FAQ Fridays: PCI Certification & Architectural Certification Program Updates

September 17, 2021

Want quick responses to our most asked precast questions? Our blog series, “FAQ Fridays,” is designed to answer your most popular questions, organized by topic and product category. In Part 9 of this series, we discuss PCI Certification and Architectural Certification Program Updates.

PCI Certification is recognized as the leading and most widely specified quality-assurance program in the construction industry. It is specified by MasterSpec, United Facilities Guide Specifications, the General Services Administration, more than 30 state DOTs, and many other federal, state, and municipal bodies. It’s also endorsed by the Federal Highway Administration.

PCI Certification

PCI Certification is the industry’s most comprehensive certification program, including plant, personnel, and field certification. This certification of plants, personnel, and product erection provides greater assurance to owners, architects, engineers, and contractors that precast concrete components will be manufactured and installed according to stringent industry standards.

Here is a brief summary of these programs:

  • Plant certification: For over 40 years, PCI's Plant Certification Program has ensured that each plant developed and documented an in-depth, in-house quality system based on time-tested national industry standards. Each plant undergoes two thorough, unannounced audits each year. The audits are conducted by competent, third-party engineers, who audit the plant according to requirements specifically developed for the types of products being manufactured.
  • Personnel: The Plant Quality Personnel Certification Program, started in 1985, provides instruction and evaluation for three levels of trained, knowledgeable, and certified quality-control personnel. PCI also trains Certified Field Auditors (CFAs) and Certified Company Auditors (CCAs) who perform the audits to certify the precast concrete erector. This process extends personnel certification into the field.
  • Product erection: The Certified Erector program evaluates erection procedures and field quality control for precast concrete. Introduced in 1999, this program extends PCI's quality performance standards throughout the construction process. The company's management and erection crew are audited according to nationally published criteria, providing customers with the assurance that the product quality created by stringent factory conditions continues into the field during installation.

Why is PCI certification important?

Specifying PCI Certification provides an industry standard of quality. Some of the many benefits include:

  • Prequalification: Specifying products from a PCI-certified plant ensures that precast producers have an ongoing quality system in place, the experience necessary to deliver a quality product, and a history of quality assurance.
  • Proven experience/expertise: PCI-certified precast concrete plants bring a host of skills and efficiencies that can aid construction processes, especially if the precaster is brought into the design process early. The precaster can provide input on dramatic architectural effects, efficient sizes and shapes, value-engineering options, state-of-the-art connection systems, and other aspects that produce aesthetically pleasing, functional, and cost-effective projects.
  • Checked against project specifications: PCI Certification is one of the industry’s only programs that randomly checks that precast concrete products are produced in accordance with project specifications, not just a quality control manual.
  • Lower cost: Doing the job right the first time saves material and labor costs while preventing schedule delays. PCI-certified plants can produce uniform, consistent products that eliminate many potential problems.
  • Faster erection: Using quality products leads to more efficient field operations, which in turn prevents schedule delays. Quality-control systems ensure that components are properly identified and delivered in the appropriate number and order and then fit together quickly, often resulting in reduced on-site labor and scheduling costs.
  • No added cost: There is no cost to the owner or specifier for using a PCI-certified plant. In fact, the efficiencies and processes inherent in a PCI-certified plant often cut waste and reduce costs associated with repairs, rejected products, and delays.

How do I get PCI-certified?

For more information about the PCI Erector Certification Program, please click here to get started. Learn about:

  • The benefits of being PCI-certified
  • The process of becoming PCI-certified
  • About PCI membership

For more information about the Plant Certification Program, please click here to get started. Learn about:

  • PCI certification categories
  • Audit process
  • PCI quality-control manuals



Architectural Certification Program Updates

Why is PCI changing the Architectural Certification Program?

We heard you! PCI is changing the Architectural Certification Categories in response to requests from the architectural community. These changes will align architects’ expectations for project complexity with the capabilities of the architectural precast concrete producers. The former A1 Certification Category and Categories BA and CA have been redefined into four Certification Categories. Architectural precast concrete elements will be governed by Categories AA, AB, AC, and AD, which are differentiated by panel complexity and production tolerances required. Projects including only small architectural trim units will continue to be governed by Category AT.

What are the main differences in the Architectural Certification Categories?

Two words: complexity and capability. The Architectural Certification Categories are differentiated by the complexity of architectural elements and allowable dimensional tolerances. Here are additional resources that provide an overview of the categories:


Are 3D/BIM requirements part of the Architectural Certification Program?

Yes, for the top two tiers. Precast concrete producers certified in Categories AA and AB are required to provide 3D/BIM precast concrete submittal drawings when required by specifications.

How do I find the architectural precast concrete producers/bidders for each of the Certification Categories?

It’s easy! Check out the PCI national directory search. You’ll find precast concrete producers certified to service your project, and you can conduct a PCI-certified plant search by entering your state (or multiple states) and certification category.

Can you provide photographs that will help me understand the differences in project complexity for the various Architectural Certification Categories?

Yes! Project examples, mock-up drawings, photos depicting features of the different Architectural Certification Categories, and more complete category descriptions can be found in the following resources as well as in our new “How Precast Builds: PCI Architectural Certification Program” CEU:

Why is it important to specify the correct Architectural Certification Category?

Results! Specifying the correct Architectural Certification Category guarantees the correct precast producers in your territory are aligned to your project and aesthetic goals and ensures a level playing field for healthy competition. One of the goals of redefining the Architectural Certification Program is to help the designer, construction team, and precast concrete producer better communicate expectations. Using the new Architectural Certification Categories will clearly define the level of complexity for the project.

What changes should I anticipate in the process due to the new Architectural Certification requirements?

Expect some feedback for the industry to fuel continual improvement and, for some classifications, an avenue for conflict resolution. Aside from the new requirement to choose the appropriate Architectural Certification Category that best defines the project, there will be no additional changes in the design process. After completion of projects in Categories AA and AB, architects and construction professionals will be asked to complete an Architectural Project Survey.

Will all previous A1 producers be qualified into all the new Architectural Certification Categories?

No! Each architectural precast concrete producer will be certified into a new Architectural Certification Category that reflects the capabilities demonstrated by the facility.

Note: per production facility, not producer. If they have more than one plant, each plant receives an individual certification classification.

Do the changes to the Architectural Certification Program have any effect on the PCI-Certified Erector requirements?

Yes. PCI-Certified Erectors will be required for Categories AA, AB, and AC. The use of a PCI-Certified Erector is encouraged for Category AD.

Does the new Architectural Certification Program increase the time my firm or I must spend managing a project?

No. It should require the right amount of time since the correct classification of producers will be involved. The only change to the design process would be the selection of the appropriate Architectural Certification Category for inclusion in the specifications.

When will PCI publish a list of manufacturers certified for each new Architectural Certification Category?

PCI will publish a complete list of manufacturers on October 21, 2021.

What happens if I continue to specify A1 Certification for my projects?

The industry will respond to help properly specify. If former Certification Categories are specified after that date, PCI-certified architectural precast concrete producers will contact the specifier prior to bid date to request a certification clarification. The specifier should then issue a bid package addendum clarifying the specific Architectural Certification Category required.

Want to work with precast concrete in your upcoming projects? Explore helpful tools, detailed information on working with precast, and expert guidance to support your next project in our Solutions Center.



Subscribe to Updates

Sign up to receive free email notifications when new posts are available.