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Survey Shows Great Student Impact from Precast Studios

In order to understand the student experience in the Foundation’s Precast Studios, to help improve future studios, and to collect contact information for studio Alumni, we created a Precast Studio Alumni Survey. This survey is open to any Alumni of PCI Foundation –sponsored or other precast studios. I requested the help of all of the studio professors in locating students to take the survey. The more recent studios had better contact information on students, and we have a better response from those schools.

Students who were surveyed came from all of the formal PCI Foundation Precast programs at

  • Univeristy of Southern California

  • New Jersey Institute of Technology

  • Illinois Institute of Technology

  • University of North Florida

  • University of North Carolina Charlotte

  • California State Polytechnic University

A few came from precast programs that are independent of the PCI Foundation, but are aligned with PCI

  • SIU Carbondale

  • University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee (Spancrete Studio)

The following questions were asked of all the students:

On a scale on 1 to 10 with 1 being the WORST EVER and 10 being the BEST EVER how would you rate your overall Precast Studio experience?

The average rating of the overall experience was 8.60, with the majority (90%) rating it 8 or above.

3. Please rate the educational value of the following activities or items often done in conjunction with the precast industry during a precast studio.

Of the students who participated in certain activities, we rated which were the favorites. The students rated the “hands on” activities highest - giving plant tours and samples high marks. Also popular (and done at many of the schools, were guest lectures that were offered by industry partners.

Visits to the precaster plant and to architectural firms received the highest ratings for activities done by a studio. The publication of the studio work was also ranked highly in those studios where it was done.

One area where we could improve the student experience is the precaster project review. Perhaps we can provide a cheat sheet on things precasters should look for, language that is understood by students, or other ways that would help improve the project review experience for the students. Training precasters on how to make these interactions more meaningful  -- for both the precaster and the student. 

Students in the comments asked for more project tours, yet these were not as highly rated as some other activities. We could also help train precasters how to make project tours more meaningful.

Some things that received a large number of “didn’t do it” that would be easy to add to programs include:

  • PCI Design Competition (45.8% didn’t do it),

  • Free PCI Membership

  • Certificate of Completion (we can send these to all students)

  • Publication of work (I have ideas for an annual “year book” of studio projects

When asked what activities might be added, there have been these responses:

  • If we could see work from other years and other studios that would be really cool, I would love to see how people in California use it in earthquake resistance

  • Hands on modeling with different types of casting, E) Polymers

  • Special session on formwork creation and the advanced potentials of precast

  • More projects (completed and under construction) visits personal CNC design work built and displayed learn best practices and capabilities of formwork. Can influence design thinking.

  • In progress project understanding within a firm

  • None. Great as it is!


Students were asked to rate their agreement with several statements.

4. I found the precast industry involvement in the studio was very helpful.

  • 56.3% (27)      strongly agreed

  • 39.6% (19)      Agree

  • 2.1% (1)          Disagree

  • 2.1% (1)          Strongly Disagree

Can you suggest any improvements?

To improve the precast industry involvement the consensus was that the students wish there to be MORE. More plant tours, more engineering assistance, and more contact. Here are their responses:

  • Precast Plant tour was bit restricted and can be better.

  • The industries we traveled to were too far

  • More explanation of how precast works in relation to structure

  • Give more creative suggestions/possible implications precast could have. If not, students don’t challenge the standards of precast and, instead, just throw double-tees and hollow-core into their projects.

  • More time with Engineering Assistance

  • Meet more often to talk

  • We didn't get to see a plant that was doing any work at the moment, I would of been willing to travel much further for that experience

  • Have a representative at the Studio, even if its just once a week.

  • Have students Work along side Industry professionals on a project. Shadow/Intern

5. The structure of the Precast Studio and the project completed allowed me sufficient time to learn the basics of designing in precast.

  • 50.0% (24)      strongly agreed

  • 45.8% (22)      Agree

  • 2.1% (1)          Disagree

  • 2.1% (1)          Strongly Disagree

What was the project?

  • It was designing Emergency Response Center at Long Branch, which was one of the districts damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

  • Paneling system that transitions from the landscape to the building wall

  • Disaster recovery center

  • UNCC Solar Decathlon

  • Train station for Milwaukee and mid-rise housing

  • Intermodal station and bike armory

  • precast concrete artist housing

  • Charter School

  • Hydroponic Growth Facility

  • Precast hydroponic facility

6. I was surprised by some of the things I learned during the Precast Studio.

  • 37.5%(18)       strongly agreed

  • 58.3% (28)      Agree

  • 2.1% (1)          Disagree

  • 2.1% (1)          Strongly Disagree

Any specifics?

