Expanding Our Reach

 
Thursday -
September
07,
2017
 

The PCI Foundation Trustees recently accepted two new proposals for PCI Education Programs. The University of Arizona and the University of Minneosta Duluth will join the the list of programs supported by the PCI Foundation at the beginning of 2018. 

Wednesday -
September
06,
2017
 

What started 10 years ago as one architecture studio at the Illinois Institute of Technology has blossomed into an amazing education program - now including 19 schools that include architecture, civil and structural engineering and construction management programs. The investment in each of these programs (formerly known as studios, but which have now morphed into more all-encompassing “education projects”) is enormous. Not only in terms of the dollars invested in each school by the PCI Foundation, but also the time, talent and treasure brought to bear on the projects by the local partners who get involved on each and every program. 

As I look back on the history of the programs, and the evolution of the PCI Foundation, some of the benefits to our industry are apparent right away. Each year, I survey students who have been in the program to learn about how they view their precast concrete experience. Most of them tell us that they have an excellent experience through the PCI Foundation program, and a theme throughout many of the comments is that the precast program is often the highlight of a college career. Answers like this University of Southern California students are not at all unusual. "I think it was a very educational studio and was very well organized. The trips to the precast plant were very motivating and inspiring throughout the semester. The hands-on experience is definitely a must for the coming years!” 

For many of the students, their time learning about precast will affect the choices they make while seeking positions after college. Eighty-four percent say they plan to design with precast concrete and 64% say they will seek work with a firm that typically designs with precast. And sometimes, once they leave school past-students find unexpected ways that the program was helpful. "I do actually use what I learned in Doug Nobles' studio,” says Nicolle Landowski of IA Interiors. "I learned about the limitations and best uses of precast. Now I am working in silicon valley mainly doing offices that are steel construction, but we have quite a few labs/warehouses that are precast concrete construction that are being converted into nice offices. It was helpful to learn because now when we detail/modify the precast shell of the building, I have an understanding of how it was made, what its limitations are, and what we can do. Also, it was helpful in the past when doing multi-family housing, as they typically used precast elements for the parking lots. And, we have been using precast concrete elements a lot in interiors for offices. I was just on a project where we cast the reception desk in concrete sections because of its unique form.” 

In one case, a student who graduated in May from the the University of Michigan contacted his local partner in July looking for a precast for a project he was working on. The turn around isn’t always so quick, and yet we are finding many stories similar to this tfrom many graduates. In other cases, students have gone directly from school to work with the precast industry. Wells Concrete has hired at least two graduates from the Minnesota State at Mankato program.

Another benefit of using the PCI Foundation program is the number of students we are able to “touch” through the schools. While the number of students who have been directly involved with programs is just over 1200, students who participate in activities before and after grants are coplete is more than 2100. This is because some students who may not be enrolled in precast classes often tag along for industry tours or lectures from the precast group. And, these programs typically continue even after the grant is complete. 

One of the elements of our programs that the PCI Foundation has gotten much better at over the last 10 years is working with schools to keep a program rolling even after the grant is complete. This often takes some effort on the part of the local partner, and the interest from the professor who sees how his or her students have benefitted over the course of the program. Currently, 50% of the programs continue at the same level once the grant is complete and 75% of program carry at some level - either by continuing to include tours, speakers or other precast materials, or by continueing to include precast instruction within other curriculum such as materials classes.  

Memorable experiences gained in the PCI Foundation programs and relationships students form with our industry have lead graduates to look for careers where they can use what they learned about precast, specificy precast projects once they are out, go to work for the precast industry and carry on a legacy for our industry like nothing we saw in education prior to the first studio starting 10 years ago. The return on investment is amazing.

Thursday -
August
31,
2017
 
Thursday -
August
24,
2017
 

Professor Carlos Barrios brought students from his Fall 20017 precast studio to Tindall Concrete's Spartanburg, South Carolina plant to spend a day getting some hands-on experience with precast. 

