Top 5 Reasons to Negotiate with the Precast Manufacturer

Diamond Vogel – Orange City, IA


  1. Design Assistance: Many times the precast design can be quite challenging to the architect and engineer but if a precaster is brought on early, they can greatly help and assist in this and answer any and all questions that arise.
  2. Schedule Improvement: This will not only help the precast schedule – as production space can be reserved further in advance than if it had to be hard bid – but it will also improve the overall construction schedule, as product will arrive sooner and keep the project flowing in a timely manner.
  3. Pricing Considerations: There seems to be a myth that if the job is negotiated that the owner will get gouged on this end. Precasters are not competing against themselves but against other material types, and always have to stay competitive. In fact, return customers that tend to do many negotiated projects get very favorable pricing where they would not when compared to a hard bid job.
  4. Quality of Product: When the precaster is very familiar with the project and helped in the design, the overall product produced tends to be better. Being involved with the owner and their expectations makes goals very clear and only improves communication.
  5. Relationships Built: Negotiated jobs give both the owner/contractor and the precaster a good level of trust that can many times not be reached on hard bid jobs. Working side by side helps each party in understanding their niche and personalities, and can help to build a great working relationship that can many times develop into a friend in the business field.

Reed Hudson
Sales – Iowa/South Dakota

A sneak peak at Wells’ new mock-up building, featuring Integrity Windows


I’m proud to announce that Wells Concrete’s marketing efforts are available for your viewing pleasure at the Grand Forks, Albany, and Rosemount Sites after the New Year! The displays are a fully enclosed mock up building that is comprised of eight unique wall panels that illustrate unique architectural finishes such as thin brick, acid etch, sand blasting, form liners, and polished concrete! Various architectural and structural details such as mitered corners, fully cast corners, reveals, accent bands, monolithically cast cornice, stone form liners, and other features are available for you to scrutinize and evaluate. Structural details include detailing for three common roofing systems such as double tee roof members, bar joist roofing systems, and hollowcore roofing systems.

But the most exciting new features on display are the newly introduced preinstalled windows! That’s right, Wells has partnered exclusively with Integrity Windows by Marvin to bring a new construction method to the industry: preinstalled commercial windows. Wells will preinstall the windows in our production facility before trucking the panels to the job site. You might be thinking, “That sounds like a broken window waiting to happen,” but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, Wells executed this concept to perfection when constructing their newly finished production facility in Rosemount, MN. The panels were manufactured in Wells, MN, where the windows were also installed. The panels were than loaded and trucked over 100 miles to the jobsite where the panels were off loaded and installed. The construction schedule was compressed, the building envelope enclosed that much sooner, and there was a substantial improvement in de-conflicting trades on site!

Obviously, preinstalled windows are not a good fit for every project designed and constructed, but this fact remains clear: there is always a place in the market for improved schedule, leaner construction methods, de-confliction of trades on the job site, and reduced cost of heating and hording in cold winter months.

Contact your Wells Sales Consultant to explore how preinstalled windows in precast wall panels can make your project easier, faster, and less costly.


Sam Nesius
Vice President – Corporate Development

Precast in Parking Structures

Club Regent Casino Parkade in Winnipeg, Canada

Precast concrete is the perfect solution for parking structures.

We can design, supply and install the entire structure from the foundation up, providing the large structural components as well as virtually any level of architectural detail an owner or architect could want.

With the ability to provide complex architectural finishes, we can provide a look that will fit into almost any neighborhood, urban space, industrial location, or modern downtown environment.

Club Regent Casino Parkade in Winnipeg, Canada

All of the components are fabricated in a plant with controlled temperature and curing conditions, resulting in a highly durable structure with a very long life span.

With all of the components being fabricated off site, there is a minimum of disruption for the owner. In addition, by using high capacity cranes, we are able to fabricate very large pieces. This in turn lowers the total number of pieces in the structure, reduces the cost of installation, and compresses the schedule. In fact, we recently completed a 225,000 square foot parking structure in Winnipeg. Designing this project started on February 1, 2016 and the last piece was installed November 18, 2016. Precast concrete is fast, cost effective, and offers a long service life for parking structures.

