Architectural Precast Concrete

A Stunning and Resilient Solution to Your Building Envelope

From stark white, to muted gray—to a dark slate, punctuated with brilliant amber, red and vermilion. Color is what defines these buildings, stains were selected for their consistency, range of color and zero maintenance performance.

Aesthetic options for buildings are ever-changing as developers and owners compete to attract tenants and buyers with distinguishing features.  This can encompass traditional aesthetics and other design options that are only recently available. 

A desire for greater differences in aesthetics has grown as designers look to add visual interest and depth to facades. In many cases, designers are turning to precast concrete to meet these needs. Precast concrete is a high performance building material and system. Its excellent aesthetic versatility allows for a complete spectrum of optional finishes and its plasticity provides depth and geometric shapes that create eye-catching facades.

The Aesthetic Versatility of Precast
Precast concrete is available in practically any colour, form, and texture. Precast concrete can also be veneered with other traditional building materials such as brick, granite, limestone, terracotta, tile, and more. This provides the look and feel of other materials while adding all the benefits of a precast concrete to envelope system. Different finishes can even be combined in the same wall panel, in the precast manufacturing plant, without requiring multiple trades at a job site. It offers an efficient way to develop a multitude of facade treatments with less cost and detailing time. Whatever specific aesthetic qualities a structure must provide, either to invoke a traditional appearance, blend with other buildings in the area, or to inject a contemporary look of a company’s cutting-edge image, precast concrete can provide the solution and has almost unlimited design options.

Textures and Finishing Techniques
A variety of finishing techniques can be achieved when used in conjunction with countless material options: aggregates, sand, cement, pigments, paints, stains, and brick and stone veneers. These, along with a limitless palette of colours and textures, can be used to achieve a wide variety of design objectives.

Brick-Faced and Stone Veneered Precast Panels
Thin-brick faced precast concrete panels are gaining popularity in more and more building construction projects. Brick-faced panels combine the structural advantages of architectural precast with the aesthetics of clay masonry without the time and cost of brick laying on site. Brick facings can cover the entire exposed precast panel surface or be used to create accents on one part of the panel. Complex and intricate details such as arches, radii and corbels with various bonding patterns can be incorporated into finished precast panels. The combination of precast concrete and brick products offers important benefits when compared to conventional masonry construction.

Brick-faced precast concrete wall panels are self-supporting and can be readily attached to the building structure. This eliminates the need for structural steel lintels, metal studs and/or a block back-up to support field-set brick veneer. Precast panels provide an exterior weather and air barrier without any additional sealing or membranes. Two-stage joint sealants between panels for drainage will complete the assembly.

For example, the installation of 150 m2 of precast wall (ten 15 m2 brick-faced panels) in one day would contain 10,500 metric modular bricks – the equivalent of twenty to thirty brick-setting days if the same area was field set. Factory-produced brick-faced precast panels also eliminate the need for costly on-site scaffolding, winter heat and protection needed for field-set masonry.

In the middle of the Burnside Industrial Park in Dartmouth, the architect of Park Place V was faced with the difficult task of making the building blend in with the existing brick building; while at the same time allowing it to stand out as a modern, environmentally friendly office - the use of thin brick in precast wall panels was the answer.

Stone Veneered Precast Panels
Stone veneer-faced precast concrete panels offer many benefits. These include:

  • Veneer stock can be used in thinner sections because anchoring points to precast panel may be placed closer together.
  • Multiplane units such as column covers, spandrels with integral soffit and sill sections, deep reveal window frames, inside and outside corners, projections and setbacks, and parapet sections are more economically assembled as veneer units on precast concrete panels.
  • Veneered precast concrete panel systems permit faster enclosure, allowing earlier work by other trades and subsequent earlier occupancy, because each large panel incorporates a number of veneer pieces.
  • Veneered precast concrete panels can be used to span column-to-column, thereby reducing floor-edge loading and eliminating elaborate temporary scaffolding.
  • Smaller stone inserts can be cast as “highlights” in larger precast panels.


The World Exchange Plaza is a twenty-storey office and retail building in Downtown Ottawa, ON. It covers an entire city block and the first phase was completed in 1991. The eastern side was marked by a large plaza modeled after the Roman Colosseum. The building is clad in Granite Faced Precast Concrete Panels which were installed with the precast plant factory-installed windows.

For more information on Brick-Faced and Stone Veneered Precast Panels click here.

Custom Formliners

Sometimes these ready-made designs may not be exactly the effect an architect or owner has in mind. In such a situation it makes sense to consider using a custom formliner.  Custom formliners can be manufactured to create almost any design desired; leaves, fossils, mountains or cultural icons.  Almost anything can be used as the basis of a custom designed formliner.  Essentially there are limitless possibilities; when you add custom formliners, you are only limited by your imagination.

When it comes to getting noticed, Simons is an expert at turning heads. This new Simons store continued its tradition of standing out in a crowd by using custom formliners with the opening of a new location at the Park Royal Mall in West Vancouver.


3D Formliners and Photo-Engraving
The 3D Concrete Process is a computer-based method for transferring image data onto sheet materials by means of milling technology. Specially developed software converts pictures into a three-dimensional milling file. This 3D structure with its different levels, can then be transmitted by a computer controlled milling machine onto a plate material.

The milled model is used as a master for casting the polyurethane formliner. Similarly, the photo-engraving process is also a computer-based method for transferring image data onto sheet materials by means of milling technology.

First, an image template is scanned and converted into 256 grey scales. In order to transfer the image onto the sheet material, a machining file is generated from the identified grey values, whereby the file includes milling commands for a CNC milling machine. The milled model is used as the master for casting the polyurethane photo-engraving formliners.

For both processes, the elasticity, quality and reusability of the resulting formliner all contribute to the aesthetics and the economic efficiency of the whole process and make it possible to recreate the image onto the concrete surface.

Professional Fire Fighters Burn Fund Project Photo Mural


If a picture is worth a thousand words, then photo-engraved precast concrete speaks volumes.


Staining Precast Concrete with Brilliant Colour
Colour can define form, shape and space. It informs. It delights. It is the finishing touch. The perfect colour dramatically enhances the visual appeal of a structure.

In recent years, colour staining has exploded onto the marketplace and allowed designers to create new innovative designs. When designers need colour, paints and stains can be applied to the precast concrete either at the plant or on the project site. Whether you’re blending an addition, preserving an historical landmark or erecting a modern skyscraper, staining of precast concrete can be a viable permanent solution.

For more information on Innovations in Architectural Precast Concrete click here.

Pick any color you want; there's virtually no limit.


Architectural Precast Concrete - Perfect Barrier Drained Joint Systems
Perfect Barrier systems stop all water penetration at a single plane. Such perfect control requires the advent of modern materials. Because it is difficult to build and maintain a perfect barrier with many materials, it is common to recommend the use of drained walls. However, some systems like precast concrete wall panels, factory built, provide wall elements that are practical perfect barriers. For example, architectural precast concrete can be considered watertight, as can glazing, and roof membranes. The joints between perfect barrier elements should almost always be drained joints in the form of two-stage sealant joints or similar. Further guidance can be found in the technical document: "High Performing Precast Concrete Building Enclosures - Rain Control".

Designing and constructing with architectural precast concrete facilitates faster and efficient construction, and improved building performance, at an economic advantage. That, combined with the stunning aesthetic options, makes architectural precast concrete the solution for many design professionals.


© CPCI 2012. All rights reserved.