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The advantages of prestressed concrete.

The Advantages of Prestressed Concrete prestressed concrete

Concrete reinforced by either pretensioning or posttensioning, allowing it to carry a greater load or span a greater distance than ordinary reinforced concrete. In pretensioning, lengths of steel wire or cables are laid in the empty mold and stretched.
 There has been much bad press about the extent of corrosion problems in concrete parking structures. Closer examination will reveal that the expensive work is done to correct problems of concrete deterioration caused by intrusion of water and chloride through the surface to the reinforcement steel.

Premature deterioration of parking structures takes one or more familiar forms--surface scaling or chloride-induced corrosion that results in surface spalling, cracking, and faulty expansion joint systems. In these cases, the deterioration can be seen as leakage, leaching, deterioration of the surface, or structural damage. The problems are pervasive in northern climates where road salt usage is common and many freeze-thaw cycles occur in the course of a year.

Every owner of a parking structure knows that these problems exist. Traffic-bearing membranes, epoxy epoxy

Any of a class of thermosetting polymers, polyethers built up from monomers with an ether group that takes the form of a three-membered epoxide ring. The familiar two-part epoxy adhesives consist of a resin with epoxide rings at the ends of its molecules and a curing
 coating reinforcement, specialty concrete and asphalt toppings, and cathodic protection Cathodic protection (CP) is a technique to control the corrosion of a metal surface by making that surface the cathode of an electrochemical cell.

It is a method used to protect metal structures from corrosion.
 are all measures once considered uneconomical that are being employed today to prevent problems from occurring. Each approach represents a significant increase in the price of a new structure but is money wisely spent in light of huge restoration bills.

The three main structural types of precast, prestressed concrete construction--double tees with topping, untopping double tees, and hollow-core slabs with topping--are highly resistant to chloride-induced deterioration. That is not to say these types of structures do not have problems. They do, especially related to cracking, expansion joints, bearings, connections, and drainage. But the corrosion of reinforcement steel is not one of the problems.

Why precast/prestressed concrete?

* Low cost. The use of precast/prestressed concrete offers a more economical approach for new structures. High quality concrete and predictable structural behavior are key reasons precast/prestressed concrete resists deterioration.

Due to the inherent cost savings associated with mass production, the precast/prestressed concrete components can mean significant savings in both materials and interim financing Interim financing

A short-term loan made to a company on the condition that a takeout will follow with long-term or intermediate financing.

interim financing

The financing that supports a transaction until permanent financing can be arranged.
 costs. Further savings can be realized through the use of smaller, more efficient erection crews that offer lower insurance rates and minimal maintenance costs. Components can be erected from the truck to the structure in almost every instance, making it ideal for projects with limited site access.

* Quality controlled factory manufacturing. Precast, prestressed concrete components are uniformly mass produced under strictly controlled, inplant manufacturing conditions for reliable consistency, assured quality, and prompt, on-schedule delivery. With this standardized approach, components fit together and are readily positioned into place.

* Low maintenance. Because precast/prestressed concrete is highly resistant to abrasion abrasion /abra·sion/ (ah-bra´zhun)
1. a rubbing or scraping off through unusual or abnormal action; see also planing.

2. a rubbed or scraped area on skin or mucous membrane.
, impact, corrosion, vandalism, and the ravages of time, it is an ideal solution for the demanding use experienced by a parking structure. And because painting and other exterior care is minimized, maintenance is reduced considerably for substantial, long-term savings.

* Clear spans. Traffic engineers and parking consultants generally agree that large, clear spans are the most important criterion for successful multilevel parking facilities. Thoughtful design planning, in conjunction with the expertise offered by a prestressed concrete producer, can result in clear spans of 60 feet or more to permit two-way traffic, wider aisles, easier parking and maneuvering, less congestion The condition of a network when there is not enough bandwidth to support the current traffic load.

congestion - When the offered load of a data communication path exceeds the capacity.
, faster parking turnover, easier interior maintenance, and increased parking capacity and revenues.

* Limited access advantages. Precast/prestressed concrete is ideal for limited access locations. Pretensioned parking structures have been erected sandwiched between buildings in a busy urban setting or over a main thoroughfare--without the need to block off the job-site area. The components can be lifted off a truck parked in an alley or even on the street without undue traffic congestion.

* Durability. The high strength concrete used in precast/prestressed concrete components is resistant to damage from freeze/thaw cycles, de-icing salts, and other severe weathering conditions. Precast/prestressed parking structures can be designed with the flexural strength Flexural strength is also known as modulus of rupture, bend strength, or fracture strength. Flexural strength is measured in terms of stress, and thus is expressed in pascals (Pa) in the SI system.  to meet all anticipated loads, with reserve strength for overloading.

The connection details and structural design have been adapted to meet stringent seismic conditions. Prestressed concrete can also be designed to provide the degree of fire resistance required by local building codes.

