Your headline ‘Concrete Loses Out on Tall Jobs’ (News, October 4) may unfortunately be true for insitu concrete construction, but is certainly not the case for structural precast concrete.
Member companies of the Structural Precast Association (SPA) have seen an increase in their activities for high rise developments over the past few years with buildings up to 14-storeys high being constructed. And orders are now placed for two 20-storey buildings to be built in early 2008.
SPA members are also involved in discussions that should result in buildings over 30-storeys high being built in the UK soon - with structural precast units being the principal frame elements.
The availability of high-strength concrete in the precast factory is not a problem, including the use of high-strength self-compacting concrete to maximise production throughout, which has significant health and safety benefits for the operatives involved.
SPA members are experiencing an increase in demand for high quality offsite manufactured concrete components that can be used to build the full structure of high rise buildings, or used in combination with other structural materials to form hybrid solutions.
Tall buildings constructed with structural precast frames are found extensively in other countries. The third tallest building in Brussels, 38-storey Dexia Towers; the 39-storey Paramount Building in San Francisco - where the full precast frame has been designed and built to resist seismic effects - and the 31-storey Bromley Place in Canada, being three recent examples.
Clients in the UK are now recognising that the established benefits of using concrete including inherent fire resistance, good sound insulation and thermal capacity are readily available for high rise construction from SPA members. They are also appreciating the benefits that precast concrete offsite construction brings with regards to surface finish, speed of construction, health and safety and sustainability issues.
To meet this increase in demand some SPA members have already invested, or have planned investment programmes, to improve and increase their existing production facilities, including the development of new factories.
Precast structural concrete is not losing out on tall buildings in the UK but is gaining market share.
Norman E. Brown
Secretary - Structural Precast Association
Head of Engineering Services – British Precast