How Many Points Can You Score in Precast Concrete Jeopardy!

You know how it works, the clue is given and you need to answer it in the form of a question.  No cheating, see how many points you can get.  Write down your answers and compare them to the answers listed below. Let’s begin…


  • Concrete for 100 – a laboratory test for compressive strength of a sample of concrete.
  • Concrete for 200 – a highly flowable, non-segregating concrete that spreads into place, fills formwork, and encapsulates even the most congested reinforcement, all without mechanical vibration.
  • Hollowcore for 100 – prestressed high-strength steel wires wound helically around a center wire.

Double Jeopardy!

  • Wall Panels for 300 – the structural connection to a footing or foundation wall.
  • Wall Panels for 400 (Daily Double) – the exterior portion of concrete with an architectural finish, usually 3” thick.
  • Wall Panels for 600 – the removal of the cementitious surface to expose the sand and matrix creating a fine sandy textured appearance.
  • Double Tees for 300 – the connection used to fasten the sides of doubles tees together on a roof, floor, or parking ramp.
  • Double Tees for 500 – the process of notching the end of a stem to create a bearing point higher than the lowest part of the product.

Final Jeopardy! (remember make your own final wager of points)

  • Precast Engineering – the shear stress on a transverse cross section resulting from a twisting action.


Novice:                0-500 points
Intermediate:      500-1500 points
Expert:               1500-2500 points

Congratulations – let us know how you scored!  Hope you had fun scoring some points and learning a little more about precast concrete.  If you have any questions or would like to discuss anything, please feel free to call me!


Mat Boie
Sales – Twin Cities




Concrete 100 – what is a cylinder test?
Concrete 200 – what is self-consolidating concrete?
Hollow Core 100 – what is strand?
Wall Panels 300 – what is a base connection?
Wall Panel 400 – what is an exterior wythe/architectural wythe?
Wall Panel 600 – what is acid etching?
Double Tees 300 – what is a flange connector?
Double Tees 300 – what is a dapped end?
Precast Engineering – what is torsional stress?

Why do designers use Precast in Detention Centers?

The use of precast components, in detention centers are gaining more and more popularity due to the following benefits and advantages precast can offer:

  • Durability – Precast Concrete is resilient and requires little to no maintenance to preserve the original look.  Detention Centers are subject to everyday wear and tear, and this is where the use of precast concrete really makes sense.  Its hard tough surface is extremely resistant to everyday dents and dings.  Precast components are poured with high cement content and low water-cement ratios which prove to increase resistance to rain penetration, flood damage and wind-blown debris.  It can also withstand many winters of freeze-thaw cycles unlike other materials, which can deteriorate quickly with such regular exposure to expansion and contraction. 

    Mountrail County [Stanley, ND]

  • Aesthetics – Precast Concrete can be poured from many different aggregates and pigments that can be incorporated into the exterior building façade, depending on what is required. Visual interest can be enhanced with the use of ribs, reveals, finishing processes and various types of formliners.
  • Construction Year Round – Precast Concrete offers a structural and architectural system that can constructed year round – even in the harsh upper Midwest winter months. Precast installation is quick which allows other trades to begin their work sooner – often saving weeks on the construction schedule.  Precast also requires less storage onsite as the components are produced in a manufacturing plant and shipped to the jobsite.
  • Structurally Efficient / Easy to Extend – Precast Concrete can be designed with a high span-to-depth ration – thus reducing the need for additional columns and supports. Precast Concrete can also be dismantled to add extensions or new wings to detention centers.  Simply remove the end panels and continue building – the end panels can be reinstalled upon completion.

    Wabasha County Justice Center

  • Protects Against Fire – Precast Concrete is non-combustible with inherent fire-resistant capability. It protects against the spread of fire between rooms or properties.  It cannot catch fire, burn or drip molten particles – which helps protect personnel, equipment and the building itself.
  • Thermally / Energy Efficient – Precast Concrete wall panels incorporate the insulation into a “sandwich” type wall panel. Cost associated with heating and cooling can be greatly reduced through concrete’s thermal mass benefits – thus saving energy year round-round by reducing large daily temperature swings.

Mike Mortensen
Regional Sales Manager – North Dakota

Industrial Structures: Designing Industrial Structures with Precast/Prestressed Concrete

No matter what sector the building may be for, whether it’s manufacturing, food processing, distribution, or any other industrial application, utilizing precast as the primary building material lends itself nicely. By essentially becoming another piece of equipment whose function is to provide the platform for a smooth process flow, this option not only leads to a quick return on investment but also helps maximize operational efficiency.

