Gretchen Salois headshot
From the
Senior Editor
Gretchen Salois
Swift & solid

hroughout the country, architects are seriously considering Speedcore technology for their building projects. This recently developed prefabricated system changes how designers, engineers and construction teams approach a project by shifting away from traditional reinforced concrete structures.

This month’s cover story (page 16) focuses on Rainier Square Tower in Seattle which, despite a crane operator strike, viaduct closure and inclement weather, still met its August 2019 timeline. Now, teams are finishing the base of the building and all interior work. With SpeedCore, there is no foundation lay-down stage, where concrete is poured and builders must wait weeks for it to sufficiently harden. Instead, two steel plates are set 24 in. apart by smooth steel bars, which are installed as part of a concrete-filled panel.

The technology isn’t limited to high-rise buildings. In areas prone to earthquakes, SpeedCore allows developers to create a strong structure with more design options. For example, to respond to seismic shifts in California, buildings constructed using SpeedCore are no longer limited to 5- to 6-ft.-thick concrete walls. Instead, steel panels make 3.5-ft.-thick walls possible. Whereas a traditional steel-reinforced concrete foundation requires heavier walls for stability, SpeedCore’s panels leave no way for the concrete to escape, ensuring its strength.

Other challenges builders faced using prior methods can now be approached differently. With proper planning, concerns such as openings and embeds are no longer solved on site, says Lawrence Kruth, vice president of engineering and research at the American Institute of Steel Construction. “Instead, these openings and embeds can be fabricated into the panel before shipping. Ultimately, this moves a portion of site work previously performed by the concrete subcontractor into the scope of the fabricator, to the benefit of the project,” Kruth says.

Inevitably, as construction progresses, there are often some beams connected to embed plates (steel placed by the general contractor or concrete contractor) that are misplaced, which must later be realigned.

“Because the erection process is all-in-one and not intermittent concrete walls and rebar, all the pieces are placed [as diagrammed] and there is no chance for misalignment,” explains Ron Klemencic, chairman and CEO of Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA), which designed Rainier Square Tower along with architectural firm NBBJ. “That tolerance bust goes away. Instead of having to fix hundreds of steel beam issues, we eliminate that number to zero.”

Future projects will have even more options compared to those available for Rainier Square Tower. With each new build, researchers find new ways to advance SpeedCore. Types of paneling used, coatings such as fire protectants and design plans given the thinner wall requirements for earthquake zones are some functions where SpeedCore is having a beneficial impact.

MKA is working with several fabricators to invent a bolted steel splice method, which would reduce the need to weld on job sites. Notes Klemencic, “Finding reliable welders is a problem throughout the world.”

Fabricators have an opportunity to learn more about SpeedCore and adopt the technology. Failure to acknowledge such a breakthrough will leave naysayers scrambling to catch up. FFJ encourages skeptics to ask their valid questions now and discover some perhaps surprising answers.