Sustainable Design with Precast Concrete

May 24, 2021

The Statue of Liberty Museum and secondary screening facility sees millions of visitors from all over the world each year. As designers and architects fulfilled this project, they were faced with a multitude of design and performance challenges from start to finish.

The building had to be iconic, as it stands in the shadows of the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island, and it had to be strong, since it will endure brutal storms on the coast. With no shortage of high-performance objectives, the project team required a building material that covered all of their bases, and they turned to precast concrete to achieve critical aesthetic and structural goals. In its completion, the Statue of Liberty Museum and screening facility won the 2020 PCI Sustainable Design Award.

We’ll explore the durability, efficiency, and versatility of precast concrete, so you can better determine if it’s right for your next project. To learn more about sustainable design with precast concrete, watch the video below.

Continued Strength & Durability

The museum was built to sustain high foot traffic every year and face destructive storms and waves that periodically batter the East Coast. Due to its inherent durability and flexibility, precast concrete quickly became key to constructing a building that will stand strong for generations.

The precast concrete design is set above 500-year flood levels and can withstand saltwater and destructive, hurricane-force wind loads. Ground-floor panels feature eighty-four screened slots to draw floodwaters to holding tanks, which reduces the risk of pressure on the structure in extreme weather events.


“This building is on an island in the middle of New York Harbor, so the process of getting anything onto the site is complicated,” said Dan Piselli, director of sustainability and senior associate at FXCollaborative. The decision to use precast concrete for the project was a logistical decision to speed up installation.

The team utilized dock space in New Jersey to store construction materials, and when the tides were right, they would transport them by barge to the island. Prefabricated concrete solutions bypassed long construction times and allowed for installation during wet and cold conditions, accelerating the project timeline. If fresh concrete was used, the team would have faced both time and weather delays.

The 50,000-square-foot museum and screening facility were made entirely out of precast concrete from the foundation up. This reduced the need for additional building materials and labor requirements as well.

Structural & Aesthetic Versatility

The project team knew the museum had to be iconic, and precast concrete had the flexibility to accommodate high-performance structural requirements while giving the design team the freedom to create a building that stands out from other more traditional structures on the island.

Designers took inspiration form the Palisades Cliffs alongside the Hudson River. The precast concrete panels were erected in an irregular vertical design that is reflective of a tectonic shift and appears to change as visitors move around it.

Precast concrete has a high thermal mass that maintains interior temperatures and protects visitors from outdoor temperature swings. Special connection details minimized thermal bridging between interior and exterior building components. The building also features a sustainable green roof, emphasizing the project’s sustainability goals.

“Sustainability was key to this design, and precast concrete was there to meet that need,” Piselli says.

Learn More About Precast, Prestressed Concrete

Learn why precast concrete was the sustainable design choice for the Statue of Liberty Museum in the video above and share it with your industry peers and clients to communicate the versatility of this building material.

Interested in learning more about precast and how the precasters of the PCI Mid-Atlantic Chapter support projects of all kinds? Explore the PCI Mid-Atlantic Solutions Center for helpful resources and get in touch with PCI-MA for precast information, higher education partnerships, and more.




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