BY LINDA HIRVONEN
A precast facade will tell the story of a place, a company, or the building site itself in a unique way, especially when you also use the readily available graphic concrete technology. But where to start? Like any design, this starts with an idea and moves into the conceptual design, looking to possible materials, and more. You may already be considering precast. If the thought of a precast facade gives you trepidation, we have firsthand experience with 800 projects worldwide. In fact, the challenge lies not with designing the precast facade or element. Instead, the hard part is to narrow your ideas for expression down to just one. However, it is also important to take into account the technical attributes and best practices for the technique used.
Below are the top 4 considerations when you design a precast facade:
1. Start with what’s most important – THE ARCHITECTURE
The success of the project rests on the building design as a whole. With a precast façade, it is at least as important as ever to have a confident hand in expressing the architectural theme or as we say, the story of the building. What do you wish to achieve? Are you a fan of minimalist harmony, layers and textures, or bold expression? Even if you are considering a work of art on the precast facade, the building is much more than a canvas.
2. Explore ways the theme translates into A COMBINATION OF FORM AND DESIGN
Once you have the theme or story figured out and the conceptual design in mind, the requirements of precast and/or graphic concrete as the medium will affect its expression. You will need to consider:
the form of the building and the rhythm of the facade in light of the pattern
the concrete panel layout and any tiling of the panels
the concrete color and pattern contrast
3. Reckon with panel joints in the precast facade
One special feature of a precast façade is the panel joints. Some consider them to be a nightmare and do everything they can to hide the joints. That can work well, but for an outcome that makes an even greater impact, we suggest that you design the façade with the panel rhythm and joints in mind.
The pattern was designed by Architect Mikko Soini from Tommila Architects by applying various natural themes, as well as point and line rasters. The final pattern was a line raster based on a combination of these that was softened with curved lines and points.“I had to create a pattern that could allow large elements to be repeated seamlessly. It had to work both up close and when viewed from relatively far away – light patterns on a dark background and dark patterns on a light background,” Soini explains.“Graphic concrete offered the perfect solution for designing both the large surfaces of the parking garage and the small surfaces in the courtyards – it allowed me to design on both a big scale and a small scale. When viewed up close the pattern reveals the point raster, but as you move away the vertical lines take precedence. When viewing the entire building, the horizontal appearance is emphasised by the horizontal seams that divide the pattern. Graphic concrete patterns make it possible to either conceal or highlight the seams between the elements, as you prefer,” Soini continues.
Although Espoo Hospital is still under construction, Soini is already very satisfied with the end result of the facade. “It’s just like I envisioned it would be. The casting technique and finding the right colours were a challenge, but I knew they would be from the start and this actually helped me design the pattern. The pattern does a good job of concealing the vertical seams while highlighting the horizontal themes, which was one of my main objectives,” Soini says.
4. Nail the technical side to ensure a powerful outcome and cost efficiency
Needless to say, the technical attributes play a role in designing with Graphic Concrete. Although the panel sizes can be whatever size you need them to be, it is good to remember that the maximum printing width on the graphic concrete membrane is 3200 mm (10' 6''). The length is limitless.
For large panels, membranes can be joined. However, if you want to make life easier for yourself and for all the other stakeholders, you’ll take this into account.
Additional technical considerations:
- the panel sizes and scale, ratio and tiling
- the pattern type, size and positioning on the panels and facade
- the details; corners, openings
We can help you with all the technical aspects to ensure the outcome is truly amazing and at the same time meets the cost efficiency requirements.
Are you considering a precast façade?
Click here to contact us because, with even a single conversation, you’ll have a much better idea of whether precast and graphic concrete are right for your project!