Strategic Moves

Eight strategic themes will frame the leadership of the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute’s (PCI) new chairman as he guides the group through what

Tom Kuennen

Eight strategic themes will frame the leadership of the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute’s (PCI) new chairman as he guides the group through what could be a difficult 2009 for many members. Last year, our chairman, Bill Simmons, started an aggressive, consistent strategic planning process that we worked on throughout 2008, reports 2009 PCI Chairman Tom McEvoy, who is executive vice president of Denver, Pa.-based High Concrete Group, LLC. We will implement that plan in 2009 and review our progress in the fall, as we set budgets for 2010.


A workshop held in January 2008 yielded eight strategies, released later that year, which constitute a rationale for selecting and executing PCI programs, projects, and activities. After revisiting the strategic plan in February 2009, Institute leadership reaffirmed its value, observing that significant progress toward some goals was made in 2008.

There are others that we will kick into higher gear in 2009, McEvoy tells Concrete Products. All members received a list of the eight strategies and an explanation of the Îvalue chain philosophyÌ, in which each PCI program, project, and activity is evaluated for value and positive impact to PCI membership, the precast industry, and PCI as a business.

Strategy 1 Û Continuously improve and communicate the PCI Membership Value Proposition. We did internal research, McEvoy notes. It indicated PCI spends a lot of time reaching out to architects and engineers on the benefits of precast, but not as much time telling our members what we’re doing for them. We have to make sure that we communicate all the things we’re doing for the industry back to our own members.

Strategy 2 Û Maintain the most recognized, comprehensive, cost-effective and widely specified certification program in the precast industry worldwide. Market research we’ve done has demonstrated that the certification plan most respected by engineers and code officials is PCI’s, McEvoy affirms. We want to build on that strength to deliver more and more value for our members.

Strategy 3 Û Drive market demand for precast structures produced by PCI-certified companies and facilities. We want to build our strengths in additional market segments for PCI-certified producers, McEvoy emphasizes. We are strong in parking garages, bridges, and some types of commercial buildings, but we want to expand the number of buildings we can serve with precast systems, and get into more residential work.

To that end, a new DVD documenting the benefits of precast construction in the residential building market was released by PCI and the Portland Cement Association. Precast Housing begins with video coverage of an air-cannon test conducted last year at the site of the first Fortified Home in Illinois. Built in Aurora, the home features insulated concrete wall panels produced by Naperville, Ill.-based Dukane Precast. The Fortified ÷ for Safer Living home program was developed by the Institute for Business & Home Safety, a nonprofit association of insurers and reinsurers.

During the test, 2_4s were fired 100 mph at various wall samples, including typical brick- and siding-covered wood-framed walls, a reinforced brick wall, and a precast concrete wall panel. All but the precast wall sustained severe damage. Besides withstanding the projectile’s impact, the brick-embossed precast wall required only an application of touch-up paint to cover the slight mark left after the stud bounced off its surface.

Strategy 4 Û Achieve and maintain status as the leading source of technical knowledge and expertise for the precast industry worldwide. Practicing engineers and their firms, as well as engineering professors who volunteer their time to PCI for different committees, constitute a tremendous resource for the precast/prestressed industry, McEvoy observes. If we determine the hours they volunteer for PCI, and put a conservative hourly rate on those hours, we can estimate $5 million to $6 million of volunteer staff time a year for technical contributions, he adds.

Strategy 5 Û Achieve and maintain status as the leading educational resource for precast concrete structures. If anyone in the field has a question about precast, they can call PCI and we will have an answer for them, says McEvoy, if not immediately, then as soon as we can. Our amazing volunteer resource makes it possible.

Leveraging new technologies to enhance its value as an industry resource, PCI now is exploiting the digital arena in various ways. Last May, for example, the Institute produced and uploaded a two-part, 10-minute video to YouTube, where it can be accessed by customers and specifiers at any time, cost-free, from any place around the globe.

In two segments of about five minutes each, the video provides an overview of the uses of precast wall panels and hollow-core slabs in achieving sustainable design. Interspersed in the presentation are examples of how the products have been used in selected projects to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Designers and precasters involved as LEED project principals describe their experience as images of the structures are displayed.

The first part of the video can be found at YouTube link; the second part is located at The video also can also be found by searching on YouTube for Greenbuild and precast concrete.

Strategy 6 Û Achieve and maintain status as a leading source of information and innovation on sustainable design for the built environment. In the last decade, concrete has firmly positioned itself as an environmentally sustainable building material. The PCI Sustainability Committee formed in October 2006 has been instrumental in that initiative.

