Recognizing architect, developer, owner and contractor concerns tied to precast concrete building enclosure lead time and pricing stability, Coralville, Iowa-based Zero Energy Systems has released an industry first. “ZES Standardized Contractor Price List/Standard Product Offerings” covers the producer’s high performance, sustainable, insulated structural concrete wall systems and eliminates extreme precast pricing fluctuations often experienced from time of planning/design to when the project is finalized.

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Zero Energy Systems’ production floor. The steel station utilizes #3, #4, and #5 rebar from spools that feed the machine, which receives digital files for straightening and cutting reinforcement to length for the casting station panel.



Along with Zero Energy Systems, Peoples Energy Training Center project principals were Ujamaa Construction Inc. of Chicago, Graef USA of Milwaukee, and Creative Erectors of Rockford, Ill.

“We’ve now taken the guess-work out of pricing insulated concrete walls. Until now, owners and design professionals were unable to accurately budget projects because producers would constantly manipulate pricing to their benefit,” says Zero Energy Systems CEO and CTO Scott Long. “Our plant is designed for on-time production at high volumes through standardization of high-performance wall systems. We will meet or beat any competitor’s price through our Price Match Program. Architects, developers, owners and contractors can specify and order Zero Energy Systems’ wall panels with confidence.”

Opened in 2014, the company’s National Precast Concrete Association-certified plant specializes in sandwich panels with edge-to-edge Owens Corning XPS insulation; interior and exterior reinforced concrete wythes, and fiber composite connectors. The operation is the first of its kind in North America, automating panel production through a carousel design. Digital files are exported from plans to a “plotter” station for outlining a panel and inserts onto the pallet or casting table. The pallet then moves to multiple stations where specific functions are completed: first wythe forming plus steel and concrete placement; CNC station for XPS insulation sizing and placement; second wythe forming plus steel and concrete placement; finishing station; cure chamber; de-moulding and tilt table; and, crane bay for loading panels onto trailers. Automation and advanced technology equip plant crews to maintain tolerances of 3/8 in. or lower on structural sandwich panels up to 41- x 11-ft.


Zero Energy Systems’ top project thus far in Chicago—the largest market in its target region—is the Peoples Energy Training Center. Built in the Little Village neighborhood on the Windy City’s west side, it features the high-performance, edge-to-edge insulated, 12-in. structural composite wall system, with 4 inches of reinforced concrete interior and exterior faces and composite connectors sandwiching 4 inches of XPS insulation. The 4/4/4 wall configuration offers an R-Value of 21.56; in contrast to conventional precast/prestressed wall panels, its absence of solid sections eliminates potential thermal bridging and bowing.

The Center will host annual training to more than 1,600 Peoples Gas utility workers and fire service officials across the region, while also providing Chicago Public Schools students much-needed vocational programming. At a Summer 2017 dedication, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel noted, “We are opening more than a training center; we are opening the doors to future job opportunities for our youth. Training is a critical component that will ensure our workforce, both current and future, have the skills they need to compete for stable, well-paying jobs in the growing field of energy.”

The 100,000-sq.-ft. facility has indoor and outdoor training areas, including a fully functioning natural gas delivery system harboring 20 structures for training in system maintenance, gas leak investigation, excavation and directional drilling. The campus also has areas for Chicago Fire Department fire prevention training and commercial driver’s license training.