Page 64 - Colorado Construction & Design Magazine - Spring 2023
P. 64

Head of the Class
Five Reasons Precast is
Great for School Projects
By Jim Schneider | Executive Director | PCI Mountain States
Schools and other educational facilities are an important part of the communities they serve. It is an investment in the future, a structure intended to nurture and support young minds as they grow and develop. Good schools are the lifeblood of towns and cities everywhere. They are a gathering point and a draw to people looking to move to and stay in the districts they serve.
For many reasons, precast, prestressed concrete is an ideal material for school projects. Durable, flexible, efficient and resilient, precast concrete has many benefits for a project type that is intended to serve and function at a high level for many years. Here are five reasons that precast is a good choice for schools.
1) Speed. Because precast components are manufactured off-site under controlled conditions and then shipped to
the jobsite for on-time erection, precast is an incredibly schedule-friendly material. With a crane and minimal crew of PCI-qualified erectors, precast goes up quickly. Precast can take months off a project schedule. In order to meet district timelines for the school year, schools by their nature are very schedule-sensitive projects and precast can help to meet those needs.
2) Aesthetic Versatility. Precast has the ability to take
on myriad shapes, colors, textures and aesthetics. PCI- certified precasters can use different forms, mixes and finishing methods to create an array of colors and aesthetics. Concrete is a plastic material that takes on the shape of whatever form it is poured into, and your local precaster has access to seemingly limitless types of form liners that can let imaginations soar. From board form finishes to cast stone, the possibilities are endless. There are also veneer systems like thin brick, with panels that can mimic the appearance
of masonry or other materials. These systems can be used to match existing campus looks where brick has traditionally been utilized. Districts can have buildings that have that classic brick appearance but with much less labor and greater levels of durability and energy efficiency that comes with using precast.
3) Energy Efficiency. Many schools use insulated sandwich wall panels, which deliver a superior level of energy and thermal performance. Precast sandwich wall panels consist of an exterior layer of precast and an interior layer of precast, with a layer of continuous insulation sandwiched
in between. The parts of the wall are held together with non-conductive ties, so there is no thermal bridging, and therefore true and enhanced thermal performance of the wall. For designers, it is a single-component solution that serves as a vapor and air barrier. For school districts, it is a thermally efficient system that can save energy and deliver interior comfort to occupants for decades.
4) Durability and Resilience. Part of the appeal of precast on any project comes from its inherent strength and durability. Prestressing creates a highly engineered product that is nearly impregnable against the elements. Precast is commonly used in storm shelters and safe rooms because
it can stand up to high winds, flying debris, flood forces and more. Concrete is also noncombustible and naturally fire resistant. There are few things more important for our school structures than to keep children and occupants safe, and precast can deliver on that promise. This strength also means it can last for many decades, which is another important consideration for communities making material choices for their schools. When making long-term investments in such an important element of the community, it makes sense to specify a material that can withstand the test of time and perform at a high level for many, many years.
5) Indoor Environmental Quality. Particularly in the post- COVID era, creating healthy, safe and comfortable indoor spaces is front of mind. We want buildings that promote the health and welfare of occupants, and nowhere is this more important than in schools. Beyond the safety and durability aspects previously mentioned, concrete is also an inert material that does not contain volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and won’t offgas harmful substances into the indoor environment. In addition, the long spans enabled by using precast structural components allow lots of open space for daylighting. Long-spanning double tees are often used in school gymnasiums and aquatic centers. Precast also has excellent sound attenuation qualities, which is ideal for theaters and auditoriums.
Schools are an important, long-term investment in the health of a community and society in general. It is a building type that calls out for safe, durable, efficient long-lasting design strategies.
Precast, prestressed concrete is a high-performance material that can deliver elevated performance to students, staff and communities for many decades. Our schools are all about making investments in the future with the education of our children. The school building itself should be seen as an investment in the future, as well, and built for both today and tomorrow.
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