Using precast can result in a quicker return on investment by first and foremost shortening the overall lead time on the building. It’s no secret that precast has very beneficial aspects in regards to construction schedule, but those are only enhanced when a total precast building system is used, as is often the case for industrial markets. Precast production can begin shortly after shop drawings are approved, generally around the same time that site work begins, so as soon as portions of the site are ready, precast components can start to be delivered and installed. The total precast aspect means that as the precast is installed, the building enclosure is essentially ready to have specialty equipment installed, often at the same time as the precast to utilize the same installation equipment. Going with interior finish options on the precast that are adequate for a finished wall product eliminates the need for any additional materials to be installed after the precast, minimizing trades that need to be on site during construction and the coordination beforehand. Even for buildings that include windows, Wells can literally provide a wall enclosure system from in-to-out in a single piece as soon as it arrives on site. The windows can be installed at the plant, which is also where stringent finishes often required by USDA specifications are achieved, so work required at site is minimal.

A total precast system has the flexibility to either be designed around specific equipment or to provide an open layout to be used in whatever manner is needed at that time. The layout of the building can also be used to seamlessly incorporate elements such as shipping and receiving loading docks, planned future expansions utilizing current elements of the building, and interior walls that double as fire, sound, or thermal barriers. Concrete performs excellently as a fire barrier and as a sound barrier, making it ideal to enclose rooms that have a fire hazard associated with them or contain loud equipment. This can reduce noise in the facility, and enclosing the building in architectural precast not only aids in reducing the overall noise effect of the facility on the surrounding area but can help what otherwise might be large, intimidating structures blend in. Interior walls can also be insulated to separate rooms with different thermal requirements, whether it be for sensitive equipment or food storage or production. All of this is inherent while still being a low maintenance, durable material that can withstand the sometimes necessary harsh environments present. Along with this, special steel materials and sealants are provided in these cases, typically dictated in the specifications, to match the durability of the concrete.

Using the precaster as a resource early on in the building framing process is highly recommended for these types of buildings. Not only does this allow us to get a handle on the specifics as they are being nailed down, but we may be able to find more economical situations to achieve the same end result and we can start sizing members to bring attention to any conflicts and work around clearance requirements. Building with precast in industrial applications allows for the needed structure to be provided quickly, and perform with superior attributes in both the short-term and long-term. This lets the owner get to work and gives them peace of mind that they’ll be able to stay focused on handling day-to-day business. For more information on the specifics for precast of each industrial market follow the link below, otherwise feel free to contact Wells Concrete with any questions.

PCI Designing with Precast

Chase Radue, EIT
Design Engineer

Five Important Customer Service Skills

  1. The ability to really listen to customers is crucial for providing great service.

Not only is it important to pay attention to customer interactions, but it is also important to be mindful and attentive to the feedback that you receive.

  1. Having knowledge of the product you are selling.

Without knowing all the aspects of your product, you won’t be able to help your customer choose which product is right for their intended use.

  1. Spending time with your customers.

It is proven that spending more time with your customer is beneficial to both parties.

There is a limit. You need to be mindful with getting customers what they need in an efficient manner. They have busy schedules also.

  1. A great work ethic and a willingness to do what needs to be done is a key skill when providing the kind of service that customers remember and will tell others about.

Remembering that your customers are people too, and knowing that putting in the extra effort will come back to you ten-fold, should be your motivation to never take shortcuts, no matter how busy you might be at the time.

  1. If you come across as authentic, if you’re relatable, if you make a product your customers want/need, and if you take the time to show them you appreciate them and connect with them on a real level, the results can be impressive.

“The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but LEGENDARY.” – Sam Walton

Rick Hodek
Sales – North Dakota

A World of Precast

The precast concrete industry offers an incredibly diverse range of building and infrastructure products to architects, engineers, DOTs, contractors and homeowners. From structural frameworks and architectural flourishes to septic tanks and bridges, no other building material is as dynamic as precast concrete. You can find precast in many projects all over the world, some of them truly stunning works of art.

Kita Kindergarten – Göttingen, Germany

Located in the town of Göttingen, Germany, the Kita Kindergarten serves as a case study for the proactive approach to self-sufficiency and sustainability through careful attention to energy efficiency standards. The team at Despang Architekten developed multiple strategies to address the various elements that enveloped the site, ranging from thermal performance to daylighting and optimal building orientation.

