How Precast Concrete Builds - Resiliently

How do we build a structure that can withstand whatever natural or man-made disasters life can throw at it?  Precast concrete construction is the top choice of owners who need durable, reliable structures.


Resilient Design
Resilient design is multifaceted and involves long-term thinking about worst-case scenarios, as well as more common every day wear.  The variables which contribute to resilience are complicated, but the big picture is simple: buildings need to be resilient in order to be truly sustainable.  A precast concrete building can be both a beautiful and durable structure.

Structural Durability
When you start the design process with resiliency in mind precast concrete checks all the boxes.

A resilient, durable building starts at the building envelope and employs proper sealing, insulation and adequate moisture protection.  Precast concrete is a multipurpose barrier wall system that serves as a rain screen on the exterior and offers an interior finish that dries out if it gets wet and does not require replacement.

Commercial, industrial, multifamily - all types of buildings experience day-to-day wear and tear - these structures need to last through years of constant use.  For a long-lasting building designers need a tight building envelope with low-maintenance interior and exterior finishes.  Precast concrete structures can be designed for 100-year service life with minimal upkeep.

Multi-Hazard Protection
Keep the big picture in mind and prepare buildings to withstand possible disasters as well as more mundane long-term wear and tear.  Resilient design serves to remind us to design with precast concrete to stand the test of time.

After so many super storms, hurricanes and typhoons, resilient design has become a top priority.  While environmentally friendly principles are important, low-VOC paints and LEED points don’t matter much if a building becomes uninhabitable due to an earthquake, flood, power outage or other natural or man-made disaster.  That is where resilient design with precast concrete comes into play.

The wet climate in the east is the leading environmental challenge.  There the most likely natural disaster scenarios involve water: hurricanes, flooding, storm surges and blizzards.  Resilient design is local and so the east needs to plan for all of these types of events, as well as the day-to-day stress that comes from year round precipitation, high humidity and extremely dry interiors of heated buildings all winter.  Add terrorism and low- to moderate-seismic activity to round out the list.

Out west, seismic considerations are obviously more of a concern, as well as tornadoes and fire.  Precast concrete structures have withstood the barrage of all man-made and natural disasters with the backup data to prove it.  From blast testing, to fire ratings, to shake tables - precast concrete has proved its capacity to bounce back after a disturbance or interruption.  With the innovative use of special seismic connections precast concrete structures can withstand an earthquake and maintain critical operations.  From past disasters it is obvious that the precast concrete buildings are the last ones standing.


Life Safety and Health
Resilient structures are very important when it comes to the health, safety and comfort of a city.  Precast concrete does not off gas hazardous substances whether wet or dry which improves indoor air quality.  Long, clear spans in a precast concrete building provide plentiful daylighting which can add to the well-being of occupants.

In fire, precast concrete performs well - both as an engineered structure and as a material in its own right.  Precast concrete does not burn and it does not emit any toxic fumes when affected by fire.  Because of concrete’s inherent material properties, it offers passive resistance and can minimize the fire risk for the lowest initial cost and require the least maintenance.  Precast concrete does not require additional fire protection because it is noncombustible and has slow rate of heat transfer.  Precast concrete ensures structural integrity and provides compartmentation.

Used at its most basic level as shelter from a storm - precast concrete construction meets all FEMA P-361 criteria for safe rooms.  These storm shelters must provide near-absolute protection from wind and wind-blown debris for occupants from extreme events.  The design wind speeds chosen by FEMA for safe rooms place an emphasis on life safety.  Precast concrete storm shelters withstand wind-borne debris protection for wind speeds up to 250 mph.

Precast Builds Resiliently—Summary
What can we learn from buildings past and present?  A resilient building is one that rolls with the punches.  To maximize the future resilience of buildings, they should be designed for durability, robustness and continuity.  Use materials and construction methods that are durable in the face of natural and man-made events.  Precast concrete construction is designed to last the test of time

~ Information provided courtesy of PCI.