Concrete Compass: Offsite concrete construction
Navigating to useful resources and guidance
The use of precast concrete elements is a well-established construction method. Concrete offsite solutions range from whole building and structural systems, to precast construction components, offering numerous benefits during construction and over the whole life of a building. This compass brings together some of latest information and resources, including guidance documents and case studies, that can assist in making informed design decisions.
Our head of architecture, Elaine Toogood, looks at the full range of offsite concrete construction methods, their advantages and applications, in her blog.
The Concrete Centre has a number of resources that provide comprehensive guidance for designers.
- Offsite Concrete Construction is a free-to-download publication which includes guidance and benefits of using offsite concrete construction and delves into details of some of the more common techniques. This 24-page guide is a great starting point for those wanting a comprehensive overview of design considerations.
- Residential Cellular Concrete Buildings technical guide, includes detailed ‘How-To’ guidance on construction systems, including crosswall, tunnelform and twin wall.
- Concrete Offsite Solutions on-demand webinar This webinar explains the range of offsite solutions available in concrete and their benefits, along with design guidance for their use.
As featured in Concrete Quarterly magazine and other key journals, here is some useful guidance.
Precast concrete cladding offers opportunities to create high quality facades requiring little maintenance. It provides a weatherproof envelope, while fulfilling architectural, structural and other requirements in terms of fire resistance, thermal performance and sound insulation.
Crosswall construction is a modern and effective method of construction that employs factory-produced, precision engineered, concrete components. Being concrete, the structural elements are durable, non-combustible and virtually maintenance free, having little impact from the effects of water.
These are all benefits available during construction but also over the life of the building. The concrete offers excellent acoustic performance, security, airtightness and thermal mass. More information and case studies on projects that used crosswall construction can be sourced from the Offsite Concrete Construction publication.
The current drive for factory production and modern methods of construction (MMC) has led to increased use of innovative precast systems that can be used to construct both high- and low-rise housing quickly and efficiently.
Offsite Housing Solutions: Technical article in Concrete Quarterly, Autumn 2019. Includes case studies on Lansdowne, Birmingham; Aston Place, Birmingham; Victory Plaza, London as well as new innovations under development.
Tall Construction: Powered by Precast. Article in Offsite Magazine (issue 22) discusses the benefits of building tall using concrete offsite solutions, which include fire resistance, thermal mass and vibration criteria. Read more.
Hybrid concrete construction (HCC) can deliver very significant cost savings, enhanced buildability and all of the other advantages of off-site construction, improving both speed of construction and safety.
Best of Both Worlds, Concrete Quarterly summer 2020 - Combining precast and in-situ concrete can bring many benefits, from buildability to cost.
There are many ways in which precast concrete can be used as part of sustainable buildings. In addition, there are many sustainable benefits that are available due to the manufacture and supply chain, including low waste production, lower carbon concrete, responsible sourcing and the use of recycled content.
- Summary of the sustainability benefits of precast concrete feature in the Offsite Concrete Construction guide, published in 2019.
- Offsite solutions in concrete are often manufactured to suit project specific criteria, which can include project specific sustainability performance from responsible sourcing, to cutting carbon. For more information see Specifying Sustainable Concrete, published in 2020.
- Generic Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) have been published by MPA Precast, working closely with sustainability consultants thinkstep. Together they produced a life cycle assessment tool to enable MPA Precast to produce verified EPDs in accordance with BS EN 15804: 2012 +A1 (2013). The tool has an extensive list of over 50 material inputs covering all the commonly used aggregates, cements, reinforcements and admixtures. These third-party verified EPDs can be accessed here.
- Easy to use carbon fact sheets for brick-faced and stone cladding and structural precast elements are available to download here. These were produced prior to the EPDs (above) and therefore should only be referred to if needed once the EPDs are consulted.
- The precast concrete sector reports annually via Sustainability Matters and the sector is also part of the Concrete Industry Sustainable Construction Strategy, that also reports performance annually. There are also articles in Construction News supplement that show progress on the Precast Sustainability Charter Scheme and carbon reduction targets and the sustainability benefits of precast concrete.
Codes and Standards
The structural design of offsite concrete construction is to Eurocode 2 (BS EN 1992-1-1) but there are further codes for precast concrete elements. The general code for all precast concrete elements is BS EN 13369 and a list of codes for specific elements can be found here.
UK Precast Concrete
There are a number of specialist groups that represent the UK precast sector:
- MPA Precast is the trade association for the UK precast concrete sector. As an industry body it operates a number of specialist product groups as well as sector schemes for health and safety, and sustainability. More information about the Precast Sustainability Charter.
British Precast Architectural and Structural Association (BPAS) is the trade association for manufacturers of architectural and structural precast concrete in the UK. It represents a wealth of expertise and experience in offsite construction. Available resources from BPAS include regular newsletters on a vast range of construction sectors and precast concrete applications, including cladding and its use of digitalisation, such as BIM. Read more via the BPAS publications library.
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