Public buildings in Australia are synonymous with precast concrete. It is a rare sight these days to see a public building which hasn’t been constructed using some element of precast. From libraries to university buildings to opera houses to stadia to shopping centres to railway stations to convention and exhibition centres, an enormous number of designers have turned to precast to meet the challenge to provide an architecturally stunning structure which is fast to build yet durable and sustainable.
That designers recognise the many benefits of precast concrete is paying off. The smart designer not only uses precast walling, flooring, beams and columns for the economy of scale and speed of construction it allows in the project that invokes repetition of design, but increasingly for the architectural freedom it inspires for the bespoke structure that will make a mark and win awards. The more difficult the project, the better suited precast can be.
Case in point are the public building winners of the Australian Institute of Architects National Architecture Awards.
Topping the 2011 list of award winners was the recipient of Australia’s most prestigious national architecture award – The Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture – which was awarded to the Australian War Memorial Eastern Precinct in the ACT. The building features diamond-rubbed black polished precast concrete panels, columns and beams, plinth walls, off-form grey bollards, precast seats and off-form grey raised planters, all manufactured by S.A. Precast. Also a winner in the 2011 Awards was AAMI Park in Melbourne which took out the National Award for Public Architecture. The robust stand is a combination of different forms of concrete, including precast seating plats, precast stepped seating units, and precast panels supplied by Westkon Precast and hollowcore precast flooring made by Hollow Core Concrete.
In previous years it was a similar story. 2010 saw the precast-laden Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre winning the National Award for Public Architecture and in 2009 the prestigious Zelman Cowen Award was again won by another precast project –Canberra’s National Portrait Gallery with its abundant precast portals and beautiful polished cladding panels made by Precast Concrete Products.
Whilst precast public buildings are winning awards in our own back yard, they are also being credited internationally with the well-deserved recognition to which they are entitled. The World Architecture Festival Awards in recent years have seen several precast winners including the Berry Sports Hall winning the Sport Award in 2009. The National Portrait Gallery also won a 2010 fib Award for Outstanding Concrete Structures.
Is it any wonder why designers are choosing precast.
By: Sarah Bachmann
National Precast Concrete Association Australia