* Rapid, all-weather construction. Construction is fast with the use of precast/prestressed concrete. As the components are being factory cast, site preparation work can proceed. Components arrive at the job site ready to install at rates of 8,000 to 10,000 square feet a day. This makes on-site storage virtually unnecessary and eliminates the usual job-site weather delays, scaffolding, and shoring associated with cast-in-place concrete. Deck slabs then become an immediate working platform for other trades. Also, construction loan periods are shortened, and income can start sooner.

* Structural design. The structural design and exterior appearance of a precast/prestressed concrete parking facility is limited only by the imagination of the architect or engineer. The structural components themselves can become strong visual elements of aesthetic design. Architectural spandrels or cladding The plastic or glass sheath that is fused to and surrounds the core of an optical fiber. The cladding's mirror-like coating keeps the light waves reflected inside the core. The cladding is covered with a protective outer jacket. See fiber optics glossary.  can feature an almost infinite variety of patterns, aggregates, colors, textures, and shapes.

* Dual land use. Although dual land use is most commonly found with office building parking facilities, excellent results can be obtained by erecting structures over streets, flood control canals, rivers, railroad tracks, or under existing parks or structures. Precast/prestressed concrete is ideal for such situations due to its ability to take unusually heavy loading. In addition, construction time and congestion in surrounding areas is kept to a minimum over a shorter period of time when compared to most other construction materials.

Steps to success

A successful formula for preventing the common deterioration problems described above may be achieved by incorporating 10 recommendations into the construction process. These 10 recommendations will prevent leakage and corrosion-related deterioration for all types of parking structure construction but lend themselves most effectively and economically to precast/prestressed concrete structures.

* Use a mix design formulated for durable concrete. This means a low water/cement ratio of 0.45 or less, which translates into a low slump range of 2 to 3 inches (50-75 mm), much lower than is used in normal practice. Incorporate air entrainment Air entrainment is the intentional creation of tiny air bubbles in concrete. The bubbles are introduced into the concrete by the addition to the mix of an air entraining agent, a surfactant (surface-active substance, a type of chemical that includes detergents).  in the 6-percent range with sufficient cement to develop at least 4,000-pound-per-square-inch compressive com·pres·sive  
Serving to or able to compress.

com·pressive·ly adv.

These requirements are automatic in prestressed elements, which are usually far in excess of the minimum strengths. Obtaining them in field-placed toppings is tougher, however, and an emphasis on maintaining these standards often meets with resistance from field contractors.

* Insist on proper placement and finishing practice. Precast/prestressed concrete elements are manufactured under controlled conditions and surpass the concrete placement standard required. Placing low-slump concrete in the field requires special considerations. Mechanized mech·a·nize  
tr.v. mech·a·nized, mech·a·niz·ing, mech·a·niz·es
1. To equip with machinery: mechanize a factory.

 screens must be used to obtain the desired vibration and compaction. Super plasticizers plasticizers

mostly triaryl phosphates, such as tricresyl, triphenyl phosphates, which are poisonous. See also triorthocresyl phosphate.
 also may be used to aid placement but seem to create difficulties if proper procedures are not carefully followed.

Insist on minimal finish. The surface should be worked just enough to close it. Too much trowelling tends to drive out the air entrainment at the surface where it is most needed. Working it will raise the water/cement ratio at the surface and further reduce the durability of the concrete.

Finally, the surface finish should have texture to provide traction. This is best accomplished with a floated swirl finish or a light-to-medium broom broom, common name for plants of two closely related and similar Old World genera, Cytisus and Genista, of the family Leguminosae (pulse family).  finish.

* Insist on proper curing practice. The best cure for field-placed concrete is water, and the longer the better. Three days is a good practical minimum standard. During this period the concrete should be continually wet and covered. The curing process must begin as soon as possible. The logistics of providing a good water cure are difficult, and extra care should be taken to ensure success.

During spring and fall construction, cold weather may make the use of curing compounds more practical. Curing compounds should be compatible with any sealer sealer,
n a substance used to fill the space around silver or gutta-percha points in a pulp canal. Most contain some combination of zinc, barium, and bismuth salts and eugenol, Canadian balsam, and eucalyptol.
 or other additional surface treatment intended for use. Precast/prestressed concrete is cured at high temperatures in a closed, controlled environment.

* Be prepared in advance for bad weather. Be ready to cover the slab if it rains, erect windbreaks on a windy day, or cover the slab with insulated blankets if freezing conditions are likely.

* Provide adequate testing and inspection. Testing and inspection are protective procedures to ensure the project is constructed as it ought to be.

Certain procedures should always be included: test concrete strength by taking cylinders; test concrete for air content; record the concrete's temperature at time of placement; take slump tests.

Standards for these items should be established in advance, and concrete should be rejected if it does not work properly. The importance of the mix quality cannot be overstated o·ver·state  
tr.v. o·ver·stat·ed, o·ver·stat·ing, o·ver·states
To state in exaggerated terms. See Synonyms at exaggerate.

. Testing is the best measure to ensure the intended quality.

* Provide proper clear cover over reinforcement. Highway research shows that the amount of clear cover of concrete over reinforcement is a very significant variable in the reduction or prevention of corrosion. A minimum 2-inch, clear cover or two-and-a-half times bar diameter are recommended as a practical guide. This standard is almost never achieved in cast-in-place concrete structures and is one of the causes of corrosion in parking structures. Precast/prestressed concrete has been virtually free of these problems.

