effectively allows the pre-assembly of naturalstone, granite, brick and terracotta tile facings with a reinforced concrete backing, a singlepanel perhaps incorporating 100+ facingstones or 1000+ bricks.Natural stones and granites are usedmore economically than with traditionalconstruction methods as they can beproduced in thinner sections. Panels mayinclude a mix of ﬁnishes and facings that would otherwise demand separate trades.
Shapes and sizes
Fresh concrete is an extremely mouldablematerial allowing complex shapes to be formed. Panels can economically incorporatecill, coping, sofﬁt, window reveal and specialsections, especially where repetitive. Largepanels avoid the need for secondary structure for their vertical support and lateral restraint.Grid-width units can reduce mid-spanloadings onto the structural slab edge.Panel sizes are usually limited by site craneageor transport constraints. Limitations may beovercome by using low-loader trailers thatallow storey-height panels to be delivered vertically. Reduced wall thicknesses withprecast cladding panels can increase netlettable ﬂoor area.
echrete, a leading manufacturer of architectural precastconcrete in Ireland and theUK, has invested
5 millionin an extension to its UK works at Brigg,making it one of the most modern factoriesin Europe. This reﬂects the company’sincreasing volume of business in the UK.
Plant director John Stothard commented,“This expansion will create more space for conventional production, as well as housinga new robotic plant to streamline theproduction of architectural concrete.” A key feature will be a carousel system in whichsteel moulds will travel to the operative rather than visa versa. The aim is that all curing and ﬁnishing will be contained within the building, thus creating a better working environmentand a controlled curing regime for the panels. According to Stothard, “The advantagesare that each product will be ﬁnished in acontrolled environment regardless of theseason and external areas will only be used for storage of completed units. Achieving thisis quite a challenge as much of the equipmentis bespoke and must be adapted for thespecial needs of architectural concrete.”The new building and ofﬁces are constructed of Techrete’s precast concrete sandwich panels, which provide a complete wall solution.
TECHRETE INVESTS IN UK PLANT
continued from page 1
Panels are produced by skilledcraftsmen, motivated by long- term employment prospects, in apurpose-built factory environmentusing specialist equipment. Eachstage of manufacture is subject to inspection in accordance withan independently certiﬁed qualitysystem, and ﬁnish and dimensionalaccuracy are checked beforedelivery.
Precast panel construction produces negligible waste, just enough concrete being batched to ﬁll available moulds. And at the end of theeconomic life of a building, the precast panelsmay be refurbished for re-use or crushed for recycling.
Precast concrete cladding produced inaccordance with BS 8297:2000 has a lifeexpectancy of 60+ years and is generallymaintenance-free. Dense concrete is air-and water-tight, giving superior weatheringperformance and corrosion resistance. Jointsbetween panels are usually ﬁlled with sealant.The thermal mass of concrete serves to reducepeak heating and cooling loads. Insulation canreadily be incorporated either as a lining to theinternal face of a panel or as a core between two concrete layers, achieving U- value requirements of 0.35W/m
K and better. In addition, concrete isan inherent sound insulator, non-combustible and ﬁre-resistant.
Precast cladding panels are erectedon site by specialist teams trainedin safe handling and ﬁxing, typically without the need for an externalscaffold. Panels are delivered ona just-in-time basis, allowing largeareas of the frame to be rapidly enclosed to give an early start to weather-sensitive following trades. Window apertures within the panels can be framed, glazed and sealedbefore delivery.In addition to issues of quality and practicality,each of the above points correspondinglycontributes ﬁnancial advantages. Off-site prefabrication and increased on-siteproductivity, especially using the largest units that are practical to deliver and handle at site, facilitate optimum value. Similarly, decreasing the dependence on site-based activitieshelps stabilise the total construction cost andshortens construction periods, at the same time reducing ﬁnancing costs. However, itshould be recognised that all these advantagescan only be attained by early involvement of the specialist precaster.