Precast prestressed concrete combines durability and environmental responsibility

CPCI cover 1

CPCI represents billion dollar Canadian industry

Canadian Design and Construction Report special feature

Precast prestressed concrete construction combines economical and environmental advantages, especially when life-cycle values are given the importance they deserve, say representatives of the Canadian Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (CPCI).

Precast concrete – where the building components are manufactured-to-order in factory settings, and shipped to the job-sites ready to install – is a billion dollar business in Canada, says Brian Hall, the CPCI’s managing director, sustainability and business development.

The thriving industry – CPCI’s 45 member plants generate about 90 per cent of the industry’s Canadian volume – is so successful that Canadian manufacturers have been able to compete and ship precast components for high profile projects such as the new Yankee Stadium in New York and the Seahawks Stadium in Seattle.

CPCI cover 1CPCI’s marketing manager Joël Rochefort says:

  • High-performance precast concrete combines exceptional durability, insulation and vapour barrier effectiveness;
  • Because precast products are manufactured under environmentally controlled conditions, the risk of failure because of installation error is greatly reduced (and the work can be completed much more rapidly than conventional construction and infrastructure work, reducing congestion and inconvenience);
  • Extensive fact-based research shows that the environmental greenhouse-gas “cost” of the cement production in precast concrete is offset by the low maintenance and durability of precast concrete, making it an ideal building material for a diversity of circumstances;
  • Innovation and technology allows for creative and expanded use of precast concrete – new admixtures can allow for structural support strength without rebar, and decorative effects can be achieved without harming the long-lasting structural qualities.

cpci cover 2“Energy-efficient concrete framed with precast insulated wall panels is truly an effective environmentally-friendly and energy-saving form of construction,” Rochefort said. “During the summer, concrete takes in the cold at night; it then releases the cold air back into the building during the day. This is the thermal mass effect.”

Hall noted that precast concrete may initially be slightly more expensive than wood-frame construction, but the issue is not the “cost of building rather the cost of running the building over its lifetime.”
“Only 15 per cent of the energy is used in construction – and 85 per cent to run the building – and that applies to office buildings, homes, and all other structures.”

The CPCI has backed up these observations with research, reported in the technical research bulletin: Life Cycle Assessment of Precast Concrete Commercial Buildings.

The document might be easy-reading only for a qualified engineer, but Hall says the bottom line is something that any contractor or building owner can easily understand: Precast construction is competitive on both environmental performance and cost.

cpci cover 3The CPCI provides other educational resources and support for its members, and also for specifiers, architects, engineers, owners and others seeking both technical and factual information. “We’re ready to answer questions, and will be happy to co-ordinate lunch and learn and plant tours,” Hall said. The institute has pioneered a 24/7 e-learning program for architects and specifiers that qualifies for Architecture Canada (RAIC) continuing education points, and is the template for other programs in the future. “The good thing is this program can be completed at the participant’s convenience, yet totally meets the continuing education requirements,” Hall said.

As well, the CPCI has introduced a major account partnership program (CMAP) that allows national businesses to have a single contact point to co-ordinate projects on a national basis. This allows for consistency in quality and aesthetics of projects. “ CPCI offers exceptional service through a customer technical support program which provides help desk support from CPCI staff and experienced members,” Rochefort said.

More information about the CPCI is available by visiting or phoning (877) 937-2724.

See also:  CPCI InitaitivesBuilding envelope and infrastructure research, environmental stewardship, education and certification programs enhance industry quality and create opportunities


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