Architectural Precast Innovations, Inc.
A history of trust
Business View Magazine interviews Stephen Kenepp, Pres./CEO of Architectural Precast Innovations, Inc., for our focus on Precast Construction in the U.S.
Architectural Precast Innovations, Inc. (API) is a family-owned precast concrete manufacturer based in Middleburg, Pennsylvania. Specializing in manufacturing architectural precast concrete products, it is one of the leading architectural precast suppliers in the Mid-Atlantic region. The company’s primary markets include its home base of Pennsylvania and adjacent Mid-Atlantic states of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, and West Virginia. API supplies precast concrete products to several sectors within these core markets, including education, commercial, healthcare, and residential.
As a specialized manufacturer of customized precast concrete products, the 58-year-old company partners with general contractors, engineers, and other trade companies on large projects across its target markets. API’s long history of service excellence has cemented its position and reputation as one of the most trusted precast concrete manufacturers in the region.
Architectural Precast Innovations was founded in 1963 as Beavertown Cast Stone. As a pioneering precast concrete company, it undertook several landmark projects just a few years after its inception, such as the Chemung Canal Trust Company building in Elmira, New York, in 1971. The company’s next signature project was Penn State University’s Beaver Stadium at State College, PA, which underwent significant precast concrete renovations in 1980.
In 1993, Beavertown Cast Stone became Architectural Precast, Inc., a transformation that would lay the foundation for the next chapter in its history. The new company’s inaugural project was the signature Samuel A. Ramirez building, an iconic building in Manhattan’s trendy Tribeca district that blends modern materials with the area’s pre-war warehouse architecture. Architectural Precast, Inc. was purchased by US Concrete in 2008 and rebranded to US Concrete Precast Group. The new entity, part of US Concrete’s national network of companies, would undertake two significant projects, student residences at Binghampton University in 2012, and Long Beach boardwalk, New York in 2013. In the same year that they built the boardwalk, the company celebrated half a century in business.
In 2015, Architectural Precast Innovations, Inc. purchased US Concrete Precast Group from US Concrete, rebranding it to its current name, Architectural Precast Innovations. “We manufacture a combination of structural and architectural precast concrete products,” says Stephen Kenepp, President and CEO of Architectural Precast Innovations. “However, our primary market niche is in high-end architectural precast concrete production.” API manufactures a wide range of products straddling structural and architectural applications. Its structural precast concrete products include beams, columns, insulated wall panels, shear walls, and floor and roof slabs. For its architectural products line, the company offers facades, finishes, replicas, column covers, wall panels, thin wall panels, and stairs and landings.
Wall panels have the highest demand across the company’s product portfolio. According to Kristen Kratzer, Marketing Assistant at Architectural Precast Innovations, “Most of our work involves manufacturing custom wall panels, including thin wall panels. If it is a LEED-certified building, we’ll supply insulated wall panels.” For added aesthetics, the company offers a range of designs. “We offer up to three colors for our precast products besides using various techniques to change the appearance of the finished product,” says Kratzer. “For instance, we can sandblast the concrete to expose the aggregate, or use acid etching or epoxy to corrode the concrete when it’s poured into a mold.”
Architectural Precast Innovations has managed to specialize in manufacturing highly customized precast concrete products by focusing only on manufacturing. “We don’t have in-house engineers,” shares Kenepp. “We work with engineering firms who specialize in engineering precast concrete products, something that helps us focus on what we do best – manufacturing.” He further explains that the company relies on contractors for transport and installation, freeing them to focus on the manufacturing process.
The company currently has around 83 employees, including part-time workers. This team comprises a mix of tradespeople and project managers, primarily from technical training colleges in the area. “We also offer continuing inhouse education to our employees,” Kratzer adds, “using knowledge transfer methods like training trainers, offering in-house certifications, and supporting the OSHA certification of our employees.”
API’s state-of-the-art manufacturing plant is housed on a 32-acre parcel of land in the heart of central Pennsylvania. The plant is PCI Certified, meaning it has undergone and passed at least two random annual audits carried out by the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI). This certification, alongside CEO Kenepp’s active participation in the Mid-Atlantic Precast Association and PCI, have placed the company at the forefront of advancements in the precast concrete industry. Further underpinning its commitment to quality manufacturing, the company works with quality control technicians with certifications from both PCI and the American Concrete Institute (ACI). “Although there is a lot of competition in the precast concrete industry,” avers Kratzer, “we stand out due to our commitment to upholding the highest industry standards, plus our focus on fine-tuning our manufacturing processes.”
Close to sixty years of manufacturing precast concrete has led Architectural Precast Innovations to interesting projects. Kratzer notes, “One Willoughby Square is one of the more recent projects we completed that stands out. It’s unique because it has cobalt blue brick set within black concrete.” The apartment building is located on Duffield Street in Brooklyn, New York. Another standout project the company has undertaken recently is the AriZona Iced Tea bottling facility in Woodbridge, New Jersey. “This project was particularly interesting because we built a precast concrete façade that looks like the AriZona Iced Tea logo,” says Kratzer.
Such beautiful outcomes are a testament to the company’s commitment to working with customers to find the best solutions. Once they engage with a client, the first step is to determine their needs. For architectural products, part of the process involves working with the architect of record – two things that have helped the company successfully achieve success with such major protects.
Speaking to how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the construction industry, Kenepp is optimistic. He relates, “We have not missed a beat on the production side during the pandemic. We had some disruption due to some job sites being closed down but manufacturing continued.” In most states, the construction industry was deemed essential, and Pennsylvania was no different. Because some of API’s past work involved healthcare and power plant facilities, the firm was deemed an essential service and allowed to remain open and working.
Besides state mandates, Kenepp also believes that the plant’s location has something to do with the company being spared the worst of the pandemic’s effects. He shares, “We’re in central PA, and where the plant is located has been isolated, a very fortunate factor that has meant we’ve had almost no COVID-19 cases in our area. Nevertheless, we still took steps to help employees cope. At the beginning of the pandemic, we told our employees that if anyone was not comfortable coming to work, we would allow them to take time off without penalty. Several employees with immunocompromised children or elderly family members took up the offer.”
Gazing into the future, Architectural Precast Innovations sees a bright future with expanding growth opportunities. “Technology is a major focus for us as we advance,” says Kratzer. “We recently invested in an RFID tracking system specific to the concrete industry, and we are planning to continue investing in similar technologies.” The company also recently switched from liquid dyes to granular dyes to keep in step with industry advancements and develop a more efficient manufacturing process.
“We also plan to keep up with all our certifications, especially the changing PCI certification standards, which will make the certification process more rigorous,” says Kratzer. She believes keeping up with changing standards will mean that API will continue to meet and exceed the industry’s highest and most exacting standards.
AT A GLANCE
Architectural Precast Innovations, Inc.
What: Manufacturer of customized precast concrete products
Where: Middleburg, Pennsylvania