Art Macaw
Sales, Canada

Voice of Customer and QA/QC

Wells Concrete recently resurrected our client survey process and we need your help!  We will be selecting certain projects as they become completed and would like you to voice your experiences as to what went well and not so well. This VOC (voice of the customer) gives us feedback on where we need to improve; we then take that information and do a Root Cause Analysis to see how we can improve the process that was unpleasant for you, the customer.  We conduct interviews, compile data, and then use a SIPOC-R (supplier/inputs/process/outputs/customer/requirements) approach to get to the root cause and correct the problem you had. Once we have figured out the solution, we then incorporate it into our internal process flow map so we never deviate back to a (potentially) problematic way of doing things. This entire process guarantees the best solution is reached, and provides sustainability to ensure we don’t make the same mistakes on your next project.


Wells Concrete is committed to being your premier builder for all of your prestess/precast needs. We look forward to your feedback and ongoing partnership in future projects.


Steve Kloos

Vice President of Quality

Concrete vs. Cement

Often times you’ll hear the terms concrete and cement used interchangeably. Actually, cement is just one of the ingredients that are mixed together to make concrete. Concrete is the hard finished product that most people are talking about.


“An artificial stone like material used for various building purposes”cement1

The most basic concrete mix design includes water, cement, sand, and aggregates. The large aggregates produce most of the strength of concrete with the sand filling in the gaps between the large aggregates. The cement acts as a glue that holds it all together.


“A fine powder produced by grinding CLINKER and adding Calcium Sulfate (Gypsum)”cemement

Cement is a man-made product composed of Clinker and Gypsum. Clinker is a mixture of raw materials (Limestone, clay, shale, iron ore, and bauxite) that are heated to a temperature of 2,700oF. Once the clinker has been mixed and cooled, gypsum is added in and everything is ground to a fine powder. This powder is the cement.

So as you now know, concrete an
d cement are actually very different materials with much different physical properties.

Spread the Word!

Jace Rossow




Wells and the PCI Foundation… What are we doing together?

pci-group-shot-nordIn 2014, Wells Concrete wanted to sponsor a PCI Design Studio at Minnesota State University Mankato (MSUM) in collaboration with the PCI Foundation. This goal took a lot of work on the front end; we had to develop a curriculum, goals, and a business plan. The staff at the University put together an excellent proposal to follow. We applied to the Foundation, along with several others, and MSUM was selected and awarded a grant from the Foundation; Wells matched the foundations grant.

The program at MSUM was the sixth design studio to be introduced in the United States and is unique for its focus on engineering and construction management departments. Wells has received great recognition from the Foundation as well as other industry members for the success of the program. MSUM has a very dedicated staff involved in the studio and many employees at Wells have participated in class visits, plant tours, Big Beam Contests, Concrete Canoes, and site tours.

The first year of the program, in 2014, we had six students sign up for the prestress design class; this year there are 18 students. The beauty of being a sponsor is we were involved in building the curriculum and the syllabus for these classes. The mission of the Foundation and Wells is to teach these students about precast concrete. We follow a specific project (or projects) from the beginning to the end, starting in sales and estimating, then going on to engineering and BIM, followed by plant visits and visits in the classroom to show the students about real life projects – which involve risk management, safety, and site analysis – and finally conclude with field trips to job sites.

Today, the studio has become very popular; the students like the tours and especially the site visits, both of which include a free lunch! The first year we had 15 students total from the Civil Engineering and Construction Management Departments 1-group-shot-2-schnidermansinvolved in the studio, and we put together some site visits to observe several projects under construction in the metro area. In 2015, Dr. Reza called me up and asked, “How many students can we bring?” Assuming 18 students were in the class, we thought a small bus would suffice. The Studio put up a sign up sheet and offered it to all Civil Engineering and Construction Management students and we actually had to turn students down because the biggest bus we could find was limited to 55 passengers. We took the students to the Vikings stadium and had a caravan of student following the bus. We had three staff members attend along with the Dean of Engineering. I have never seen so many selfies taken at one time as the students were toured around the stadium.

Our mission is to teach students about precast specifically, as one day many of these students will be in a position to choose a particular building material as a solution for projects throughout their career. In return, this allows us to expand our market share and we believe this is where it begins. We have made exceptional progress toward our pci-schnidermans-educationmission and we will continue building the program in the years to come. It was not intended to draw students to Wells Concrete specifically, but to send them into the workforce with another tool in their tool box – that tool being precast. There is, however, a hidden benefit: during the process of creating this unique opportunity, we have attracted some of the best students in the program and they have come to Wells for employment. The entire process has been a lot of fun, and working with the students andthe staff has allowed me to make many new friends.

