Used thousands of years ago for building materials in ancient Italy and Greece, many concrete building systems from that time are still standing. Structures designed to move water, house sporting events, and provide gathering places benefited from the strength of concrete’s structural makeup and design.
Fast forward several centuries, another concrete resurgence took place with the addition of steel reinforcement in the 1800s. This made concrete much stronger than it already was, allowing much smaller concrete panels to be just as strong with less material. Today, concrete is the number one building material throughout the world.
Precast concrete construction has been around nearly as long, although it didn’t gain a foothold in the West until the early 1900s. Precast concrete building skyrocketed around this time as structures using precast walls were high quality, erected quickly, and could be made to look like other materials, such as granite.
Precast Concrete System
The process of pouring concrete might seem simple – pour into a form or casting, wait around for a while, then remove. While that may be true for pavers, bricks, and smaller applications, precast concrete production for large construction jobs requires much more engineering.
Depending on the size of the structure, specific strength considerations must be taken into account. Whether it’s a precast concrete paneled office building or manholes for buried infrastructure, engineers determine the mix, how much reinforcement is needed, and even the shape of the product.
From there, the forms are prepared to accept the concrete. This includes setting the thickness of the concrete and placing reinforcements (usually rebar). At this point, the concrete can be mixed and poured into the form. During the mixing process, also called batching, samples are taken to test for strength.
Once the process is underway, finished pieces are set aside for an amount of time and allowed to harden to specific strengths. This can be tested within the facility as well, ensuring every piece that leaves the plant is ready to be put into use.
With the precast process, concrete can be made for a wide range of applications. Retaining walls, railroad products, boat launch ramps, and so on. Custom precast pieces require a little more engineering to ensure strength. But once the cast has been made, the process can be repeated over and over again.
Advantages of Precast Concrete
For standard-sized buried infrastructure products, such as catch basins or manholes, the setup is relatively quick. Forms are preset, the mixture is already known, and the time to strengthen is consistent. That’s one of the biggest benefits of precast products: Quick turnarounds on large jobs means 10, 20, even 50 precast vaults can be delivered all at once.
Most precast production areas are in environmentally controlled facilities, which means that concrete is poured at any time of day, in any weather, during any temperature. These enclosed plants can also save and reuse wastewater and other materials, keeping debris out of the landfills.
All concrete is strong, but precast has its advantages over poured-in-place. Installation time, long-term durability, less downtime, and other aspects all work in precast’s favor. The initial cost may be cheaper with pour-in-place, but when you factor in scheduling difficulties due to Pacific Northwest weather, overall strength, and lasting power, are you really saving money in the long run?
Especially when it comes to maintenance, repairs, or replacements for your buried infrastructure pieces. Cast-in-place concrete lasts longer than other materials, but can’t match the strength and durability of precast concrete. Less material is wasted during the precast process and less material is needed for upgrades.
Precast concrete structures also check many “green” boxes for jurisdictions requiring environmentally-friendly practices and materials when bidding on public projects. When working with Rogue Valley products, know that you’ll be working with an industry leader in sustainable practices.
As mentioned above, concrete is a very durable product to begin with, one of the factors that go into earning SMaRT Certification. An acronym for Sustainable Materials Rating Technology, our sister buried infrastructure plant in Woodland was the first in the nation to merit this designation. Our products, our processes, and our partners all work towards a sustainable present and future.
Each buried precast structure we produce has been strength tested to last for a century – longevity being one factor in sustainability. Chemically inert, meaning no off-gassing, and made from raw and naturally-occurring materials, our products are also eco-friendly.
That’s just half of the equation, however. When we started looking for partners or vendors, Rogue Valley Precast wanted to make sure they shared our values in this respect. Additionally, we chose companies that were located as close as possible to our Rogue Valley plant. This means shorter delivery times and less emissions being released into the atmosphere.
It may not seem like much, saving a few dollars on gas here and there. For Rogue Valley, however, every little bit helps. From the products we make, to the recycling efforts we take, to who we partner with, we make a concerted effort to keep the environment around as beautiful as it was when we first arrived in 2019.
If you have a large buried infrastructure project lined up, consider Rogue Valley. As the only local precaster in Josephine and Jackson counties, we’ve already secured an annual contract with PP&G. We are familiar with regional codes and follow all Oregon Department of Transportation requirements for catch basins, manholes, and more services and products. We look forward to hearing about your job.