In terms of space planning, the programming was tightly integrated early on into the design decision to utilize a sloping roof. The rear northern portions of the building with low height ceilings house the mechanical and restrooms. Primary circulation comprises the midway section of the fan shaped floor plan that is designed with built-in furniture and interior glazing between the main activity spaces. Effective daylighting by means of skylights in the ceilings of the hallways ensures more than adequate diffuse light during the day.  Located within the southernmost section of the building are multifunctional rooms, sleeping rooms, and staff and kitchen areas bordering the eastern elevation.

When it comes to designing for highly active uses such as kindergartens, longevity of construction and materiality play a major factor.  When it came to deciding on the material palette, Despang Architekten employed a limited number of materials – precast concrete, spruce wood, and linoleum all untreated and left raw. Utilizing factory produced precast elements in the form of insulated sandwich panels for the exterior walls and thinner slabs for interior bearing elements ensured rapid assembly and better quality control. A limited amount of joints also aided in the rapid assembly – with only a few minor interior demising walls requiring infill construction components.  As the concrete walls radiate from the centroid of the conical floor plan, their non-parallel orientation in combination with ceiling mounted wood diffusers lends itself to enhanced acoustical properties typically not associated with predominantly concrete construction.

Throughout the years the building continues to outperform the Passive House standard of 15kwh/m2 annually. The Kita Kindergarten at the Göttingen University campus stands as testament that energy efficient buildings need not be bland or stale, and through a holistic approach and attention to detail, the aesthetic, performative and humanistic qualities can cross contribute to a create better, healthier overall space to inhabit.


General Contractor: Dawe Göttingen
 Despang Architekten
Architects In Charge: Günther Despang/Martin Despang
Project Architects: Philip Hogrebe/Jörg Steveker
Client: University of Göttingen
Structural and Bioclimatic Engineering (PassivHaus): Drewes and Speth Hannover
Accoustical Engineering: Reichert Hannover
Prefab Concrete: Universalbeton Heringen GmbH
Area: 512 sqm
Year: 2010
Photographs: Jochen Stüber, Olaf Baumann

Why are more and more designers using precast hollowcore plank?

The Hollowcore product was first introduced to our region in the 1950’s and quickly became the concrete floor system of choice for many designers. Structural floor systems must carry their own weight in addition to all applied loads. While a conventional 8″ cast-in-place concrete slab weights 150 pounds per square foot, the same 8-inch section of Wells Concrete Ultraspan Hollowcore Plank weights only 63 pounds per square foot. The lighter self-weight and use of high strength prestress strand allows for much longer spans with the ability to carry higher applied loads.

Ultraspan Hollowcore Plank is produced indoors on a 4′-0″ wide 500′ long steel casting bed. Concrete is extruded from the Ultraspan machine as it moves down the length of the casting bed; the extruder uses multiple mechanical augers to create the cores and high frequency vibration to aid compaction. A zero slump concrete mix is used to reduce curing time to as little as six hours.  This process also uses 25% less cement than other similar systems.

This product comes in 8″, 10″ and 12″ depths with spans up to 54′-0″ and can be used for virtually any floor or roof system. It is also used as a structural slab on grade where poor soil conditions exist.

Installers can set as much as 8,000 square feet per day and, unlike other concrete decks, can be installed in cold weather areas at the same speed.

The speed of installation alone is a big reason why we are seeing an increase in demand, that coupled with sound transmission (STC) rate of 50 plus and fire ratings up to 3 hours without the need to use applied fireproofing make the value of Ultra Span Hollowcore a designer’s first choice.

Gary Pooley
Regional Sales Manager

BIM – Rekindle the Excitement

Wells Concrete’s experience with BIM (Building Information Modeling) is not an uncommon one in the precast industry. Wells’ first experience with 3D modeling was around the year 2000, and my own first involvement was a decade ago in 2007. Most expectations at the time were that the drafting efficiency using modeling would match existing 2D drafting in a year- or two year-long development phase. After the drafting in 3D was perfected, we’d be able to reap all the additional rewards that BIM has to offer: great coordination in design-build projects and software tools assisting with clash detection, material quantities, scheduling, estimating, and design.

The frustrating result was that we did not quickly achieve efficiency with the basic modeling portion of BIM that is essential for all the extra bells and whistles of BIM.

Now in 2017, a few software packages later, it looks like there is reason to believe we’ve made 3D modeling work. Drafting efficiency in modeling projects is nearing the efficiency of traditional 2D drafting, with some of our best modelers exceeding traditional drafting efficiency. At this point, a lot of elements – including training, software, work process, product and detail libraries – and drawing formats are by no means perfect, but good enough for 3D modeling to function competitively. With so much room for improvement in 3D modeling, there is a lot of potential to out-perform 2D drafting.

