Precast cladding is a concrete building material that is produced off-site and shipped in prefabricated panels to a building site. This is in contrast to standard concrete processes where the forms are built onsite and the concrete is allowed to form and cure in place. Precast cladding is formed in controlled conditions, meaning each piece should be nearly identical to any other. The forming and curing processes are tightly monitored, ensuring that each piece will have the exact same tolerances. On the building site, precast pieces speed construction, since workers don’t need to wait for walls to dry.
Standard concrete walls are made using forms built by workers. These forms are placed on a building and conform to the exact shape and need of the design. The concrete is poured into the forms and allowed to dry while the builders work in another area. After the concrete has enough time to dry and set, the forms are removed and the wall is examined. If the wall is satisfactory, building continues in that area.
Using precast cladding is a much different process. The concrete slabs are delivered to the worksite already dry and ready to use. The slabs are lifted into place and connected to the existing structure. Work in an area never really stops since the slabs are finished as soon as they are connected to the building’s frame.
Creating precast cladding is just as different as using it. Since standard concrete walls are made in place, they may be made far underground or far above it. Precast concrete walls are made at ground level in controlled conditions. This means the temperature, pressure and humidity for any piece is the same as every other. This results in cladding pieces that don’t vary based on the conditions in which they were set.
The forms used in standard wall creation are built for the particular piece. When the form comes down, the pieces are reused, but the form needs to be totally rebuilt. With precast cladding, the form is a premanufactured piece so it is reused hundreds, if not thousands, of times. When compared to standard methods, this lowers the time and cost for creating an individual wall piece.
The biggest disadvantages to precast concrete cladding are both related to shipping. First, the cost to ship the large wall segments can be very high. The further away the manufacturer, the more expensive the shipping. This increased cost can potentially eat up any cost savings over custom-formed walls.
The second main disadvantage in is shipping damage. Concrete is easily damaged in some cases, so shipping is especially difficult. When a wall piece is damaged in shipping, replacement can be difficult and time-consuming. Even with these problems, pre-made concrete cladding is often a more efficient and faster way to build concrete structures.