A Sustainable Future

By Josephine Patterson

A visit with 2024 Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute Chair Jim Fabinski

Jim Fabinski

With 30 years of experience in the precast concrete industry, Jim Fabinksi, vice president and general manager of EnCon United, brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to his leadership role as Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute chair. In fact, he has been involved with the institute for two decades, serving on the Board of Directors twice and participating in the Bridge Producer and R&D committees.

Fabinksi’s main focus for his tenure is improving PCI’s messaging on the sustainability of precast concrete. “I want to highlight how sustainability means more than just carbon emissions, and show how precast concrete contributes to a better built environment through durability and resilience,” he says.

While EnCon has been preparing Environmental Product Declarations for several projects in Colorado and Arizona, Fabinksi has seen first-hand how focusing solely on emission reductions during manufacturing obscures the bigger picture on environmental and social sustainability benefits.

“As an example, a heavily insulated wall panel has higher emissions during manufacturing than a lightly insulated panel, but the performance over the life of the structure is far superior,” explains Fabinski. “A structure built with material less durable than precast concrete, which is pretty much every other material, may have lower initial emissions. If that structure is damaged or destroyed by floods, winds, or fires then the impact to the occupants and to society would be far worse than some marginal increase in carbon emissions during manufacturing.

“Plant cast products also benefit society by concentrating the manufacturing in an environmentally controlled facility where all ground water and air emissions are permitted and monitored,” he continues. “The impact to the project site and the surrounding neighborhoods is minimized. The workers in precast factories have a consistent place to work instead of traveling all over to different sites and regions. That leads to better balance, more time with families, and stronger ties to the community.”

Taking stock of the 2024 PCI Design Awards’ (see page 38) reflection of PCI Certified Plant capabilities and the depth of design, engineering and fabrication talent across the industry, Fabinski finds “the ability to design precast and prestressed concrete to fulfill almost any purpose in our built world is unique to our products. No competing system or material can do all that precast concrete can. Precast concrete structures can be stunning architectural achievements, withstand the worst punishments man and nature can inflict, last for many generations, and contribute to sustainable building systems.”

Fabinski notes that “one of the biggest opportunities and challenges of great design with precast concrete is that it can’t be done alone.” This ties into one of his other goals for his tenure: continuing to build strong relationships with allied industry groups including the National Precast Concrete Association, American Concrete Institute, and others.

“Great design in the built environment achieved through collaboration leads to great outcomes for our industry and for society. People who participate in great projects will look forward to future opportunities to work together. Society benefits by having a built world that reflects our best aspirations. Our industry and institute benefit by having good projects to look back on when we build more and greater projects in the future,” he concludes.

The EnCon Companies are specialty contractors providing precast/prestressed concrete systems and services to all facets of the construction marketplace in over 20 states. As a full-service precaster, EnCon manufactures a wide range of architectural and structural building components. EnCon consists of a design group, as well as several other companies dedicated to the fabrication, installation, and service in the Rocky Mountain, Pacific Northwest, Southwest and Southeast regions. Recognized as one of the leading precast companies in the United States, EnCon is pioneering the use of the latest technology for the design and fabrication of precast structures.

EnCon’s product lines include architectural and structural building elements, bridge girders and deck panels, CarbonCast, columns, commercial grade walls, double tees, hollow-core, insulated and non-insulated wall panels, noise walls, prestressed beams, retaining walls, risers, spandrels, stairs, concrete tubes/shafts for stairs, elevator and other mechanical cores. As a certified producer of the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute and an AltusGroup producer member, EnCon is recognized among the leading precast companies in the United States.

EnCon Colorado fabricated the precast components for the Dolores River Bridge replacement project on Colorado Highway 90.