The Future of the PCI Program at Southern California

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

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