While there are many success stories of BIM use by various firms, projects, and individuals at the leading edge of technology, there has also been many who have been discouraged by the difficulties of implementing the technology. With 3D modeling becoming practical and nearing preferred status, the use of information contained in the model can become a greater reality for the masses. That is where we should get excited about BIM again. BIM is no longer just for the tech-savvy fore-runners of technology. It’s at a point that it can assist nearly everyone with items like project planning, estimating, scheduling, material inventories, VR manufacturing, design coordination, and design analysis.

Tim Edland
Director of R&D

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) for Retirement

 Most individuals think of IRAs and 401ks when the topic of retirement savings comes up.  More and more Americans are looking to an additional option to aid in their retirement goals.  One such savings vehicle that is gaining traction is a health savings account (HSA).

HSAs are designed for to be used to pay for qualifying healthcare expenses. You can contribute pre-tax money and use it towards medical costs whenever you want. There are no “use-it-or-lose-it” rules and any unused funds will roll over year to year.  Also, some providers allow participants to move a portion of their savings into an investment account in efforts to achieve a better return on the money held within the account.  The part of these vehicles that makes them very appealing is what is referred to as “a triple tax benefit”.   As you put money into the account, it is tax deductible, as it grows, the earnings are tax-deferred and you can take it out tax free, if used for qualified medical expenses.

Should you need to access these funds, withdraw money from the account, for non-healthcare expense before the age of 65, you’ll pay a 20 percent penalty.  After age 65 you can withdraw your HSA funds for non-qualified expenses at any time although they are subject to regular income tax.   That’s why HSAs can be an appealing retirement-savings tool.

You can only contribute money to an HSA if you have a high-deductible health care plan (HDHP), one that offers a lower monthly health insurance premium and a high deductible. If an HDHP makes sense for you and you decide to open an HSA, the contribution limit for 2017 is $3,400 per year if you’re single and $6,750 per year if you have a family. If you’re 55 or older, you can make an additional $1,000 “catch up” contribution.  Some employers will make a contribution into this account for its employees, only further driving the benefit of such an account.

HDHP’s are not well suited for someone on medications, have a chronic illness, or you might be going to the doctor frequently over the course of a year.

Ryan Stroschein
Chief Financial Officer

Technology Across the Generations

During the last few decades the human generations have experienced a huge growth in the development of technology. Baby boomers and Millennials have experienced a huge change in technology that has had an effect on their behavior and lifestyle.


Baby Boomers born between 1945 to 1965

  • Grew up to the development of technology and are classified as “digital immigrants”
  • Saw the first IBM and Apple PC’s
  • Used Pre-mobile technology
  • Lived with the main technology breakthroughs of the rotary phone and tube television
  • Experienced entertainment outdoors with other kids learning conversation skills and life lessons

In the early 60’s when technology was first introduced to the boomers it had little impact on their daily lives and didn’t play a pivotal role in that era. In the 70’s technology had little impact because it was seen as something that only the academics used.  It was in the 80’s that technology invaded people’s homes and changed their behaviors.

Millennials born between 1979 to early 2000’s

  • Are “Digital Natives” who lived through the technological evolution
  • Grew up in a time of rapid change
  • Connect to people globally because by the 1990’s technology was everywhere
  • Adapted quickly to the explosive change
  • Called the“ Always-on” generation with Internet and smartphones


Today boomers and millennials have access to the same technology but their behaviors are different. Boomers use technology to assist them with getting information and increase their conveniences where Millennials use technology for connections, recognition and self-expression.

Generations will come and go. Technology on the other hand will always stay and continue to evolve in the hands of the current generation. Technology in the future is going to shape the newer generations and among 81% of children will have a digital footprint by the time they are only two years old.

Depending on who you are, sometimes that rotary phone doesn’t sounds so bad.


Jeff Holt
Sales – Iowa/Southern Minnesota

The Evolution of Technology Across Generations. (2016, November 10). Retrieved from


Simplicity in the workplace


In today’s fast pace world, with deadlines and responsibilities always looming over heads, it’s easy to lose track of the most efficient way to solve problems and accomplish tasks – simple face to face communication and utilizing past successes. I think at times we could all take a step back and get back to the basics of what got us all into the positions that we are in. After all, it started with an interview and communicating with another individual, expressing to them the value you can bring. We tend to get caught up in the corporate world and shy away from the most essential piece of the whole picture, good communication and moving forward from past experiences. Without taking these first steps, all steps after that will be for nothing. It is easy to make things more complicated than they need to be, but slowing down to reason will often lead to success. As stated by someone more clever than myself, “Simplicity is language and design that makes the complex clear.”

