Manufacturing facilities in the construction industry require industrial structures that can withstand heavy loads, vibration, noise and chemical exposures. Structural concrete has always been a highly popular construction solution for manufacturing plants due to its inherent strength, durability, design flexibility and long-term cost savings. This article explores the key benefits of using structural concrete systems in new and existing manufacturing facilities.
What is Structural Concrete?
Structural concrete refers to concrete mixtures and construction methods used to build load-bearing foundations, floors, columns, walls and other structural elements in a facility. It has high compressive strength capable of supporting heavy industrial equipment and operations.
Compared to structural steel, structural concrete offers higher resistance to fire, chemicals and wear and tear with lower maintenance costs over decades of use. Its thermal mass also helps moderate interior temperatures. Concrete can be cast on-site or prefabricated for faster construction.
With proper reinforcement and design, concrete structures can have excellent seismic resilience, noise reduction and versatility in spatial configurations. This makes concrete an ideal construction choice for manufacturing facilities.
Major Structural Concrete Systems
Several types of structural concrete systems are available, each with advantages for different situations:
Precast concrete sections are fabricated off-site in a controlled environment, then transported and lifted into place at the construction site. This allows faster project timelines, higher quality standards and precise manufacturing-level tolerances.
Precast concrete sections can form columns, floors, walls and custom components. They offer flexible structural designs, including long, open spans for wide manufacturing spaces. Precast concrete withstands heavy loads with resilience against vibration and noise.
With cast-in-place concrete, wet concrete is poured and cured directly on the construction site within reusable forms. This allows concrete to form any shape and seamlessly integrate with other building systems.
Cast-in-place concrete provides complete flexibility for architects and engineers. It can mold floors with the exact flatness and levelness required for high-precision manufacturing equipment. Cast-in-place concrete also suits sites where precast sections are impractical to install.
Tilt-up concrete construction involves pouring concrete on-site into wall forms, which, once cured, are tilted vertically into place by cranes. This is an efficient technique for rapid enclosure of manufacturing facilities.
Tilt-up concrete walls provide durable, economical enclosures with natural insulation properties and the ability to support overhead cranes, conveyors and rooftop units. Tilt-up concrete also allows easy integration of doors, windows and utilities.
In addition to precast, cast-in-place and tilt-up concrete, prestressed concrete products are another important structural concrete system for manufacturing facilities. Prestressed concrete products are pre-tensioned with steel strands or cables before hardening. This prestressing places the concrete in compression, improving its load capacity and long-term durability.
Key Structural Considerations
When designing manufacturing facilities, architects and engineers factor in key structural needs for optimizing production workflows:
Strong Foundations and Floors
Floor slabs must withstand enormous static and dynamic loads from heavy machinery and material handling systems. Structural concrete provides exceptional compressive strength for foundational stability.
Concrete floors can be engineered with steel or synthetic reinforcements to prevent cracks and increase tensile strength. Options like post-tensioned concrete optimize span lengths and minimize vibrations.
Wide Column Spacing
Manufacturing layouts require wide, open spaces clear of obstructions. This allows flexibility in equipment configurations. Structural concrete frame systems can provide column-free spans over 50 feet. Long-span construction enables uninterrupted manufacturing areas while reducing material quantities compared to columns and beams with narrower spacing.
High Load Capacities
Storage areas, equipment foundations and overhead cranes impose high vertical and lateral loads. Reinforced concrete has excellent load-bearing strength for supporting these dynamic industrial demands. Post-tensioned concrete allows lighter slabs to carry heavier loads while concrete walls securely hold racking systems. Structural concrete provides a robust foundation for multi-story manufacturing buildings.
Minimizing floor vibrations is crucial for precision manufacturing involving robots, lasers, electronics, healthcare products and other sensitive processes. Concrete has excellent damping properties to reduce vibrations. Careful structural design can limit disturbances from nearby equipment, and isolated foundations prevent vibrations from passing through the floor slab.
Concrete has mass and absorption that reduces the transmission of noise between manufacturing zones. Acoustical treatments can enhance concrete’s inherent soundproofing, creating quieter spaces despite nearby heavy-duty equipment.
Withstand Harsh Exposures
Manufacturing environments often involve chemicals, high heat, moisture and other demanding conditions. The non-combustible and corrosion-resistant nature of concrete withstands these exposures better than structural steel. Sealed concrete resists spills, fumes and liquids from penetrating flooring and specialized chemical-resistant coatings provide added protection. Thermal mass also moderates interior temperatures.
