Calculated Stewardship

2016 Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute Chairman Chuck Prussack looks to the next generation

By Josephine Smith

Chuck Prussack, P.E., has taken the helm at a decidedly positive inflection point for PCI: Figures from across Institute regions indicate 2016 industry shipments will increase 14 percent over 2015, which saw a 9 percent year-over-year jump, while plant backlogs paint additional gains for 2017. Adding to his chairman’s term backdrop are a successful staff leadership transition; moves to match PCI’s traditional technical and engineering strengths with new programs assisting members in securing production talent; and, stepped up government affairs activities.

Coming off of 2015 PCI Chairman Chris Pastorius’ “Power of One” theme, Prussack has looked toward stewardship and what it means to those in the industry. “Nearing the end of a career makes you think how successors will judge you and your peers,” explains the 37-year veteran of Oldcastle Precast, Spokane (Wash.). “Were we good stewards to the industry, willing to put the time and talent into training the next generation of plant workers and management? Teaching them our craft?”

In an introductory chairman’s message earlier this year, he told members, “I think about some of the founders of PCI and the companies that began in the 1950s and the people who founded them. History would judge them as having done a pretty good job of passing the business to us and being good stewards. Now it’s our turn. Can and will we put enough energy and resources into our people, products, innovation, marketing, and code vigilance to continue to be good stewards?”

“This industry has been good to me and I am bullish on the future in bridge and building markets. We bring so many good tools to the process,” Prussack tells Concrete Products. “If the construction communities we serve knew all of the great products we have, we couldn’t make them fast enough. Our industry needs to continue to delineate what we can do and the attributes of precast, prestressed products.”

PCI members must keep telling their story, he adds, citing especially the segment where much of his career has been centered: “In many bridge markets, agencies don’t contemplate material choice. A project will be prestressed concrete. One of the developing areas for PCI is Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC), where producers can deliver deck and substructure members in addition to girders. Producers and bridge contractors can point to how little disruption to the public a precast ABC solution represents. There are great ways to build at lesser cost with precast, prestressed concrete, and this information needs to be disseminated.”


During the October 2015 CEO Summit held in Louisville, Ky., in conjunction with PCI Committee Days, producers identified the top three areas for growing the industry: attracting, training and retaining quality employees; marketing precast concrete construction; and, promoting innovation. Prussack says he was surprised to see the commonality of executive priorities from table to table: “The first thing, bar none, was, ‘Where will we find the people to run the industry?’ Consequently, PCI needs to have a laser focus this year on employee recruitment, training and retention.”

He isn’t alone in such sentiments. Among first year priorities, PCI President and CEO Robert Risser has steered resources to training and plant safety support for members. In response to the CEO Summit, he notes, “PCI has created a task group to produce materials for new people coming into member plants. They will focus on five function areas: setup, pouring, stripping, finishing, and yarding.”

A Trainable Labor Task Group program will serve as the entry-point to the industry, while PCI’s long-standing Educational Activities Council is tasked with creating, implementing and managing a precast/prestressed industry career path model for those who complete different training areas. PCI is also working with the National Association of Manufacturers to see if it has materials that can be used to attract candidates to a production environment, specifically a career in precast, prestressed concrete.

Production and plant safety training resources dovetail an equally urgent effort: Development of materials to help PCI members comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s revised crystalline silica exposure guidelines, which lower and harmonize thresholds for construction and general industry workplaces. “We have engaged a consultant to draft a control plan by the end of summer,” explains Prussack. “We will review plans at the fall Committee Days, and have a site visit to demonstrate dust level measurement devices and personal protection equipment.”

The timeline is critical for PCI members and their customers, adds Risser: If it stands up to court challenges, the final silica rule has compliance deadlines of June 2017 for construction sites, and June 2018 for concrete plants and general industry.

OSHA silica rule guidance, plus production and plant safety training initiatives, will round out technical educational offerings PCI has evolved over six-plus decades. The Institute currently offers live technical training via its online academy. Enrollees attend weekly 1.5-hour modules and take a test to prove competency prior to the real-time session. A recent co-sponsorship with the International Code Council saw PCI offer “Special Inspection of Precast Concrete Structures.” The course drew participation from more than 100 inspectors around the country, and marked a successful outreach to ICC members. PCI is working on a fall 2016 schedule to include a course on ACI 318-14, and offering a repeat of the “Basic Prestressed Concrete Design.” Plans are also underway to create a spri17 course on lateral loads design.



