Precast concrete buildings are constructed in a different manner compared to conventional structures which are cast in-situ. The segments of those buildings are cast at a certain location and they are transported to the construction site to be assembled together. This process differs from in-situ cast concrete construction where the connection is monolithic.
Given that the conditions under which precast components are made, their strength and quality can be highly controlled. Moreover, unlike conventional construction in which concrete must be poured in-situ and engineers have to wait 28 days so that it can reach its design strength, precast concrete segments can be placed and be functional immediately.
Precast concrete can produce many identical buildings. Thus, the nature of student houses makes it an attractive choice since most of the facilities are similar. Moreover, such buildings need to be constructed quickly in order to enable student accommodation. Therefore, in cold places where construction works would stop during winter, precast concrete buildings can provide a viable solution.
The advantages of precast concrete structures include:
- The building systems can be erected much faster
- The total cost of the project is much lower
- They can provide better insulation than a conventional building
- They can be more aesthetically attractive
When it comes to campuses, there are secondary benefits that also need to be considered. The demand for construction workers is significantly lower while the buildings can have a much longer lifespan compared to conventional ones (50-100 years)
On the contrary, there are certain drawbacks that need to be taken into consideration. Firstly, their environmental footprint is generally considered high, a fact that is significant given the radical changes that are currently carried out to reduce construction industry's carbon emissions. Moreover, they do have the same strength capacities with respect to conventional reinforced concrete structures and hence, span lengths and the maximum height between floors are more limited. This is due to the fact that parts are assembled together and discontinuities emerge. Forces are concentrated through these joints which do not have the same bending moment and shear capacity compared to monolithic connections.
Architects and engineers involved in the precast concrete buildings industry stated that it is of high importance to design those structures with high quality so that students have a vivid living environment.