Tom McEvoy’s company practices what PCI preaches. At its Denver, Pa., headquarters facilities in July, High Concrete Group dedicated a new, 16,200-sq.-ft. maintenance building designed to meet criteria for a Silver rating under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Constructed according to sustainable design guidelines, LEED-certified buildings are more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly than typical new construction.

The all-precast concrete building incorporates thermally efficient sandwich wall panels fabricated at the company’s Springboro plant in Ohio. As insulating foam is sandwiched between concrete layers, the panels provide an R-value of 25; and, innovative CarbonCast carbon-fiber shear trusses augment their load-bearing capacity. The roof is constructed of CarbonCast double tees fabricated at the Denver plant. Also used for driving surfaces in parking garages, the double tees feature noncorrosive carbon fiber flange reinforcement, exhibiting 10 percent lighter weight than traditional double tee components.

We are committed to green building and sustainable practices, McEvoy affirms. This is the first LEED-designed building for High, and we’re proud that it’s precast. The $4.1 million structure will be used by the company’s maintenance department to service heavy trucks, pick-up trucks, cars, and other plant equipment.

Strategy 7 Û Continuously improve PCI governance, management, and business practices. Looking at our current economy, we have to be sure we are not wasting one nickel, that we are as efficient as possible, both as a staff and as an organization, McEvoy asserts.

In the endeavor to economize without compromising its services, PCI is reevaluating its extensive publishing program, studying the penetration of its glossy magazines, and contemplating a transition from print to digital formats for those products. Further, in 2008, PCI reorganized its Editorial & Publishing Department, promoting or hiring six professionals to handle the variety of publications and visual presentations. That division is responsible for all internal and external communication, as well as coordinating the production of new manuals, publications, and educational and marketing materials. Notes PCI President James Toscas, Our goal is to ensure that those who are looking for information and resources from PCI are able to obtain what they need in a manner that is most helpful and efficient.

PCI Journal Editor-in-Chief Emily Lorenz was promoted to managing director of the group’s Editorial & Publishing Department. In that capacity, she is responsible for collecting, organizing, and disseminating PCI’s technical and intellectual property through all available channels and for managing PCI’s publications via print and electronic media. Besides serving as PCI Journal editor-in-chief, she coordinates editorial staffs of the group’s two quarterly magazines: Ascent, which targets building owners and architects; and, Aspire, directed to bridge owners and engineers.

Strategy 8 Û Organize programs and activities to beneficially influence codes, standards, regulations, and legislation that affect the industry. Among multiple means by which PCI is responding to hot-botton codes and regs issues, the first edition of its PCI Connections Manual for Precast and Prestressed Concrete Construction was released last June by the group’s Connection Details Committee.

The manual covers an array of connection applications required to construct all types of buildings using precast components. Design examples and diagrams highlight each chapter. Following an introduction to connection concepts and a discussion of material properties and design considerations, specifics are detailed for each connection type, including foundation, beam to column and double tee to spandrel, double tee to wall, wall panel to wall panel, architectural elements, and miscellaneous joints.


Other milestones in code development PCI observed in 2008 include the final year of a five-year, $2 million-plus research program to improve industry standards for design and construction of diaphragms used with precast, prestressed concrete components. Using the largest outdoor shake table in the world, researchers simulated eight levels of seismic force last April and May on a half-scale, three-story parking structure to gauge different responses.

The high-profile research was executed by a consortium of three universities: University of Arizona-Tucson researchers completed comprehensive analytical research on the program; full-scale static tests of reinforcing details and precast connections were conducted at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.; and, shake-table testing was performed at the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation/Englekirk Structural Engineering Research Center in San Diego, under the direction of the University of California-San Diego. Program funding was supplied by grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and its Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES), as well as the Charles Pankow Foundation, with substantial industry support from PCI and individual PCI producer, material supplier, and professional members via the PCI Foundation.

The research objective to better understand behavior of precast concrete diaphragms gained significant traction after California’s 1994 Northridge earthquake. The test structure, measuring 17 ft. wide by 58 ft. long by approximately 28 ft. tall, featured one level each of three types of flooring components: untopped double tees, topped double tees, and hollow-core concrete slabs. It was erected on a 25- by 40-ft. shake table of 2,240-ton load capacity. Instrumentation located throughout the structure provided readings for evaluation after testing in May.

