By Sara Geer
Architects, engineers and contractors around the world call upon precast concrete every day to fulfill needs ranging from basic infrastructure to inspiring design. In the building materials world, precast is a jack of many trades that is limited only by the applications specifiers can dream up. In the year’s edition of our international round-up, you’ll visit Ireland, Portugal, Thailand and Australia to see how specifiers are employing precast to beat deadlines, accomplish goals and create beauty.
Precast Expands Ireland Getaways
Photos courtesy of Tracey Concrete
The secret is out about the wonders of Ireland. Air travel to Dublin Airport reached an all-time high in 2016. Passenger numbers increased to nearly 28 million1, which also helped to deliver a record year for Irish tourism. To keep air traffic running smoothly, construction is currently underway to add a new runway and extend the airport’s apron. However, more surface area means more stormwater runoff, and precast is the medium of choice to provide an effective drainage solution.
Based on a successful record completing similar projects around Ireland and the United Kingdom, contractor Clare Civil Engineering Ltd. contacted concrete supplier Tracey Concrete to manufacture the precast stormwater products. Tracey Concrete manufactured more than 1,000 linear feet of precast spigot and socket pipe to control drainage for the new apron extension.
According to Anton Tracey, commercial manager at Tracey Concrete, precast was the perfect construction material for the project because it offers increased strength and sustainability.
“Concrete is more durable than other pipe materials because it can carry larger loads and gains strength over time,” Tracey said.
In addition, through research and development, Tracey Concrete produced each pipe with a high-quality, watertight seal that will withstand about 30 psi of water pressure. The pipes were transported eight at a time to the job site by articulated lorries on flat trailers. Comments received from all parties about the pipe production, transportation and installation were positive, Tracey said.
“It was a great project to be a part of,” Tracey said.
Now, thanks to precast, Dublin Airport can welcome more adventure and weekend getaways to the island and continue offering the same services for passengers for years to come.
Precast Keeps Lisbon Airport Afloat
Photos courtesy of PMP Consulting Engineers
Water is essential for life. It’s in the air we breathe and the food we eat and helps run the daily services we use. It is also important to have adequate water for areas where safety is a concern. The Lisbon Airport in Portugal needed three water tanks constructed quickly for the support backup system for the fuel operating group and cargo complex. The project’s short timeline was determined by two factors: the immediate need for the tanks’ use and the job site’s location inside the airport near the landing runway. Only one construction material was suitable to meet this demand: precast concrete.
Pedro Palma, CEO, managing partner and technical director of structural engineering firm PMP Consulting Engineers, said another challenge was matching the specific tank capacities requested by airport authority ANA Aeroportos de Portugal. The largest of the three tanks – 65 feet in diameter – needed to hold about 450,000 gallons of water. The two smaller tanks would hold about 60,000 gallons. PMP had to consider this in the project plans while also taking into account the tank systems precaster Indubel Indústrias de Betão, S.A., already manufactures.
“The tanks for the airport were similar to other tanks Indubel built before,” Palma said. “However, it was the largest tank in diameter Indubel had built thus far.”
According to Palma, the exterior wall panels were cast using a conventional concrete mix and were prestressed. The different heights of the panels, either 15 feet or 19 feet, depended on the tank’s capacity, but all panels were 12 inches thick. Once the precast panels were transported by truck to the airport, they were assembled on-site using a 100-ton crane.
“The comments about the project have been quite positive since we used a very thin wall structure made of prestressed concrete for the radius and heights of the tanks,” Palma said.
The precast solution allowed for more quality control of the manufactured products, an increased installation speed and lowered the impact of construction, allowing the project to finish on time.
Precast Enhances Creativity
Rendering courtesy of Synthesis Design + Architecture
A creative person’s best work is greatly impacted by their surroundings. When an artist envisions his or her next masterpiece, being around beautiful things can help boost creativity and motivation. Architect Alvin Huang, design principal and founder of Synthesis Design + Architecture, took this to heart when designing Zen Saladaeng, a mixed-use development for the Zen Group in the Bangkok district of Saladaeng, Thailand.
