In Europe — where wood-frame construction is an anomaly rather than the norm — precast concrete panels have been used for residential construction for at least a couple of decades. In the U.S., they're more commonly associated with commercial projects, from office buildings, dorms, and parking garages to multifamily housing. But as concrete construction (a category that includes ICFs, masonry and block, and tilt-up panels) becomes increasingly popular, more and more precast plants are marketing their products to developers and custom-home builders.

Once you get past the fact that you can't cut it with a Skilsaw, there's a lot to like about precast concrete. Like SIPs, the engineered panels are manufactured under controlled conditions and are therefore predictably strong, and they can be quickly assembled with minimal skilled labor, even in bad weather. Moreover, they're fire- and...

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