There are few things that keep speakers up at night more than finding out what timeslot they have been assigned at a conference. A favorable assignment can help make a presentation, while an unfavorable one can result in a near-empty room
When Peter Seibert, Technical Director – Ductal® for Lafarge North America, found out he had been assigned the 7 a.m. timeslot on Saturday at the 2011 AIA National Conference in New Orleans, he thought he was sunk. Not only was it early, on a weekend, and concurrent with eight other sessions, it was in a city known to keep visitors out to untold hours.
Expecting a low attendance, he requested 20 copies of NPCA’s Little Green Book of Concrete to aid his presentation. The morning of his session however, more and more people kept showing up until he lost count. His best estimate is at least 100-125 architects came out for his presentation and the books disappeared quickly at the end of the presentation.
Why? Well, the answer is two-fold. For one, the title “Sustainable Architectural Precast Elements for the 22nd Century” was enticing. Second, he was speaking about three elements of growing interest for architects: sustainability, ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC) and architectural precast.
He began by talking about sustainability and global changes, and transitioned into the sustainable contributions of architectural precast concrete elements and their strength, versatility, durability and high quality.Following that, he presented the possibilities that UHPC offers to architects – something they were eager to learn about. Most of the people in the room had designed with standard precast concrete, but when he asked how many had heard of UHPC, the number dropped to half and only one person had designed with it.
By using precast UHPC elements, architects can design complex, thin shapes in a near endless number of colors and textures. Things that have never been possible before are now possible. By using a unique mix design containing fiber reinforcement, compressive strength in excess of 20,000 psi (possibly attaining 36,000 psi) can be achieved. The increased durability aspect of UHPC makes this material ideal for building precast elements with longevity in mind.
As technology and innovations like UHPC continue to shape the precast concrete industry, the number of product types and applications that are possible will only continue to increase. This will create more opportunities for precasters to expand and diversify in order to further integrate themselves into the design and construction industries. Concrete has been around for centuries, but with the possibilities that precast creates and the growing number of ways it’s being used, the surface has only been scratched on what the future holds for the industry.