Educational Activities Council members and PCI staff will oversee development of products addressing CEO Summit participants’ top priority. As they closely monitor efforts assisting production worker recruitment, training and retention strategies, Prussack and Risser will likewise measure progress on the two other calls to action from Louisville.

The PCI Business Performance Council will track new, innovative precast concrete products being brought to the construction market. The Marketing Council will lead assessment of new research to strengthen precast, prestressed concrete product positioning in the marketplace. One 2016 marketing and promotion target entails new prospects for precast/prestressed concrete structures in West Coast and other earthquake-prone markets, owing to findings embodied in “Seismic Design Methodology Document for Precast Concrete Diaphragms.” The publication details research that garnered PCI the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2016 Charles Pankow Award for Innovation.

“The project succeeded because of exceptional collaboration between academia and industry,” says PCI Vice President, Technical Services Roger Becker, P.E. “Its completion and codification of the results mean that engineering professionals can now use precast concrete diaphragms with confidence in any seismic zone. PCI is committed to conducting leading edge research that benefits members, the precast concrete industry, and the built environment.”

Jointly funded by PCI, the National Science Foundation, Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, and Charles Pankow Foundation, the project represents a comprehensive seismic design methodology for precast concrete diaphragms connecting horizontal members to each other or shear walls. Research supporting Diaphragm Seismic Design Methodology (DSDM) integrates finite element analyses of a diaphragm with full-scale reinforcing detail experiments and shaking table system tests. Findings resulted in the adoption of a revised force demand and resistance methodology for precast concrete diaphragms in 2015 NEHRP and ASCE/SEI 7-16; similar pursuits are underway for International Building Code and American Concrete Institute references.

DSDM is performance-based and possesses key features that address these aspects of behavior:

  • Diaphragm seismic design forces more accurately reflecting the actual inertial forces that develop during strong shaking;
  • Rational methods of determining diaphragm internal forces;
  • Inelastic deformation capacity requirements for the diaphragm reinforcement;
  • Protection of potentially non-ductile elements in the precast concrete diaphragm though the use of capacity design concepts; and,
  • Explicit inclusion of diaphragm flexibility in drift limits checks.

Alongside the seismic design investigation, current PCI research & development activities target: dapped ends in double tees with design recommendations to be included in the 8th edition of the PCI Design Handbook (scheduled for summer 2017 release); spandrel ledges with design recommendations likewise incorporated into the latest Design Handbook edition; and, a blast project for load bearing precast concrete panels, with prospective end uses including petrochemical facilities.


Consistent with the stewardship theme central to his chairman’s term, Chuck Prussack points to a new feature behind PCI Plant Certification, which has instilled a message of quality control and quality assurance for generations of architectural/engineering/construction professionals specifying and finishing prestressed concrete. PCI recently obtained International Accreditation Service (IAS) accreditation for the Plant Certification Program. “IAS adds credibility and supports certification outside North America,” notes Prussack. “Most new requirements are on public comment and balance of oversight committee to ensure the program is being conducted in a fair and open way.”

IAS provides objective evidence that an organization operates at the highest level of ethical, legal and technical standards, adds Bob Risser, underscoring “competency, confidentiality and impartiality” as accreditation driving tenets. The IAS seal ultimately provides the credentials that help ensure PCI Plant Certification will have acceptance in the marketplace and by governmental agencies that regulate service or product acceptance.

The Institute has been working diligently for several years laying the groundwork necessary to meet ISO/IEC 17021 requirements yielding IAS accreditation, including:

  • Development of a comprehensive Quality Management System Manual and supporting operating procedure documents;
  • Extensive revision of PCI Policy 20.0, governing the PCI Plant Certification Program;
  • Development of standardized qualification and evaluation criteria for plant auditors;
  • Creation of a new Committee on Safeguarding Impartiality;
  • Establishing enhanced confidentiality requirements and procedures; and,
  • Establishing competency and evaluation requirements for PCI staff, committee members and plant auditors.

The IAS accreditation strengthens PCI Plant Certification for existing operations, and positions the Institute to certify plants in overseas markets where private and public construction officials or agencies recognize IAS and Geneva-based mothership, International Organization for Standardization.