Thursday -
August
24,
2017
 

I had a great opportunity to visit the Washington Universities Solar Decathlon project in St. Louis last week. Students assembled precast components from five different precast manufacturers to give a "first look" at the project. After this summer, the home will be disassembled and brought to the Solar Decathlon that takes place in Denver October 5-15, 2017. WashU Chancellor Mark Wrighton spoke to the group about how this project led to great opportunities to allow students from architecture, engineering and other departments work together. 

Tuesday -
August
08,
2017
 

Student Design Explorations of Precast for an Extreme Climate

Doug Noble and Karen Kensak share their experience with a PCI Foundation Studio this year.

The Spring 2017 PCI Foundation Studio in the School of Architecture at the University of Southern California continued the tradition of examining precast concrete in the context of Joshua Tree National Park. 

Tuesday -
August
08,
2017
 

The real success of PCI Foundation proposals comes from the partnership forged between the school and the local producers. The local partner - usually a PCI producer or group of producers - is not only provides in-kind support, such as tours of the plant or projects, personnel to give engineering support, and a variety of materials - but also helps ensure that the program meets the needs of the local industry.

Tuesday -
August
01,
2017
 

Doug Noble from USC shares his thoughts on the future of the precast program at USC.

The PCI Foundation has been supporting research and education in the School of Architecture at USC for several years.  A goal of the PCI Foundation sponsorship program is to provide a seed that launches a lasting and long-term impacts. As the formal part of the program comes to an end, the question becomes "what happens next?"  What were the past impacts of the PCI Foundation program, and what are the current and future impacts.
 
In the past, we have run annual precast concrete architectural design studios for 4th-year students in the bachelor of architecture program.  The studio emphasized the strengths of precast as part of a high thermal mass architecture for the extreme climate of Joshua Tree National Park.  Students learned how to use the large daily temperature swings with high-mass precast to create comfortable interior conditions without the use of mechanical systems.  Students also learned about the advantages of off-sire fabrication to reduce construction site impacts inside the National Park.  As part of the studio, we visited precast producers (thank you Clark Pacific) and received educational seminars from Doug Mooradian at PCI West (until his retirement this year). We are looking forward to the same kind of engagement with Ruth Lehmann as she embarks on her new role.  Also as part of the past program, we hosted precast concrete conferences, inviting architects to learn about precast building envelopes.  From these conferences, we created publications about precast concrete case studies.  We also integrated precast into the 2nd-year "materials and methods" course.  Some PCI funds were used to support prizes for jury-selected projects at the end of each year. This year, the studio students participated in a hands-on precast day at Clark Pacific, and we physically constructed two facade panels.  One of the panels will become part of a research program this fall semester here at USC.
 
Going forward, the studio will continue.  The precast studio has become a part of the studio culture, and it will continue indefinitely.  The exact plan for the 2018 studio is not yet clear because Doug Noble has earned a sabbatical as he completes 25 years of teaching at USC.  Working with Clark Pacific, we are developing a plan to build a full-scale building envelope as a demonstration project at Joshua Tree, and Clark Pacific has committed to continue with the hands-on program for future years.  The relationship between USC and the precast industry is excellent.  In fact, this summer USC will complete the construction of the USC University Village, a collection of seven mixed-used residential colleges that were constructed with precast envelopes.
 
Doug Noble and Karen Kensek will attend the PCI Convention in 2018 to report on our work, and we hope to continue to join you annually with additional reports

Thursday -
July
06,
2017
 

Tom Kelley, vice chairman of the PCI Foundation and president of Gage Brothers in Sioux Falls, South Dakota has worked with the Precast Studio at South Dakota State University for the last four years. He shares some of his experience with the students here:

What I really like about this studio is that we work with the students directly, and they have a hands-on experience.  

Thursday -
July
06,
2017
 

Ansley Prodoehl has been able to enjoy the Precast Studio at both the South Dakota State University and University of Colorado at Denver.