Huang said the three existing “magnificent” banyan trees provided the initial inspiration for the building’s design and location. Highlighting exposed precast concrete as the primary building material made it possible to also maintain a bold industrial presence. The building will have several stacked, open spaces that consist of folding concrete surfaces that respect and respond to the trees.
“A field of fluid lines that emerge from the site form a collection of surfaces that bifurcate, peel and fold to divide the building into a series of intimate indoor-outdoor spaces,” Huang said.
The tree’s unique branches and leafy pattern are also abstracted as the inspiration for the custom branching pattern that is stamped onto the precast façade with a sandblasted glazing system.
“A precast concrete curtain wall with a custom reveal pattern is used in the opaque areas of the façade,” Huang said. “This allows us to control the finish of the concrete and achieve the desired articulation and detail of the surface through the use of a series of mass customized and digitally fabricated molds.”
In addition, precast will allow the façade – including the embedded windows – to be prefabricated safely off-site and delivered to the job site and installed quickly.
The facility, a local retail, dining and entertainment destination, will provide an escape for those who want to be inside and outside at the same time. By fusing natural and industrial elements together, the building is simultaneously “raw and modern, yet warm and inviting,” which provides the perfect space to spur more creative thinking.
Precast as Art
Photos courtesy of National Precast Concrete Association Australia
Because no one looks at art the same way, it can have a magical way of bringing out a variety of feelings or actions. Visual arts can be therapeutic and provide healing attributes, while listening to music can invoke powerful memories. Art also allows an individual or group to communicate a message without words.
The effects of art play heavily into the “retailtainment” concept, which is growing in popularity as the latest weapon for retail stores against online shopping. It’s a marketing strategy to lure customers back into their stores by using ambiance, emotion, sound and activity to get customers interested in the merchandise and in a mood to buy. To achieve this, one of Queensland, Australia’s largest shopping centers is giving the concept a try by using precast concrete as the medium for a large-scale mural design.
When Westfield Garden City, a shopping center located in the Brisbane suburb of Upper Mount Gravatt, started planning a redevelopment, architect and builder Westfield Design and Construction suggested graphic concrete be used for the façade. The technology, developed by Finnish architect and inventor Samuli Naamanka, chemically etches patterns and imagery into the concrete surface. The chosen design was a 40-foot mural
with a flower pattern created by Spanish-born artist Dani Marti.
The next step was for National Precast Concrete Association Australia member Austral Precast’s Queensland plant to manufacture the precast concrete panels that formed the façade. Since the graphic concrete technology was new in Australia, the challenge was making sure the imagery flowed seamlessly across more than 30 precast panels.
“There are a lot of ways to get a pattern on concrete, but there are not many ways to get this level of detail and intricacy of pattern on a concrete panel,” said Alex Gorton, the project’s contract administrator for Westfield Design and Construction.
The process includes three steps:
- The image was scaled proportionately and cast using custom formliners.
- An etching technique was employed where a chemical reaction occurs within the concrete as it cures in the form. A retarding chemical slows the setting in selected areas. Upon removal from the form, the softer, unset concrete surface is pressure washed to reveal the fine-aggregate finish.
- A color finish was applied to the rebated edges to match the background color of the aggregate finish.
Gorton said that initially there were “a few hesitations” that everything was going to work, but the process went smoothly.
“I was waiting for it to go wrong at every point, but it came out great,” he said. “Everyone comments on how good it looks.”
The panels were installed over three nights and the mural is highly visible from two of Brisbane’s busiest roads. Westfield Garden City is thrilled with the finished product and shoppers are excited about the new retail environment.
Sara Geer is NPCA’s internal communication and web manager, and is managing editor of Precast Inc.