Gregg Jacobson
Vice President – Operations Wells

How Does Precast Get its Color?

I am often asked how the surface treatment of the precast panel will affect the color and what are our “standard” colors?  This is not as libertyelementary_finish01simple of an answer to give as one might think and the first step is to understand what makes up the color.

  • Cement—White or grey and /or mixed in a percentage, such as 50-50 or 75-25.
  • Pigments—Coloring agents used to dye the concrete.  The majority of precasters will use between 0-5%
  • Fine aggregate—There are a multitude of sands available from white to black and all colors between.
  • Course aggregate—There are a multitude of rocks available from white to black and all colors between.
  • As Cast Finish—This will have the color of the concrete or pigment.
  • Acid Etch Finish—This will slightly etch the surface of the concrete and will expose the color of the matrix with the color of the sand.
  • Sandblast Finish—A typical sandblast finish will roughen the surface enough to expose the color of the coarse aggregate rock.
  • Exposed Aggregate/Water Wash Finish—A chemical retarder is applied to the form before casting which allows the cement paste to be removed and exposes the natural stones used in the mix.

Just by using the above items, you can create thousands of combinations. has a color and texture guide available on their website with hundreds of examples of concrete mix designs.  I would recommend talking with your local precaster, as this is just meant as a guide, and it is best to find out what is locally available.

libertyelementary_waterwash-acid-etch-sandblastThis example is the same mix design with the three different surface treatments: Sandblast/Acid Etch/Water Wash

Steve Olson

Strong All Winter Long!

wadena-setting-dtIn the winter many building contractors slow down, but at Wells we keep building strong all winter long!

Traditional Upper Midwest construction companies need to do the majority of their work during the warmer eight months of the year.  The frost in the ground makes it difficult to install footings and conduct work outside efficiently from December until the spring thaw.

Wells construction crews are suited to build precast buildings all year long.  When the ground freezes we have less trouble with our large cranes and heavy trucking equipment getting stuck in the mud.  Before the ground freezes contractors can install below frost spread footings with a concrete stem wall.  They can then back-fill the stem wall to top of footing and let the site wait for precast.  Frost blankets are often put over the footings to keep the snow off and the frost from going too deep.  Another benefit of a precast concrete wall panel system is that our product is produced and cured in a quality controlled environment during the cold winter months.  When all the panels are poured and finished, Wells will mobilize to the prepared site.  The footings that were poured in late November are cleared of snow and blankets and we start standing wall panels despite the winter conditions.

Weather proof construction… just another of advantage of Wells Concrete!

Jesse Hiller
Vice President – Erection/Field Services

Hardened Construction vs. ICC 500 in K-12 Gymnasium Applications


This methodology, commonly referred to as ‘Hardened Construction’, allows the engineer to pick a wind speed that is lower than the 250 mph and use a standard ASCE 7 design criteria.  With 98.8% of all wind events being that of and EF-3 or less we choose to work this ideology with a wind speed of 167mph (top end of an EF-3).  This allows us to use much more standard precast elements when creating these large volume spaces.  Most importantly we are able to design the roof with a double tee element without using a post applied integral topping.  The flange thickness on a double tee is increased from the standard 2” to 4” and there is an increase in the flange connections form DT to DT to develop the necessary amount of shear resistance.  With the lower wind speeds the uplift is in a more manageable zone where it can be accounted for with the self-weight of the double tee and increased connections to the wall panels.  There is also increased prestressing in the upper portion of the double tee stems.  This helps with resisting the upward camber of the roof elements during a high wind event.  This type of construction is significantly less expensive than achieving the 250 mph resistant structure that is required in ICC 500 design.  Generally speaking you are only looking at a $4-$6/sf increase on the roof costs only.  The wall panels in their normal design state are already capable of handling the loads created from a 167 mph wind event.

In summary, precast concrete components are the most durable and resistant materials in their natural state to large wind events and with a little thought upfront by the design team a school district may be able to afford the increase costs of a hardened construction gymnasium where an ICC 500 structure may not be in the budget.  There are currently several of these EF-3 Hardened Construction gymnasiums standing the State of Iowa and more are being considered and designed every year.  I hope this information provides some food for thought as you move forward with future K-12 projects and please feel free to contact me directly with questions/comments about this post.


