PCI honors Willis Construction, Gate Precast for innovative methods.

Willis Construction created scrolling concrete ornamental pieces for the Latter-day Saints Tijuana Temple by producing foam molds using a CNC router, and then spraying the molds with GFRC.

The Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute presented Willis Construction and Gate Precast with the Sidney Freedman Craftsmanship Award, which recognizes PCI-certified plants for excellence in manufacturing and craftsmanship of architectural precast and glass fiber-reinforced concrete (GFRC) structures and individual components.

A panel of industry experts, including award namesake and retired PCI director of Architectural Systems Sidney Freedman, selected Willis Construction’s precast concrete cladding for the new Latter-day Saints Tijuana Temple in Tijuana, Mexico, as well as Gate Precast’s architectural precast panels for the Faena Park parking structure in Miami. The judges evaluated projects on a variety of criteria that the industry has identified as key measures of manufacturing excellence, including forming, overcoming obstacles to production, finishing, and the overall quality of the end product.

“Willis Construction’s meticulous design work on the beautiful scrolling shapes featured in the Latter-day Saints Tijuana Temple project is a stunning example of both expertise in precast production and in craftsmanship,” said Freedman. “The real evidence of the level of craftsmanship on this project is in the fine detailing on very ornamental pieces.”

By using a Computer Numeric Control (CNC) machine, Willis Construction was able to maximize form building precision while producing the intricate panel forms. “The precaster created scrolling concrete ornamental pieces by first producing foam molds using their CNC router. Then they sprayed the foam molds with GFRC to deliver added polish and dimension to the final aesthetic. The end result is breathtaking,” explains Freedman.

Judges note that the Faena Park project was selected due to the way it bridges a gap between the architect’s vision of the freestanding parking garage and Gate Precast’s fabrication of its unique beehive- esque façade. “Their final product, which was a white sandblast precast concrete façade of angled perforations, was a high-impact design because it had to facilitate airflow, light, and controlled views,” says PCI Architectural Services Manager Jim Lewis.


To achieve Faena Park’s unique façade, Gate Precast used BIM software and CNC machining to create a repetitious level of precision and uniformity.

“We used Building Information Modeling in the design process, and CNC machining during production to create the repetitious level of precision and uniformity the project required,” explains Bryant Luke of Gate Precast. “This uniformity would have been impossible to replicate through manual power tools.”

Freedman adds, “Their ventilated façade system was such a complex puzzle for the precaster to solve. It took an amazing level of ingenuity to think of doing things like using reverse plugs made out of rubber and concrete to create the unique end result.”

Lewis and Freedman say the judges also decided to award an honorable mention to Gate Precast’s 610 Highland Crossing—an 18,000-sq.-ft. single family residence built in southern Louisiana—thanks in large part to how impressed they were with the intricacy of the precast concrete façade. With assistance from the precaster, the design team developed a method of aggregating and casting nine CNC milled primitives to create sculptural waves arranged in various ways so that each of the 15 (Type B) precast panels were unique when cast.

“One of the joys of having worked with precast concrete producers for several decades is that I have personally witnessed an industry that has constantly adapted and grown with modern design expectations and vision without sacrificing the strength and quality of the material and building method,” affirms Freedman.

PCI will begin accepting entries for the 2018 Sidney Freedman Craftsmanship Award in May 2018.