Intensive growth and new scientific and technological developments give builders practically unlimited possibilities. This leads to the emergence of the problem of choice – how to rationally determine the most appropriate technology? Experience of previous decades shows that constructions made of prefabricated concrete show good operation characteristics and are rather lasting (bibm.eu, 2016). As a result, prefabricated concrete is widely used in the process of construction of building of civil and industrial use. With the help of the prefabricated concrete construction time of the building is decreased, and much labor and financial resources are saved. Further in the paper, prefabricated concrete will be analyzed and compared to other types of construction materials, first of all – monolithic concrete constructions.
The main difference of the creation of prefabricated concrete constructions and monolithic concrete construction lies in the fact that all prefabricated concrete structures are produced at the plants, where workers carefully check every stage of the whole production process (concretenetwork.com, 2016). Impact of human factors on the quality of the prefabricated concrete constructions is reduced to an absolute minimum, which is a significant advantage. Monolithic concrete constructions are produced solely on the construction sites. Another advantage of prefabricated concrete constructions is also a quick installation of such structures which does not require a large number of skilled workers at the facility. Prefabricated concrete constructions have outstanding characteristics: they muffle noise, they have long durability, they have high fracture toughness, excellent ability to withstand dynamic loads and resistance to corrosive influences (concretenetwork.com, 2016). Perhaps the only disadvantage of this technology is that prefabricated concrete modules are of previously-defined shapes and sizes. Thus, the scope of application of this material for non-standard designs is rather limited.
In the XXI century, architectural prefabricated concrete has become an effective tool for architects to realize their unrestrained imagination (drmprefab.com, 2016). The initial liquid form of the concrete allows it to take almost any shape becoming a tool to express creative ideas of the architect. Further, this liquid concrete is put into designed-on-purpose forms, in which it is left for a couple of day until it becomes rock solid. After this, architects receive concrete constructions of impeccable quality with the best architectural properties – strength, durability, heat capacity, excellent sound insulation (drmprefab.com, 2016).
Further, it shall be noted that prefabricated concrete constructions can be easily decorated. Various treatment options give the surface of prefabricated concrete elements a very attractive appearance. They can be polished to a mirror finish or treated with acid. A house may look like a brick one, but, in fact, it is assembled with prefabricated elements, inlaid with bricks. Architects can work on modeling characteristics of the concrete structures, apply a wide range of colors to them, with the help of which a positive emotional effect can be achieved. Such architectural decision create a favorable atmosphere from such a building (hycrete.com, 2016).
Structural features of architectural prefabricated concrete structures give architects countless possibilities for the realization of their ideas. Special surface treatment of concrete structures protects the architectural facades from pollution and graffiti. These facades may be far more reliable in terms of operation and safety, while at the same time to be an example of an elegant, refined and even luxurious architecture (weiler.net, 2016).
As one of the Websites analyzed states, another important property of architectural prefabricated concrete is its heat capacity. In the winter and at night when the air temperature drops down, architectural concrete, which is a kind of insulation for the whole building, can seriously reduce the loss of heat in the room, and in summer – vice versa: concrete structures protect inhabitants from the exhausting heat (pcine.org, 2016). Prefabricated concrete constructions have also excellent sound insulation. A significant advantage of this technology is the reduction of the construction time by the speed of the assembly of prefabricated elements (pcine.org, 2016).
Nowadays, architects widely use chiaroscuro approach which unites large deaf planes with components of fractional monotonous motifs through the “stone lattice type or geometric ornament carpet on the nature of the wall” (Cruz 34). The artistic effect of this comparison is the contrast of the massive, heavy stone and brick walls with graceful light and through the concrete lattice; one gives to another a scale, stresses massiveness in one case, and elegance, lightness in another. The stones are made of relatively small sizes and of different configurations – square, triangular, hexagonal, single or double, with thin walls. When laying, changing the relative positions of the stones, an architect can get a lot of options. The effect of pronounced plasticity of the wall is that the sunlight forms a rich chiaroscuro pattern (Cruz 36).
