Concrete has been at the core of architecture for approximately 200 years. Think concrete as a paste - composed of Portland cement, water and aggregate. Via a chemical process called hydration, the paste hardens around the aggregate to form the solid rock-like material known as concrete.
One of the most notable qualities of concrete is that it is moldable when just mixed but solid and durable once hardened. This means that it can be used in almost any way, moulded to meet nearly every shape that an architect can design.
Despite their different functions and aesthetics, many of these applications follow a similar manufacturing process.
There’s a lot of flexibility in terms of working with precast concrete. Ideally, architects, engineers and designers should reach out to us at the beginning stages of a project. Once it’s planned out and manufactured, it’s pretty quick to install.
Precast Concrete: Precast concrete is produced by casting concrete into a mould, which is then cured in a controlled environment. Once it is set, it is transported to the required location site and lifted into place. This process allows us to create precisely engineered custom made components, as well as large batches of standardised elements, such as the precast concrete panels we manufacture.
The precast production process offers better quality control than onsite casting. Lower construction and labour costs can be lower as concrete moulds can be reused.
Colour: There are many standard precast colours available, creating virtually endless design possibilities. If an architect is looking for a custom colour, they should provide a photo or colour sample.
Formwork: The mould is made from several common materials, including timber boards, plywood, metals, plastics, foams and fabric. Different mould materials allow for different types of concrete surface finishes. Plywood can be used to produce grainy concrete surface finishes on the concrete panels. Different types of wooden moulds result in different textures; some have extremely prominent grains, whilst others are much more subtle.
Seams and Joints: When more than two or more concrete slabs are placed against each other, there will likely be a visible seam. These seams can either be accentuated or concealed. This all depends on the look that the designer wants to achieve. GFRC may allow you to get rid of seams altogether.
Surface Processing: Once the concrete has cured, it is possible to change the appearance of its surface via several processes, including polishing, grinding, and honing. These procedures will give concrete a smooth sheen and expose the aggregate. For rougher appearances, concrete can be sandblasted after curing or washed during the curing process.
Aggregate: Aggregates of different types and sizes can be specified to alter the appearance of surface-processed concrete. Some commonly used aggregates include decorative stones such as quartzite, rounded river stones and crushed glass.
Translucency: Embedded fibre-optic filaments can help conduct light through the cast concrete to create visible patterns on the surface.
Sealants: There are many different chemical sealants available. These help to help protect concrete from staining, corrosion or surface damage. Sealants are specially tailored to a variety of both interior and exterior uses. It is essential to discuss which sealant to use and mention whether the concrete surface will be exposed to extreme moisture or freezing cold temperatures.
Maintenance: Similar to other materials such as wood and natural stone, concrete is porous and requires sealers to protect the material against staining and water absorption. Once it is sealed and installed, the concrete surfaces can be easily maintained by washing them with non-abrasive soaps and water. Periodic waxing also helps to maintain the concrete surface finishes.
To learn more about what Specialty Precast can offer you, get in touch with us today.
Get in touch with us and talk to us about our many happy architectural clients. We can let you know more about the projects we have completed for them.