In precast systems, significant reinforcement is in the webs of the tees or at the bottom of the hollow-core members, encased en·case  
tr.v. en·cased, en·cas·ing, en·cas·es
To enclose in or as if in a case.

en·casement n.
 in very low slump, low water/cement ratio concrete, making it impermeable impermeable /im·per·me·a·ble/ (-per´me-ah-b'l) not permitting passage, as of fluid.

Impossible to permeate; not permitting passage.
 to salt penetration. Only mesh is used near the surface, and this element lacks the mass required to produce the expansion stresses resulting from ongoing corrosion required to delaminate de·lam·i·nate  
intr.v. de·lam·i·nat·ed, de·lam·i·nat·ing, de·lam·i·nates
To split into thin layers.
 the surrounding concrete.

* Provide a crack control system. The prime source of chloride intrusion into concrete is through cracks. It is cost effective to provide sealed control joints to reduce this problem. It is critical to provide the joints in locations where they will force cracking and relieve stresses so that detrimental cracks do not form randomly in other locations.

The joints can be made watertight by sealing with a high-quality urethane urethane (yoor´ithān´),
n ethyl carbamate used as an anesthetic agent for laboratory animals, formerly used as a hypnotic in humans.
 sealant. This task can be carried out in a precast structure by providing joints in the topping directly over all of the precast element joints below. When toppings are not used, the joints between the precast members are sealed directly.

For an effective crack control system, insist that joints be tooled, not sawed. Joints should be abraded prior to sealing to clean and reinforce weak edges, and primers should be used with a high-quality urethane sealant.

* Provide positive drainage and drain hardware that works. Stagnant water causes problems. It usually occurs because of a lack of positive drainage or faulty drain hardware. Precast concrete elements normally have some chamber that can be utilized to create drainage in one direction. A slope can be incorporated in the other direction to ensure a trough effect.

A good piece of drain hardware is one that is integrally sealed, has a sufficient opening to handle peak drainage conditions, and is easily cleaned to keep water flowing.

* Use a proven expansion-joint system. Expansion joints are often a source of ongoing problems. Because precast/prestressed concrete systems are segmental segmental /seg·men·tal/ (seg-men´t'l)
1. pertaining to or forming a segment or a product of division, especially into serially arranged or nearly equal parts.

2. undergoing segmentation.
, they take movement in small increments at shorter intervals, allowing expansion joints to be spaced farther apart. Frequently spaced expansion joints are required in the more rigid frames of cast-in-place designs.

The best design eliminates them whenever possible. When they are required, however, proven products installed by the manufacturers with their warranties are the best course.

Expansion joint products are available for a variety of applications. High-wear areas, such as entrance ramps, snowplow exposures, and high-movement conditions, may warrant the expensive of a bridge-type strip seal expansion joint. For other areas, a factory-molded sealant strip is a more economical, yet effective solution.

* Provide a quality concrete surface sealer. During drying following curing, excess water from the concrete escapes, leaving pores in the surface by which waterborne chlorides and other contaminants may re-enter the concrete and seep down to the reinforcement. Precast/prestressed concrete has greater initial resistance to this problem because the concrete is denser and less permeable permeable /per·me·a·ble/ (per´me-ah-b'l) not impassable; pervious; permitting passage of a substance.

That can be permeated or penetrated, especially by liquids or gases.
. A high-quality concrete sealer will complement good concreting practice--but not substitute for it--by filling these pores and blocking out re-entrant water.


There are many sealers available, so some criteria should be used to select an effective product. In recent years, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP NCHRP National Cooperative Highway Research Program ) has been evaluating many products to determine their effectiveness.

Under this program, sealer products have been evaluated for effectiveness against water absorption, chloride absorption, and freeze-thaw deterioration. The samples were also submitted to accelerated weathering tests designed to simulate severe southern and northern weather exposures. The results showed polymer products based on urethanes, epoxies, acrylics, and salines provide the most effective protection.

The application methods, application rates, and solids content of the product used in the tests are important variables. The same procedures and application rates used in the testing program should be used in the field. Contractors should make sure that the manufacturer's recommendations meet these criteria.

David Monroe is the vice president of marketing for the Harry S. Peterson Company of Pontiac, Michigan Pontiac is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan named after the Ottawa Chief Pontiac. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 66,337. It is the county seat of Oakland County6. , a firm specializing in the design, manufacture, and installation of Iso Flex sealant and waterproofing systems for concrete structures. Peterson is an operating division of Masterbuilders, Inc.

Mr. Monroe is active in the American Concrete Institute as a member of the Parking Structures Committee, and the Prestressed Concrete Institute as a member of the Marketing Committee and as a current director of the Institute. He has written a number of articles regarding the waterproofing of concrete structures and is a frequent lecturer on the subject.
COPYRIGHT 1990 National Association of Realtors
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Operating Techniques & Products Bulletin 400
Author:Monroe, David
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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