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Architectural Precast Concrete – What is it

Architectural Precast Concrete – What is it

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What is Architectural Precast Concrete?

Architectural precast concrete is a relatively modern term given to large pieces of concrete that are usually structural as well as decorative in function. The form of the precast concrete contributes to the finished product and is not a substructure and not usually covered. 

To be different from normal precast concrete, architectural precast concrete is altered with form, color or texture. Surface finishing techniques taken from cast stone and cast in place such as acid etching, sand blasting, exposing aggregate, brushing, hammering, integral pigmenting or staining.

The Beginnings of Architectural Precast Concrete

history of Architectural Precast Concrete
Early Architectural precast concrete, Baha’i Temple Wilmette IL

The first documented modern use of architectural precast concrete was in the cathedral Notre Dame du Raincy in Raincy, France, by Auguste Perret in 1922, this was a simple screen, but in 1932 the Baha’i Temple in Wilmett IL had ornamental elements with exposed aggregate precast before installation. It remains an exquisite example of architectural precast concrete.

ornamental architectural precast stone elements
Early architectural precast concrete

Architectural Precast Concrete element types

An example of an architectural precast concrete element would be an external precast concrete wall panel that has decorative elements such as cornices, or a relief design incorporated into the concrete.

While “Precast Concrete” is generally considered purely functional precast concrete, architectural concrete refers to the ornamental architectural elements added to precast stone, usually on exterior building facades.

architectural precast concrete panels

By incorporating these ornamental elements into the precast concrete panel, cost saving can be realized, especially with a high rise office building. Cost savings come at installation time, where normally cast stone products would be added later.

ornamental elements added to architiectural precast concrete panel

At present the most common use seems to be exterior panels that have a relief or texture, the second most common are panels that have traditional elements such as cornice or banding incorporated.

Architectural Precast Concrete colors and textures

There may be some limitations when it comes to varying colors between decorative objects. Surface texture can influence the final color as aggregates are exposed.

  • color of smooth textured precast stone is affected by color additives and cement color (white or grey)
  • light aggregate exposure is also affected the the fine aggregate color
  • medium and heavy aggregate exposure results in color influence dramatically by the fine and coarse aggregates.

Advantages of Architectural Precast Concrete

Some of the advantages of Architectural Precast Concrete over the normal block or cast wall with added decorative elements.

  • Normally more consistent production
  • faster install time over 2 or more products
  • Most precast companies comply to standards like ASTM C27  , these standards control things like steel reinforcing, durability, components
  • Usually precast companies are members of , either PCI or NPCA ,PCSA or similar, and usually have a warranty
  • Exterior is not penetrated by attachment hardware
  • Colors can be integral, textures also. See the PCI Color and Texture Guide 

View Premier Stoneworks Architectural Precast Concrete offerings.