Reed Hudson
Sales – Iowa/South Dakota

A World of Precast

The precast concrete industry offers an incredibly diverse range of building and infrastructure products to architects, engineers, DOTs, contractors and homeowners. From structural frameworks and architectural flourishes to septic tanks and bridges, no other building material is as dynamic as precast concrete. You can find precast in many projects all over the world, some of them truly stunning works of art.

Lotus Temple – New Delhi, India

The temples of the Baha’i Faith are well known for their architectural splendor, and the Temple constructed in Delhi is a continuation of this rich tradition. Before undertaking the design of the temple, the architect, Fariborz Sahba, had traveled extensively in India to study the architecture of this land and was impressed by the design of the beautiful temples, as well as by the art and religious symbols wherein the lotus invariably played an important role.


Inspired by the lotus flower, the design for the House of Worship in New Delhi is composed of 27 free-standing marble-clad “petals” arranged in clusters of three to form nine sides. The nine doors of the Lotus Temple open onto a central hall slightly more than 40 metres tall that can seat 1,300 people and hold up to 2,500 in all. The surface of the House of Worship is made of white marble from Penteli mountain in Greece, the same marble from which many ancient monuments (including the Parthenon) and other Bahá’í Houses of Worship are built. Along with its nine surrounding ponds and the gardens, the Lotus Temple property comprises 26 acres (105,000 m²; 10.5 ha).


The temple complex consists of the main house of worship, the ancillary block which houses the reception center, the library and the administrative building, and the restrooms block. The temple proper comprises a basement to accommodate the electrical and plumbing components, and a lotus-shaped superstructure to house the assembly area. The structural system includes a concrete frame and a precast concrete ribbed roof, with the entire quantity of white cement coming from Korea. Specially graded dolomite aggregates were procured from the Alwar mines near Delhi and white silica sand from Jaipur.


Architect: Fariborz Sahba
Structural Engineer: Flint & Neill
Contractor: ECC Construction Group of Larsen & Toubro Limited

Megan Nesius
Marketing Coordinator

Insist on Certification

Wells Concrete operates in five states and one province, and we are PCI (Precast Concrete Institute) and CPCI (Canadian Precast Concrete Institute) certified. If you are a building owner, engineer, architect, or in any other position of being responsible for acquiring precast, a question you may have is, “Why bother? What difference does it make? It’s all the same when it’s finished.”

I’m here to tell you that it does matter, and that you should absolutely insist that the precaster providing your product is PCI or CPCI certified. To understand why you should insist on this certification you need to understand what we do as precasters.

Precast concrete is a complex amalgamation of high performance concrete, high quality steel, and other components that are engineered and incorporated into structures where its proper performance is critical to life, safety, and long term durability. The process we use to fabricate, transport, and install our product is elaborate, including design software, computer-controlled batch plants that produce the concrete, and modern casting equipment. The process is driven by the design calculations and drawings produced by our engineers working within the guidelines set out by PCI or CPCI as well as the architect, engineer of record, and local codes. It is imperative as we manufacture each component that the correct concrete is used, the prestressing is done to specification, and the concrete is cured properly. In addition it is equally important that each individual piece of precast is stored, moved, and installed within the certification guidelines.

We are able to accomplish this by the dedicated, hard work of all Wells Concrete employees working in harmony with our Quality Control department. Prior to casting, during casting, and after casting, forms are inspected, concrete is tested and each piece is checked for conformance. Should any test result not be within specifications, the issue is rectified or the piece is re-made, and detailed records of all the test results are kept.

Not only does certification set the bar for best practices, the entire process is audited by an independent third party. These audits are conducted randomly and include review of records, procedures, and observing operations in the plants to assure that everything is in compliance. By using a certified precaster you will know that your precast is the best available, providing confidence in its safety, and that it will perform well its entire service life. Without PCI or CPCI certification there is no way of determining that the precast is manufactured, transported, or installed properly. There will be no assurance with respect to life, safety, or the long term performance.

Simply put, without certification, there is no peace of mind.

PCI or CPCI certification, insist on it.

Art Macaw P. Eng.
Wells Concrete Canada