The Many Uses of Precast Concrete
There are many different uses for precast concrete, whether it be for structural integrity or simply aesthetic design. To cover them all may be impossible within this limited amount of space, however; here are some of the main uses for each of the precast concrete innovations discussed above.
Basic pre-stressed concrete forms are designed for hundreds, if not thousands of uses. Due to its overall strength and durability, these forms are used throughout the world, however; typically find the bulk of their use in low-seismic zones throughout the planet. Strong and durable, earthquakes, aftershocks and tremors of larger magnitudes may place the structural integrity of precast concrete at risk. That being said, because these forms are already set upon delivery to the building locations in which they are used, they allow for the construction to move much more quickly given there is not the set up and cure times for concrete poured on site.
In addition, because of their strength and ability to handle increased workloads, the use of precast concrete has been seen widely throughout the use of skyscrapers, taller buildings and apartment complexes. That is not to say though that the structure itself has to be a high-rise office building or an apartment complex. Many precast concrete projects are found within residential homes, and due to its eco-friendly nature, they are becoming very popular in new home builds and renovations of older homes alike.
For example, whereas there has been a rise in the popularity of granite countertops over the past decade, but one of the newest innovations seen in residential kitchen design it precast concrete countertops. These countertops can be poured with a varying number of aggregates, and stained to match any kitchen design. In addition, some countertops are poured with the sink already in place too, making the sink basin itself a precast concrete structure.
Another great example of precast being utilized in the residential sector is using them for garage floors, especially when there is an under garage beneath the main one. Because these forms are as structurally sound as they are, parking two to three vehicles on top of them is never a problem. In many of these cases, because of its durability and lightweight, hollowcore forms are utilized for these flooring needs. Again, this saves the contractor from pouring a standard concrete slab and waiting for it to set up prior to building. In addition, if there were another room below the garage, additional structures would have to be built to ensure the ceiling of the lower area held true. Once set in place and secured, the builders can get right to work on putting the garage into place.
The other great thing about using these hollowcore forms as a garage floor is that should there be a second garage or storage area underneath the original garage, the precast hollowcore slabs not only serve as the floor to the main garage, but also serve as the ceiling to the lower garage or storage area.
An example of using precast concrete in a commercial design element is the Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Campus located in Des Moines, IA. There are two signs, one at each entrance located on the main thoroughfares on which the building is located. These signs have a black steel sign featuring the company’s brand, sandwiched between two designer slabs of precast concrete. This is one of literally millions of examples of companies utilizing precast concrete forms based solely on their aesthetic design for featuring their company.
Although many of the previously mentioned designs are utilized for appearance and residential use, there are also a number uses for precast concrete which are never even seen by the public. Many of the planet’s sewer systems are built primarily from precast concrete forms. Although starting as aqueducts and culverts in Roman times, these sewer systems offer the structural stability required by their heavy usage, but also, being watertight, ensure the contents of the sewer system remain in the sewer, and not escaping into the environment through which they run.
In addition to the planet’s sewer system, more and more companies today are using precast concrete forms as material for retaining walls where needed. Given the design is precast and can be made In just about any form, many of these walls can be precast to give the appearance of a block design, while offering much more structural stability. These precast retaining walls are being used both commercially and residentially.
Agriculturally, these precast concrete forms are also being used for a number of different tasks from feed troughs to grain storage, to outbuildings for storing agricultural equipment. In the past, many of these building were made of brick, wood or metal. Precast has grown in popularity for these structures due to its ability to withstand the elements better than wood and metal, as well as its strength and structural integrity out performing standard brick and mortar buildings.
Another use for precast concrete that benefits both residential and commercial users alike is the use of sound barriers along high traffic areas. In many major cities throughout the world where highways and interstates run through heavily populated areas, the noise can be nearly unbearable for residents along those thoroughfares. Because of that, many cities have employed these precast structures along these transit systems to serve as a sound barrier keeping the decibel level for the residents at a minimum. Furthermore, this also ensures those living along these roadways are kept safe from the high-speed travelers using them on a daily basis.
Finally, there are additional specialized uses for precast concrete forms that may not always be thought of, but are also growing in popularity with time. One example is the use of precast concrete in cemetery projects. Whether it is the building of mausoleums or above ground crypts, or precast headstones, in the past these were created by hand and chiseled out as needed. Today, thanks to precast concrete forms coming in numerous shapes and sizes, this is making these tasks all the easier.
On a somewhat lighter note, many of the precast concrete forms today are also found below the surface of ponds, lakes, rivers and oceans. Used as footings for docks, bridges, off-shore oil rigs and many other structures that find their base below the water’s surface, these forms are great for being precast and transportable to the body of water in which they will soon be set. Again, the strength and durability of these precast structures allows them to perform as well under the surface as they do above it.