To the common person, the word concrete conjures images of driveways, curbs, slabs and the like. But any precaster knows concrete can be so much more.
With the myriad of innovations that have swept the industry over the years – from textures and shapes, to colors and additives – precast concrete can add functionality to designs that can blend into and enhance even the most upscale surroundings. Over time, it has evolved to become so much more than just, well, concrete.
There are countless real-world examples of the beauty and functionality of precast concrete that an ordinary passerby would never even realize are concrete. The Baha’i Temple in Illinois is one of the earliest examples of architectural precast.
Precast adorns some of the tallest buildings in the U.S., such as the Transamerica Tower in San Francisco, and provides infrastructure for some of the best known such as Phoenix Sky Harbor or the newly completed Cowboys Stadium.
One recent innovation that adds yet another option to the already endless opportunities precast concrete presents is the introduction of photoluminescent or “glow in the dark” precast concrete. At first glance it may not seem like the most functional product, but it creates many opportunities.
From lighting the egress points in naturally dark structures, or those prone to prolonged power outages, particularly fire escapes or emergency exits, to decorative purposes such as countertops or pool decks, it presents a unique option. It can light driveways, walkways and other commercial and residential paths, requires no electricity and can produce light for up to 14 hours.
The effect is achieved by including strontium alumnate with sealed particles into the precast mix. The photoluminescent properties last up to 15 years before the particles break down. While it won’t change the way precast is used on a large scale, it’s yet another example of the flexibility concrete provides to architects, engineers, and the common consumer.