  • Material provided by MAPA was excellent for during studio and future reference. The variation in working with concrete and the endless possibility of the use for it

  • I was unaware of how prevalent precast construction is on the commercial scale. How versatile precast concrete is

  • The design possibilities.

  • How much steel goes in to precast. that transportation and size need to be evaluated in the design stage.

  • Connections

  • Didn't previously realize the versatility of Precast and that it didn't have to look industrial. The tolerances achievable by precast concrete and it's benefits as a high mass construction method

  • How seemingly complicated aesthetics can be achieved with modular precast panelization The creation process.

  • How integrated the whole architectural aspects can be.

7. Participating in the Precast Studio made it more likely that I will design precast structures in the future.

  • 40.4% (19)      strongly agreed

  • 51.1% (24)      Agree

  • 4.3% (2)          Disagree

  • 4.3% (2)          Strongly Disagree

8. I am more likely to seek work with an architecture or engineering firm that designs using precast because of this studio.

  • 23.4% (11)      strongly agreed

  • 44.7% (21)      Agree

  • 25.5% (12)      Disagree

  • 6.4% (3)          Strongly Disagree

9. Are you likely to recommend this studio to other students in your program?

100% (48) Yes

10. At what point in your education did you complete the Precast Studio?

  • 64.6% (31)      Undergraduate

  • 35.4% (17)      Graduate

11. Are there other opportunities for learning about precast concrete design that you can suggest to the PCI Foundation?

  • The shop drawing that was provided was not – should I say “student friendly.” Less engineer approach would be nicer.

  • I’m unsure this was my first experience with precast

  • Lectures in Engineering classes

  • Seminars that explain the basics of how concrete construction works so students can understand how to actually integrate precast elements

  • More project and construction site visits.

  • Building Tech objectives. What should Architecture students know about precast? Make sure site and project visits are integrated. That, above most everything else, brought the experience to reality. To see and understand the connections and building uses is everything in a studio like this. While a lot of precast projects are seen as the cheap alternative to a different material, the ability to mass-customize components and have the possibility for several variations in a single building system proves that precast has far more possibilities than the typical parking garage. Focus on why precast isn't just Double-Tees and flat panels. Creativity can happen with precast, as long as you understand the process of manufacturing it.

  • Nothing

  • n/a

  • Tilt up project site visits

  • More design competition. Lectures open to past and present students

  • volunteering at possible sites will allow for further development of skills


  • The studio was great but I would have enjoyed more site visits.

  • A site visit to a precast building under construction

  • Seminars at Architecture firms.

  • Offer internship, co-op, or shadowing opportunities. Then students will understand what it is to actually work in the industry.

  • Nope

12. Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience?

  • It was awesome

  • This semester's studio was amazing! I learned so much about concrete and the building assembly.

  • Our studio was singular in that it was part of our preparation for the Solar Decathlon. I was really impressed with how involved and helpful Peter Finsen was in the whole process. Additionally, I can't say enough about the help that Metromont has extended to us through the entire process.

  • I really like that our studio had engineering and architecture students in it.

  • I really enjoyed working with the concrete plant workers. I feel like I learned the most from them

  • The precast studio was very helpful and one of the more enjoyable studio experiences during my time at USC. I certainly learned a lot about the industry as a whole, and about the benefits and restrictions of designing in precast. One thing that could be improved is how the industrialized/commercial precast industry meshes with the artistic/experimental nature of a design studio. Students could possibly be given additional exposure to the R&D portion of the precast industry.

  • It's always great learning construction detailing and methods while in school, really push this Travelling to Joshua Tree was definitely the high point of the semester and the entire integration of studio, site visits, and exercises outside the studio were fantastic.

  • Do projects that have the possibility to be actually built. This might get architects to use precast on the project.

  • Nothing

  • n/a

  • The PCI Big Beam competition has been an invaluable experience, and the guest lecturers have been very informative.

  • I would take a Precast Studio 2 if offered

  • Overall it was a great experience and I really enjoyed the studio. I never thought you could implement so much design into precast concrete.

  • I loved every minute of the precast studio

  • INSTRUCTOR (GIL SNYDER) VERY HELPFUL, WELL CONNECTED, AND ENGAGING I told my professor, Gil Snyder, that this was hands down the best studio experience that I've had in graduate school. The reason for this is due to the fact we learned about products used in real buildings and as students in this program, we are not subjected to that in most studios. It was an invaluable learning experience.

  • Greg Winkler was a great host and person to introduce us to the Precast Industry. The program was definitely a benefit for us students.

  • Nope

  • Learning about precast concrete and going to the facility itself was very enlightening and I would highly recommend that they continue this program.

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