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 architectural precast concrete panels & facades.
What do we mean “custom architectural 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/or textures.
To take that one step further, when we talk about “CUSTOM architectural precast concrete panels“, we are referring to the extra step of creating custom molds to make the precast into different shapes as well as colors and/or textures.
In the construction industry these terms are generally interchangeable: “architectural precast concrete”, encompasses “custom architectural precast concrete panels”. Please see our page that goes over the history of architectural precast .
There are many types of precast panels. Some precast panels are purely functional providing structural functionality , weather resistance (curtain walls) or a combination of both. But there are also decorative uses for precast panels.
It was realized early in the manufacturing history that these functional panels could also be improved to provide a different aesthetic to the dull concrete panel.
Types of architectural precast panels
1. Decorative panels with no structural role
- purely ornamental
- may have relief or texture
- use of integral pigments
- graphic concrete (photo images)
- may be thin or thick
- similar construction to carved stone decoration
2. Thick wall reinforced & structural panels
- may be ornamental but also structural
- may include cornices and traditional features incorporated
- may include openings for doors/windows
3. Sandwich panel insulated panels
- usually reinforced with insulation integrated in the middle
- used in tilt up concrete
- fast construction
4. 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
- rainscreen curtain wall
Precast Panels – are they structual?
The short answer is “generally… no”.
When talking about modern architecture, structurally supportive external panels are not required due to many modern building design’s that have a structural skeleton for support. (i.e curtain wall construction)
The trend towards modern non load bearing exterior rain-screen cladding type concrete wall panels is increasingly prevalent. However read on for more recent developments.
Can custom precast concrete panels be made 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. In a relatively recent development, several thin wall panel methods are manufactured with metal framing added to the back side of the panel to add strength. The end result is that weight savings of up to 65% (35lb SF instead of 100lb SF) or more can be achieved.
These new composite steel & precast panels have a thin (typically 2 inch) concrete layer that is bonded with galvanized steel stud framing. This development has resulted in strength gains that are greater than the sum of the parts with lighter panels.
Examples of thin wall precast concrete panel manufacturers
- Simple Building Solutions
- Thin Wall
- Metal Stud Crete
- metalcrete (aka metal studcrete)
- thin wall
- precast pre-framed panels
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