Need answers to commonly asked questions about precast, prestressed concrete? We can help!


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Here are additional resources and photos to provide more detail into the Architectural Certification Program:

Precast concrete producers certified in Categories AA and AB are required to provide 3D/BIM precast concrete submittal drawings when required by specifications.

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

Precast Concrete Design Options/Aesthetic Versatility/Appearance

Precast concrete offers a virtually unlimited palette of options for creating unique aesthetic treatments. Learn more about the aesthetic versatility of precast in our  blog, case studies, and project profiles.

PCI developed several Designer’s Notebooks that can help you get started. These publications are available for download in PDF format and free of charge.

Efflorescence usually occurs due to the presence of soluble substances in the materials used to produce concrete. Though generally harmless from a structural viewpoint, efflorescence often appears within the first year after the structure is completed and is due to relative humidity, temperature, air movement, permeability, and the texture of the concrete surface.

To reduce or eliminate the potential for efflorescence on your project, consult your local precast producer on your next project for mix and formulation strategies and download the PCI MNL-122 Manual for Architectural Precast Concrete for more details.

Precast Manufacturing Process & Materials

Precast concrete is made in a factory-controlled environment, where a dedicated batch plant produces a specially designed concrete for precast concrete products such as structural beams, columns, double tees, architectural cladding, and wall systems.

To get a high-level overview of what precast concrete is, manufacturing process steps, and typical building applications, download the Precast 101 eBook.

Cement is just one ingredient of concrete. While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, concrete and cement are not the same. Concrete is a building material and composite of aggregates, including sand, gravel, cement, water, and other materials. Learn about the properties of cement and other materials in our blog.


Precast Concrete Installation/Erection

Logistics, equipment, coordination, and connections. These considerations can sometimes constrain and drive product design size, weight limits, and costs.

Get all the details in a blog on key considerations for precast installation.

Gravity, lateral, and seismic connections, including bridging components needed (miscellaneous steel needed from structural steel/CIP to precast products). Visit our website for information.

The A/E drawings should include basic/generic types and quantities; final engineered design of connections is delegated to the Producer. A/E design should understand and delineate the basic types of connections needed. These publications are available for download.

Erection tolerances control the position of the individual precast concrete members as they are located and placed in the assembled structure. For information, check out PCI’s Designer’s Notebooks: Envelope Tolerances for Architectural Precast, a free PDF download.

To locate a PCI-Certified Erector in your state or region, please enter your search criteria to view results in the PCI-Certified Erector Directory.

Multi-Hazard Protection & Precast Concrete Performance

Very well. Precast concrete provides superior protection against severe weather events such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods. It can also stand up to flames, heat, and extreme blast forces from explosive devices. Read our blog on multi-hazard protection and check out the resources below for more information.

The primary ingredients of concrete—sand, gravel, and cement—are mineral based. When mixed with water, the cement chemically reacts to create a crystalline matrix with a high compressive strength. Learn more about seismic building design in our blog.


Precast is inherently more sustainable than other building materials. PCI supports green building practices and continually improves plant practices to reduce environmental impacts. Learn more about precast as a green building material and our contribution to LEED certification in our blog.

Precast concrete helps achieve sustainability goals by contributing to recognized green building certification and rating systems. In terms of LEED v4.1 points by category, you can get up to 110 points when specifying precast concrete.

Industry-wide, cradle-to-gate EPDs for precast concrete manufactured by PCI and CPCI, and members are available for Structural Precast and Architectural and Insulated Precast. These declarations have been prepared in accordance with ISO 14025 and ISO 21930, ASTM international’s EPD Program Operator Rules. Download EPDs:

Architectural Precast Concrete

The term “architectural precast concrete” refers to any precast concrete component that contributes to the architectural form and finished effect of the structure through application of shape, finish, color, or texture.

Architectural precast components can be non-loadbearing cladding panels, part of the structural building frame, or small decorative trim between windows or within a brick façade. Refer to the New Classification Categories AA, AB, AC, AD, or AT.

For more information, read our blog on Architectural Precast Concrete. There you will find details on specific measurements, finishes, joints and other information. Below are some additional Architectural Precast resources:

Insulated Wall Panels/Precast Concrete Sandwich Wall Panels

Precast concrete insulated wall panels, also known as precast concrete sandwich panels, are complete, inclusive building enclosure products with water, vapor, and thermal barriers. They provide significant contributions toward reduced energy and operating costs, lower maintenance costs, improved functionality or productivity, and continued operational capability after a catastrophic event.