Specialized Concrete Solutions
Advances in concrete technology provide specialized options to enhance manufacturing facility construction:
Self-consolidating concrete contains admixtures like superplasticizers that increase flowability, allowing the concrete to spread evenly into place under its own weight without external vibration. For manufacturing floors, self-consolidating concrete provides faster placement and construction schedules since no vibration is required. It also allows excellent consolidation around congested reinforcement, better surface quality with fewer imperfections, reduced noise pollution during pouring and lower labor costs without vibrating equipment. The fluid consistency makes self-consolidating concrete ideal for congested areas like beams, columns and equipment foundations. It enables the rapid pouring of large manufacturing floor areas up to 50,000 square feet.
Pervious concrete contains carefully controlled void space that allows water to drain through the material. This prevents hydrostatic pressure buildup and flooding from heavy rains overflowing drainage systems, large amounts of meltwater and spills of liquids in manufacturing zones. Pervious concrete protects the environment by reducing stormwater runoff and recharging groundwater reservoirs while also absorbing sound for noise attenuation.
White Portland cement concrete has greatly increased reflectivity compared to traditional gray concrete. White concrete floors and walls create brighter, cleaner aesthetics for manufacturing interiors.
White concrete enhances lighting because the smooth, light surface maximizes illumination — this means it reduces the need for electrical lighting due to sunlight reflection. White concrete also improves employee safety with better visibility, makes cleaning and housekeeping easier and provides a neutral background for floors containing colorful demarcations. It fosters professional, sterile environments suitable for industries like healthcare, technology and scientific research.
Polished concrete is created by mechanically grinding and polishing cured concrete to produce a smooth, glossy finish. This enhances the floor with an attractive visual texture and sheen, increased light reflectivity aiding interior illumination, better cleanability and dust resistance, slip resistance from the exposed aggregate finish, less tire wear for vehicles and equipment and stain and moisture resistance.
Polished concrete provides significant cost savings compared to other seamless flooring systems while also benefiting sustainability through reduced construction materials and long-term upkeep.
Cost and ROI Analysis
Though initial concrete construction costs may exceed some competing solutions, the long-term return on investment outweighs short-term savings. Pros of structural concrete include:
- Faster Construction: Prefabricated systems like precast concrete accelerate project schedules to start manufacturing sooner.
- Lower Maintenance: Properly designed concrete resists wear with little long-term upkeep needed versus other structures.
- Energy Savings: Concrete’s thermal mass cuts HVAC costs over decades of operation.
- Adaptability: Concrete framing allows flexible reconfiguration of equipment and production lines.
- Durability: Concrete facilities remain productive for over a century with proper maintenance. This reduces lifetime material consumption.
- Resilience: Concrete structures better withstand impacts, chemicals, weather and natural disasters.
Though concrete requires more substantial initial capital, the long-term operational savings make it competitive or superior to most alternatives over an asset’s lifespan.
Structural concrete offers unmatched benefits for constructing optimal manufacturing facilities to support modern industry. Its strength, durability, design flexibility, sustainability and cost-effectiveness provide indispensable advantages over other structural materials.
Concrete’s strength handles heavy floor loads, wide column spacing facilitates flexible layouts and custom reinforcement enables long, vibration-resistant spans ideal for precision equipment.
Rely on SW Funk Industrial Contractors To Leverage Structural Concrete Solutions
Concrete resists chemicals, heat and noise while providing fire protection and thermal mass control. Whether cast-in-place, precast or tilt-up, concrete provides responsive solutions tailored to each facility’s needs. New specialized concrete types enhance sustainability, speed, aesthetics and performance. Though initial costs may be higher, concrete’s lifetime value through low maintenance and energy use makes it a smart long-term investment.
With careful planning and engineering, structural concrete empowers reliable, high-quality manufacturing spaces to gain a competitive advantage. But while structural concrete offers these benefits, its performance is dependent on its installation.
Rely on expert industrial contracting services to get the most out of structural concrete — look no further than SW Funk Industrial Contractors. We have provided expert industrial contracting services since 1980, specializing in structural steel and concrete.
Contact our team of experienced and reliable structural engineers and concrete specialists to leverage all of the advantages of structural concrete for your next manufacturing project. We are the one team to call for all your industrial contracting needs.