Curt G. Gear
Director of Business Development

Construction Challenges in the Bakken Oil Fields

Dealing with thpermian-oil-and-gas-services-pic2e challenges of construction in the Bakken Oil Fields of Western North Dakota:

When dealing with the challenges faced working in the Bakken Oil Fields you have to get creative and find solutions to meet the construction demand that Western North Dakota imposes. The benefits that precast concrete offers finds solutions to these challenges and makes construction possible during these demanding times. So what are the benefits of using precast?

Use of Off-site Labor Forces
With the labor shortage that western ND presents, precast offers a labor force that is located outside of the Bakken. Manufacturing wall panel’s offsite and shipping these to the job-site solves these labor force issues and does not put a burden on the local infrastructure that is already pushed to its limits.

Quality of Product
Because all of our precast is cast indoors we can control the quality. It also allows precast to pour year round which would not be possible otherwise with the climates that North Dakota possesses

Speed of Construction
Because wall panels can be set quickly it allows for buildings to be enclosed at a faster rate than typical block, brick, or steel construction. Fast construction drives down your general condition site costs and allows the construction schedule to be compressed allowing the owner to get into their building and generate revenue quicker

Scott Monzelowsky


FAQ from Designers

  1. Should panels bear on a footing or a foundation?
    Generally speaking, foundations are preferable for a couple of reasons. Foundations allow for backfilling and a flat job-site, whfaqich is preferable over open footing trenches that invariably fill with water or require protection from freezing. The lone exception to this would be if we’re required to retain a significant earth load (4’ +/-).
  2. Plates vs. Pockets for bearing conditions?
    Reduced eccentricity and ease of constructability make pockets the clear winner here. Stud design has become so restrictive that plate design becomes problematic for any bearing situation near a panel edge or opening. Pockets allow for greater loads to the wall panel.
  3. Solid Concrete Zones?
    I see these detailed fairly often. In this geographic region, solid zones should be avoided at all cost.  Thermal transfer is reason number one to avoid them but unintended cracking is of equal concern.  There are a number of options that either eliminate thermal transfer or greatly reduce it and still allow the two wythes of the sandwich panel to operate independently.
  4. How much is my roof/floor going to deflect under load?
    A very difficult question to answer. Current design software, isn’t capable of modeling a total concrete roof/floor system. We can model individual pieces and come up with theoretical deflections, but, once we grout the floor and pin the ends, or weld the DT flanges together and make our connections to the wall panels, observed deflections are far less than calculated.
  5. Column base plates?
    We prefer extended base plates. In other words, instead of an 18” square column having an 18” square base plate, we would like to use an 18”x24” base plate.  It makes the column much more stable during erection and also significantly easier to plumb as the bolt centerlines are spread further apart.  Naturally, this requires a larger pier under the column but the benefits outweigh the associated cost.

These are a few of the most common questions we get.  If any of you have specific questions regarding details or design philosophies, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  Hope to hear from you soon.

Ryan Garden, P.E.

VP, Chief Engineer



10 Reasons to use Precast vs Other Building Materials

  1. Time is money and with the precast members being cast in plant while the early construction phases take place it means once precast components arrive at site they can be installed precast-vs-efis-vs-hailquickly. Oftentimes shortening a schedule by weeks or even months.
  2. Precast buildings have a great fire rating and often times eliminate the costly process of fireproofing.
  3. Precast buildings are safe and sufficiently strong enough to resist impacts and natural catastrophes such as tornados, floods and earthquakes.
  4. Since precast is manufactured in a controlled indoors environment it is easier to control the mix, placement and curing for a more consistent product.
  5. Precast concrete is a hard, tough surface that is extremely resistant to everyday dings, dents, wear and tear.
  6. Because of concrete’s density, precast privacy and sound reduction makes it ideal for commercial and residential construction.
  7. Precast is structurally efficient. Meaning it can be designed with a high span-to-depth ratio reducing the need for additional columns and supports.
  8. Precast can easily be designed to match or compliment with new or old existing structures.
  9. Precast is perfect for preserving resources and protecting the environment through sustainable building practices. Precast concrete buildings also correlate with at least four categories of LEED certification.
  10. Costs associated with heating and cooling can be greatly reduced through precast concretes thermal mass benefits.

Zac Zimmerman