South Florida’s commercial construction developers especially in Miami have not been afraid to push the envelope of design and as a result, have turned to new exterior precast cladding products. We will go over a few of the products and techniques to make custom precast concrete panels & facades.
What do we mean “custom precast concrete panels”?
When we talk about “architectural precast concrete” we are generally referring to elements that not purely structural and that have some sort of design element that is used for aesthetic purposes. In the past this may have been as simple as different colors and textures.
To take that one step further, when we talk about “CUSTOM precast concrete panels” then we are referring to the extra step of creating custom moulds to make the precast into different shapes as well as finishes and or color.
But really the terms are interchangeable – the term “architectural precast concrete panels” also encompasses “custom” panels. Please see our page that goes over the history of architectural precast .
Some other terms used may include…
- precast panels
- custom architectural panels
- architectural precast panels
- custom precast envelope panels
- rainscreen panels
- precast wall panels
Types of architectural precast panels
There are many types of precast panels, most a purely functional, providing structural functionality , weather resistance (curtain walls) or a combination of both. But there are also decorative uses for precast panels.
Early on in the manufacture of precast panels it was realized that these functional panels could also be improved to provide a different aesthetic to the dull concrete panel.
- decorative panels with no structural role
- purely ornamental
- rainscreen curtain wall
- may have relief or texture
- color differences
- graphic concrete (photo images)
- may be thin or thick
- similar construction to carved stone decoration
- thick wall reinforced & structural panels
- may also be ornamental but also structural
- may include cornices and traditional features incorporated
- may include openings for doors/windows
- Sandwich panel insulated panels
- usually reinforced with insulation integrated in the middle
- used in tilt up concrete
- fast construction
- Thin wall structural
- composite panels including metal stud framing and reinforcement
- lightweight yet strong
- pre finished studs included
- ready for insulation
- lighter, faster install, more features
Precast Panels – are they structual?
The short answer is “generally… no”.
For modern architecture structurally supportive external panels are not required, due to many modern building designs that have a structural skeleton for support. (curtain wall construction)
The trend towards modern non load bearing exterior rainscreen cladding type concrete wall panels is now prevalent. However read on for more recent developments.
Can custom concrete panels be made to be structurally supportive?
Precast wall panel systems can be made as a structurally supportive load bearing piece by using thick reinforced concrete or pre or post stressed concrete, and in a relatively recent development, several thin wall panel methods are manufactured with metal framing added to the back side of the panel, with the steel framing adding to the strength. Weight savings of up to 65% (35lb SF instead of 100lb SF) or more can be achieved.
These new composite steel & precast panels have thin (typically 2 inch) concrete layer, bonded with galvanized steel stud framing. The result is a strength that is greater than the sum of the parts.
Examples of thin wall precast concrete panel manufacturers
Benefits of thin wall precast panels
less materials used and much less weight
- Higher strength as a composite product.
- Savings in cost, as the interior wall is now already framed ready for wires, pipes and insulation
- Now can be specified – master format 03 48 33 precast pre-framed precast panels aka thin shell category
- Green construction
- smaller footings required
- steelcrete engineered for hurricane force winds and seismic zone 4
- steelcrete strongest and lightest of all thinwall systems
Premier Stoneworks’ precast concrete products focus on commercial projects with flare such as the many iconic new residential and hotel projects in South Florida. These buildings require custom wall panels, or custom facade panels.
Other names or products for thin wall precast composite panels
- metalcrete (aka metal studcrete)
- thin wall
- precast pre-framed panels