by using various surface treatments within one panel allows designers to specify any color they want. A wide range of finish combinations and textures can be achieved easily.
Special mixes and finish techniques are used on panels to mimic limestone, granite and any other type of stone desired. The finishes are produced far more economically than real stone can be laid, and they can be erected much quicker. Form liners can replicate unusual pieces, such as cut stone or slate.
Matching Existing Campuses
With its ability to replicate such a wide range of materials, precast concrete panels ensure new buildings blend with existing ones. This is particularly true if the original buildings also were made of precast concrete, as previous mixes often can be reproduced.
School names, emblems and other custom touches can be embedded into panels, creating unique accents at an attractive cost.
High Quality Control Standards
PCI-Member precast plants meet a stringent quality-control program encompassing the plant, materials and personnel. Each plant undergoes two unannounced inspections each year. More than 120 areas are inspected and tracked through time. PCI certification meets IBC requirements and eliminates the need for special inspections, saving direct costs incurred with masonry.
Designers exert more control over the final appearance using precast concrete thanks to finish and range samples, as well as mockup panels. The architect and owner can visit the precast plant to monitor progress, ensuring no surprises arise at the site.
Precast panels with thin brick allow the option to design greater levels of detail at reduced costs. Additional ornamentation can be achieved by leaving brick off areas of a panel — to create banding, medallions or the appearance of cast stone enclosures around fenestration.
When using precast wall panels, several trades and materials are eliminated from the construction process. The impermeable wall structure eliminates moisture migration, a real problem with typical masonry construction that results in eventual moisture, mold and mildew concerns. These problems often are neglected with tight maintenance budgets, potentially causing a deterioration in indoor air quality.
As the single source for so many architectural and structural components, brickwork or other finishes, the precaster works closely with the construction team to ensure satisfaction. These benefits continue to pay off long after the construction is completed.