Benefits of UHPC in Precast Concrete Construction

The precast concrete construction market is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 6.3 percent between 2020 and 2027. The many advantages of precast concrete are the driving forces behind this increase, including cost and time savings, better quality, and improved project site safety. An increased shift towards offsite construction and environmentally friendly construction projects are other factors behind the move toward the use of precast concrete elements.

There are some drawbacks, however, to using precast structures, with the primary issue being potential damage to the precast structure itself during transportation and/or installation. The use of ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC) for precast concrete construction overcomes these disadvantages.

The use of a specific type of UHPC—Cor-Tuf UHPC—for precast concrete elements takes precasting to a new level, removing all obstacles and creating an end product that is virtually indestructible.

The benefits of Cor-Tuf UHPC precast concrete

We have written in the past about the many benefits of UHPC versus traditional concrete. But when it comes to precast concrete, Cor-Tuf UHPC is a world apart from other UHPC mixes.

Unlike other UHPC products, Cor-Tuf UHPC is compatible with all modern precast methodologies, equipment, and techniques. Specifically, Cor-Tuf UHPC can be:

  • Mass produced in large batch plants
  • Mixed in conventional ready-mix trucks
  • Transported in traditional Tuckerbilt trucks
  • Poured and pumped into standard concrete forms

Additionally, the entire production process of Cor-Tuf UHPC can be fully automated. Your team of workers can use the same equipment and follow the same processes they always have—but you get a highly superior product that is stronger and more durable.

The use of Cor-Tuf UHPC for precast concrete structures also removes any and all worry about damage during the transportation and installation processes, delivering substantial critical-path savings to every project. Cor-Tuf UHPC is so strong and durable that your workers can install all day long without losing time repairing cracks or breaks (or replacing entire precast elements).

Cor-Tuf’s amazing bonding quality also creates superior field-cast connections, making it an ideal choice for joining precast components. From cast-in-place joints between precast beams to connections between precast deck panels, Cor-Tuf UHPC creates a stronger bond than traditional concrete, increasing the lifespan of construction projects. Field-cast connections made with UHPC also require a smaller amount of material and can be completed more quickly, further adding to savings over the product life cycle.

Another benefit of UHPC is that concrete wall panels made with this type of concrete require less material (while still delivering more strength) and are 25–33 percent thinner than those made from traditional concrete. The lighter weight makes these precast structures easier to move and install, increasing the safety of construction projects.

We have conducted tests on both square and H-pilings made of Cor-Tuf UHPC, which have clearly demonstrated the amazing benefits of this revolutionary concrete material. Testing of square pilings have shown: 

  • The ability to withstand 84,000 pounds per square inch (psi) of downward flexural pressure and 4.5” of deflection
  • The ability to drive the piling through 20’ of bedrock (90’ in total)
  • Maintenance of 100 percent of the integrity of the piling, regardless of the size of the hammer used to drive it

H-piling tests demonstrated the same abilities to withstand extreme compressive and flexural loads, while using only roughly half the amount of material. 

We are fully committed to expanding the use of Cor-Tuf UHPC for precast concrete projects, which is why we have partnered with Precast Systems Engineering. PSE specializes in precast, prestressed concrete for buildings, marine structures, and bridges using UHPC in components and connections. Our union with PSE will help us further promote the implementation of Cor-Tuf UHPC in precast concrete construction projects.

The UHPC concrete trend in American infrastructure

The use of UHPC precast concrete elements is even being used to repair America’s aging infrastructure, with a recent news article from PBS calling UHPC concrete a “game changer.” 

Iowa was the first state to build a bridge using UHPC in 2006, largely because it is the state with the greatest number of deteriorating bridges. A major benefit of UHPC bridges is seen from underneath the bridge itself—one bridge has a UHPC concrete deck that is only four inches thick. Deck panels made of traditional concrete are usually seven to eight inches thick when beams are in place (and much thicker when beams are not used). UHPC is also nearly impenetrable to water and deicer, vastly increasing the lifespan of bridges. 

Iowa has 14 additional UHPC bridge projects in the pipeline, which are vital to rural farms that depend on bridges for their livelihood. UHPC has also been used in 28 other states and the District of Columbia. The Cor-Tuf team has been involved in UHPC bridge projects with a number of state Department of Transportation agencies, including Florida, Virginia, Arizona, and most recently, New Jersey. 

Research being led by Iowa State University has shown that UHPC can be used strategically to extend the life of bridges through patchwork, and they are also investigating its use in building features and wind turbines.

As we continue to make new advances in our proprietary UHPC mix, we are excited to see the other benefits it can bring to the concrete industry and global infrastructure. When it comes to precast concrete, we have no doubt that Cor-Tuf UHPC demolishes all other products in every category, from strength and durability to safety and critical-path savings. 

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