The researchers now are analyzing experimental results; and, their data will be reviewed by an advisory committee chaired by Tom D’Arcy of San Antonio-based Consulting Engineers Group and by PCI’s Research & Development Committee. Once tests results are evaluated, the group will compile data and supplementary information to facilitate incorporation of the design approaches into code documents.


The PCI Foundation supports a variety of educational goals, chiefly via four avenues: (1) cultivating productive relationships between industry and academia; (2) attracting and developing high-potential students for productive careers within the industry; (3) facilitating inclusion of precast concrete systems and technologies in college and university curricula; and, (4) fostering development of sustainable, protective, and constructive precast concrete. We must develop future generations of talented architects, engineers, and construction professionals to advance our industry, Tom McEvoy emphasizes. We also must organize and support concerted research and development of new building systems and technologies to advance our society. The PCI Foundation was established to set up and execute these processes.

One outreach program culminated in a team of three students from the United States Military Academy winning PCI’s National Championship Award in the 2008 Engineering Design (Big Beam) Competition. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and the University of South Florida also were represented among winning teams of the national Big Beam contest.

Teams of students from universities nationwide Û competing for $25,000 in prize money Û were challenged to design, fabricate, and test a precast, prestressed concrete beam with the help of local precast producer members. Prizes are awarded on the basis of most efficient design, highest load capacity, best report, and other categories. Each of PCI’s seven regional zones garner awards, and national champions are selected from the zone winners. Sponsored by Sika Corp. in Lyndhurst, N.J., the competition is organized by PCI’s Student Education Committee, chaired by Pat Hynes of Knife River Corp. in Harrisburg, Ore.

Yet another program is the 2008 Architectural Student Design Competition. Most recently, the contest called for design of an elementary school using a total-precast system and incorporating sustainable design elements.



High Concrete Structures, Inc., was founded in 1956 as Kurtz Precast Corp. Acquiring Kurtz Precast in 1977, High Companies Û descendant of High Steel Structures, Inc. Û set the enterprise on a road to growth.

In 1984, company representatives note, High Concrete designed and erected the industry’s first environmentally controlled sand-blasting facility. A few years later, in 1989, the Woodland Falls Corporate Park project garnered for the producer a PCI award for Excellence in Architectural and Engineering Design using precast/prestressed concrete.

High Concrete Structures became one of the founding members of the resurrected Mid-Atlantic Precast Association in 1995. Two year later, its concrete double-tee production building was completed. In 2002, the company marked a milestone with the construction of its 300th parking garage.

High Concrete became a charter member in 2003 of AltusGroup, the first-ever national partnership of precast companies, founded to develop, manufacture and market innovations, such as the breakthrough CarbonCast line of products.

In 2004, High Concrete entered the Midwest market by acquiring Concrete Technology Inc. plants in Paxton, Ill., and Springboro, Ohio, leading to the reorganization of High Concrete Structures, Inc. as the High Concrete Group.

Today, High Concrete Group’s product offerings include architectural fa¡ades, insulated and structural enclosure systems, parking-garage and stadium components, as well as hollow core plank for commercial, institutional, and multi-unit residential applications.

Employing 900-plus workers, the group has provided precast components for more than 5,000 projects since 1957. In addition to plants in Ohio and Illinois, High Concrete has facilities in Denver and William-sport, Pa., and Buena, N.J. A subsidiary, High Concrete Accessories, is a national precasting embedment supplier. Û





Executive Vice President
High Concrete Group, LLC
Denver, Pennsylvania



Chief Executive Officer
Shockey Precast Group
Winchester, Virginia



Encon United
Denver, Colorado

Though its headquarters are in Chicago, the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) counts companies worldwide among its members. PCI maintains a full staff of technical and marketing specialists dedicated to fostering greater understanding and use of precast and prestressed concrete.

Founded in 1954, the Institute is the foremost developer of standards and methods for designing, fabricating, and constructing precast concrete structures, association representatives affirm. It also operates the world’s leading certification program for companies and individuals in the precast structures industry.

PCI publishes a broad array of periodicals, technical manuals, reports, and other informational documents, including an award-winning technical journal. Additionally, it conducts educational seminars, technical conferences, conventions, exhibitions, and awards programs.

Institute members include precast producers as well as architects, consultants, contractors, developers, educators, engineers, materials suppliers, service providers, and students.

PCI has 11 regional affiliates across the U.S. and maintains relationships with other national and global organizations involved in the precast concrete industry.

James G. Toscas, P.E., is PCI president. The Institute is located at 209 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60606; tel.: 312/786-0300; fax: 312/786-0353; e-mail: [email protected]; website: