Precast Concrete and Sustainable Design
Few industries are moving sustainability forward at a faster rate than precast concrete. Because of its history as the technical and standard-setting institute for the precast/prestressed concrete industry, PCI’s approach to sustainability is to provide information that is based on research and technical knowledge.

Precast/prestressed concrete can contribute to sustainable design in many ways. It is a versatile and durable material, produced in a factory by highly trained personnel with virtually no waste, under stringent quality control measures. Precast panels can be quickly erected on the job site with minimal disruption to the site and precast's thermal mass can save energy and increase comfort.

The following video demonstrates precast concrete's contributions to sustainable design.

Understanding some of the benefits of precast concrete will assist designers in evaluating the impact of precast concrete on the environment and the building operation. An overview of the benefits of precast concrete, taken from the PCI Designer’s Notebook series on sustainable design, is listed below. The entire notebook with commentary is available by clicking here.

Durability and adaptability

Precast concrete panels provide a long service life due to their durable, low-maintenance surfaces. Insulated sandwich panel construction with concrete exterior and interior walls provides long-term durability inside and out. Precast concrete construction also provides the opportunity to move and reuse panels to refurbish the building, rather than tear it down, should its use or function change.

Thermal mass and energy performance

The thermal mass of concrete allows shifting of heating and cooling loads in a structure to help reduce mechanical-system requirements and energy consumption through the building envelope.

Fire and natural-disaster resistance

Concrete is noncombustible and can contain a fire within boundaries. As a separation wall, precast concrete helps prevent fire from spreading throughout a building or jumping from building to building. Precast concrete is resistant to wind, hurricanes and floods.

Air infiltration

Precast concrete panels have negligible air infiltration. Minimizing air infiltration between panels and at floors and ceilings will provide a building with low air infiltration. These effects will lower energy costs and help prevent moisture problems.

Abundant, local materials

Concrete is used in almost every country of the world as a basic building material. Aggregates, about 85% of concrete content, are generally low-energy, local, naturally occurring sand and stone. Most precast concrete plants are within 200 miles (300 km) of a building site. Using local materials reduces the transportation required to ship heavy building materials and the associated energy and emissions.

Indoor environmental quality

Concrete contains low to negligible VOCs. Polished concrete floors do not require carpeting. Exposed concrete walls do not require finishing materials, eliminating particulates from sanding drywall-taping seams.

Mitigating the urban heat-island effect

Precast concrete provides reflective surfaces that minimize the urban heat-island effect.

Resistance to noise

Precast concrete walls provide a buffer between outdoor noise and the indoor environment.


Vermin and insects cannot destroy concrete because it is inedible.

For additional information contact:
John E. Dobbs, P.E., S.E.
Executive Director

PCI Mountain States Region
10500 Spring Green Dr., Unit 112
Englewood, CO  80112