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 on sustainability, is listed below. The entire Designer's Notebook with commentary is available here.
Durability and adaptability
Precast concrete panels provide a long service life due to their durable, low-maintenance surfaces. Insulated sandwich panels paired with 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 peak 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. 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.
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 volatile organic compounds (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.