The Interview with John D’Amelio, President, Precast Specialties Corp.
What codes, standards and peripheral trends might be affecting the popularity of your product?
One trend that is growing in popularity, and acceptance, is the use of precast concrete in residential housing construction. Precast concrete basement walls are gaining popularity because they can be pre-insulated to increase energy efficiency in the home. These walls also provide a finished interior wall system. There’s also a lot being said about precast concrete floor slabs. They appear to be gaining more acceptance in residential construction.
What are the latest technology and design advances you’re seeing in your field?
We are seeing improvements in the area of energy efficiency through the expanded use of insulated precast wall panels. When energy efficient building materials are incorporated into a well thought out building envelope, the inhabitants of the building will save money on heating and cooling costs for the entire life cycle of the building. The thermal mass and r-value of precast concrete make it a smart and sustainable choice for architects who want to incorporate increased energy efficiency into their designs.
From the design perspective, the use of self-cleaning concrete that uses photo catalytic cement is increasing. The self cleaning feature helps keep the precast components clean by resisting pollutants and contaminants that can cause discoloration to concrete. This is particularly important for maintaining the integrity of the architecture and design especially in urban environments.
Do specifiers view your product as a sustainable material and associate it with LEED? Why is that?
Yes, precast concrete is a versatile and sustainable building material. The sustainability of precast concrete is most exemplified by its durability. No other building material resists deterioration or has a longer life span than concrete. It eliminates the need and environmental impact of demolition and replacement. The use of precast concrete also contributes to LEED Points in several categories of the LEED rating systems.
Are there any new applications or uses for your product, such as rain screens, that ensure cost savings, better quality control?
Precast concrete’s impermeable nature makes it very resistant to wind-driven rain and moist outdoor air. Advances in waterproofing admixtures help precast concrete deliver a built-in waterproofing capability for walls, foundations, tunnels, etc. Due to it’s water resistance, it’s one of the best choices for construction.
Are there any new applications or uses for your product that give more creative license and aesthetic options to the architect/specifier?
The use of architectural form liners gives the architect the freedom to create unique design elements and features that may have been price prohibitive or difficult to manufacture in the past. A wide variety of thin brick and tile designed to embed in precast concrete also allows the designer to explore surface and textural design options beyond what has typically been considered in the past.
What would you like to see more architects and specifiers doing with concrete, brick, stone masonry or precast?
Most importantly, get the precast manufacturer involved earlier in the design phase. There are many variables to consider when designing with precast including material selection, textures and finishes, cross section, unit repetition, connection details and installation methods that will affect aesthetics and economy. Enlist the help of a local precast manufacturer who can answer preliminary design questions,
develop a manufacturing time line and assist in budget estimating early in the project’s design phase to maintain the integrity of the architects vision.