Precast panels, first developed to simplify the construction of commercial buildings, are finding greater application in the residential market. Regardless of the system used to construct the home, panels are the guts of any system. They come in many types and variations, though the most common are solid wall, sandwich, and double-wall panels. The Altus Group developed a new type of panel consisting of concrete posts and beams embedded into a panel reinforced with carbon fiber. (For more details see “Building Precast Concrete Homes,” Residential Concrete, November 2005.)

At this point, the initial cost of precast houses is more than wood or insulating concrete form houses. But, a precast house, like the ICF house, also offers significant long-term energy savings. How quickly you can construct a precast home is another important advantage over other types of construction. A well-organized builder can put up the shell of a typical precast house, comprising as many as 80 panels, in about a week. This means the house is finished faster and the owner can move in sooner.

Precast panels withstand Mother Nature

The TriDiPanel building system has been put to the test in earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and fires numerous times. The system consists of two layers of reinforced steel mesh that are joined by truss wires that pierce the thermal core. Once concrete is applied, it is stronger than masonry and faster than wood frame, and the concrete never looked better on the outside. Insteel PanelMex, +52 686-563-6100,

Wall panels for any need

Sturdy and straight, Spancrete's architectural wall panels are available in a variety of widths and thicknesses to meet almost any need. Whether used for shear walls, load-bearing, interior or exterior walls, the panels are engineered for structural integrity and beauty. Different types of insulation are also available. Spancrete Machinery Corp., 414-290-9000,

Precast wall panels with carbon fiber grid

An alternative for conventional pre-cast, tilt-up or masonry construction, CarbonCast precast concrete technology uses a non-corrosive, high-strength carbon fiber grid to replace conventional reinforcement. The insulated wall panels have 4-inch outer and inner wythes encasing 4 inches of foam insulation for a healthy R-16 value. The carbon fiber grid connects the inner and outer wythes to yield a 100% structurally composite panel. AltusGroup Inc., 866-462-5887,

Custom steel-framed wall system

The Ecolite lightweight cellular concrete wall is a non-modular system for applying concrete to any steel frame. With no restrictions on dimensions or placement of windows and doors, the panels are custom-made to engineer's specifications for complete architectural flexibility. Fabrication time is reduced by as much as 60%, and skilled framers are not required for installation. Ecolite Concrete USA. 760-494-3291.

Extra insulation for added warmth

The new Xi wall system stands for extra insulation. It comes with 2.5 inches of polystyrene foam insulation for extra warmth and energy efficiency. It also features special high-strength, low-water-content concrete mix, which means no additional dampproofing is necessary. The corners, stud, and bond beam are all insulated, and special engineering makes the wall thermally isolated from exterior elements. Superior Walls of America Ltd., 800-452-9255,