Often architects complete facades of prefabricated concrete structures. In the result, architects receive light walls that are practical. Prefabricated concrete structures are necessary when there is a need to provide lighting, ventilation, and visibility of the room, as well as protection of it from excessive heating by the sun. As professor Cruz noted, there is a long list of application of prefabricated concrete elements in the architecture: walls of residential and public buildings, railings for balconies and stairs – these are only some of them (40).
Prefabricated concrete elements allow to complete facades and interiors in a new way, to combine decorative motifs in different variations that emphasize the play of light and shadow (kerkstra.com, 2016).
Architect Paul Rudolph from the USA, during the construction of the Endo Pharmaceuticals Building used an interesting method of treatment of the prefabricated concrete surface. He put prefabricated concrete structures on the carcass previously constructed, and protruded cleaved facets manually. In the end, he received the pictorial rough surface. The concrete creates practically unlimited possibilities for surface treatment, since it is a plastic material, which surface can be created by molding, etching, carving and further processing (Croft 47-48).
Smooth surfaces of concrete manufactured in forms are sensitive to slight deformation of the roughness and shape. Therefore, designs with large smooth surfaces require a completely smooth form, for example made of polished concrete. The smooth surface is sensitive to mechanical damage and dirt, and it must be protected from substances which cannot be washed away by rain (Croft 48).
The use of prefabricated concrete is not necessarily to be associated with a dull gray color. For example, in Sweden, a lot of attention is given to the color of the filler of the concrete. For example, architects use a filler of uniform color and at the same moment they widely use materials with intense color: brown marble, dark feldspar. They readily use also clinker or mosaics, which give unlimited possibilities for a variety of patterns and colors (Griffiths, “Prefabricated Architecture”). When using coarse gravel in a combination with prefabricated concrete structures, architects achieve much more expressive and varied surface, since gravel is a mixture of different stones.
Very often architects create of prefabricated concrete hollow-core slabs (one of the most prominent types of prefabricated concrete), stairs (today absolute majority of them is made at plants from concrete), ventilation units, internal partitions. Prefabricated concrete structures are widely used when it is necessary to complete the construction within short terms (Croft 89).
For example, when building of the Olympic Village for the London 2012 Olympic Games, all the exterior walls of buildings located in the Village were assembled from sandwich panels, fully prefabricated and insulated with a layer of foam and the use of architectural concrete for forming the outer surfaces (Croft 90).
Also in London, the UK`s largest super-modern prison was built by full assembly of structures made of prefabricated concrete. Every detention cell (including plumbing elements, beds, and armored windows) was carried out in the factory of reinforced concrete structures as a separate unit. In France, a significant portion of external walls for industrial buildings and shopping centers are made of prefabricated concrete (from both sandwich, and single-layer panels) of a height of up to twelve meters (Croft 93).
Summing up, we can say that, although in the developed countries we cannot often see examples of prefabricated concrete panel construction in its "pure" form, there is a persistent use of prefabricated elements. At the same time, it would be a mistake to attribute unusually rapid growth to a construction using prefabricated concrete structures. The truth is in the middle: architects continue widely apply prefabricated concrete structures when this is required by the technological process and when this does not bring harm to dwellers and aesthetics.
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Croft, Catherine. Concrete Architecture. Laurence King Publishing, 2004.
Cruz, Paulo J. da Sousa. Structures and Architecture. CRC Press, Jun 27, 2013.
drmprefab.com. 2016. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. <https://www.drmprefab.com/cement-home>.
Griffiths, Alyn. “Prefabricated Architecture”. Architonic. N.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. <http://www.architonic.com/ntsht/prefabricated-architecture/7000680>.
hycrete.com. 2016. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. < http://www.hycrete.com/>.
kerkstra.com. 2016. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. < http://kerkstra.com/faq>.
pcine.org. 2016. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. <http://www.pcine.org/index.cfm/products_systems/architectural>.
weiler.net. 2016. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. <http://www.weiler.net/en/index.php/precast_concrete_products>.