Read more details about Insulated Wall Panels in part 11 of our FAQ Blog series. You can also discover more benefits of insulated wall panels, how to avoid thermal bowing, and the differences between composite and non-composite wall panels in the following resources.


A range of R-values can be obtained by varying the insulation thickness and material or, in some cases, by varying the unit weight of the concrete. The effects of thermal damping can vary with the climate and the building use. However, a concrete sandwich wall will almost always provide both reductions and delays of the peak loads affecting a building. Consult your local PCI-certified precaster regarding R-value requirements as well as panel design considerations for your next project.

For non-composite and composite panels, it is important that two concrete wythes are connected using a material that will not transfer and cause a thermal bridge while allowing for edge-to-edge continuous insulation. Commonly used non-conductive connectors are made of carbon or fiber-composite.

Private studies have shown that the effect of joints and any thermal bridging is negligible if properly installed and maintained. The joints in precast systems are approximately ½-¾ inches wide, sealed with a silicone caulk and backer rod, with an air gap that provides adequate performance and doesn’t compromise the continuous insulation requirements.

Hollow Core Plank/Roof and Floor Systems

The design recommendations for span lengths vary slightly from product to product, but here are a few general rules of thumb to keep in mind. If we assume a uniform superimposed load of 100 pounds per square foot and an un-topped system, these guidelines apply:

  • 6-inch depth hollow core plank: 22-foot spans
  • 8-inch depth hollow core plank: 29-foot spans
  • 10-inch depth hollow core plank: 35-foot spans
  • 12-inch depth hollow core plank: 40-foot spans
  • 16-inch depth hollow core plank: 50-foot spans

For more information regarding hollow core plank design considerations, check out our Hollow Core Roof and Floor Design Checklist and learn all about hollow core slabs in our blog.

Residential construction is an ideal application for hollow core plank. There’s the potential for problems with water infiltration and subsequent freeze/thaw damage in the hollow cores when used in an external application. All PCI-certified precasters of hollow core plank recommend that you specify that the cores be filled for the balcony area or plan for those pieces to be solid slab section. This is easily and commonly manufactured for high rise, multifamily residential projects.

A typical 8-inch-thick hollow core plank has a 2-hour fire rating. For a higher rating of 3-4 hours, typically a concrete or gypsum-based topping would be applied or a spray-on, fire resistant material can be added to the underside of the plank. This is also shown in the UL directory. Learn more in the resources below.

This is only necessary if desired; for example, if the underside remains exposed and or painted.

Parking Structures

Yes! There is a lot to consider when it comes to building parking garages and complexes. Safety, traffic flow, design, and durability mark the beginning of key, determining factors for projects of this nature. Precast, prestressed concrete delivers a variety of benefits that ticks off requirements for parking structures in versatility, efficiency, and job site safety and durability.

For more details and to learn more about precast in parking structures, read part 7 of our FAQ blog Or download the Parking Structures Design Considerations Checklist to get started.

Explore why more and more architects and construction teams are turning to precast concrete for parking structures in place of conventional building systems, so you can determine if it’s right for your next project.

Total Precast Structures/Systems

TPS use precast concrete as the primary structural system of a building transferring roof, floor, and lateral loads. TPS include government and municipal projects, multifamily residential housing, mixed-use projects, education buildings such as dormitories, and many more. Learn more about TPS in our blog.

Many firms using total precast concrete for the first time are unfamiliar with the responsibilities held by project stakeholders. Learn more about the roles of various team members in the Total Precast Concrete Structures Responsibilities checklist.

TPS allow the architectural panels to serve structural functions, limiting the need for multiple materials and trades. This also shifts 75% of the labor and related risk from the jobsite to a quality-controlled precast concrete plant environment. When all hidden and long-term costs are included, precast concrete offers the best value and the highest return on investment.

Transportation Structures/ Bridge Design

Learn more about precast concrete bridge design in on-demand recordings and handouts from a three-session seminar jointly sponsored by the PCI Mid-Atlantic and PCI Northeast Chapters.

Part 12 of our FAQ Blog series covers transportation structures and bridge design with an extensive list of available courses, materials and relevant topics including:

  • BIM
  • Design & Fabrication
  • Means & Methods
  • Materials
  • Decks, Girders & Beams
  • UHPC for Bridge Elements
  • Precast Foundations
  • NEXT Beam
  • And more

Check out our Transportation Catalog, which features PCI publications and a comprehensive list of training courses in our eLearning Center.