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Casting a new light on an old approach to building.

Tilt-up construction is a key technology for the building industry. With costs for labor and materials constantly rising and criteria to meet energy codes changing, site-cast tilt-up offers a cost-effective alternative. This method requires less forming and placing of material than conventional building methods and, in many ways, creates a better structure, faster.

Used on projects from 5,000 to 1.5 million square feet, the tilt-up system, also known as "site-cast tilt panels," offers quick delivery, cost effectiveness, and safety in the construction of low-rise buildings. Low maintenance costs and flexibility are also important key tilt-up attributes.

Tilt-up construction is not new to Goodman Associates of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. "For more than twenty-one years, we have been constructing manufacturing, industrial, and retail complexes using the tilt-up method," says Robert P. Goodman, president of Goodman Associates.

According to the Iowa-based industry trade group Tilt Up Association, smaller buildings represent a growing market for tilt-up. Until recently, a building of 20,000 square feet was considered the lower threshold at which tilt-up became cost effective. However, a number of contractors now, including Goodman Associates, are constructing buildings from 7,000 to 10,000 square feet at a competitive price. "Tilt-up buildings are competitive with concrete block buildings of the same size, and we are offering more opulent finishes that vie with costlier construction types, such as brick," explains Paul E. De Salvo, chief design engineer of Goodman Associates.

"When using tilt-up concrete instead of masonry construction, scaffolding is not needed and blocks do not have to be built up into place, because the work is conducted at grade," says De Salvo. "The absence of scaffolding provides an immediate cost savings. Time and material savings can cut approximately one-third from the total construction cost, depending on the height and square footage of the building."

Tilt-Up: Not a New Building Concept

The first tilt-up concrete applications were constructed in the early 20th century. Tilt-up was used more widely after World War II, when large cranes and ready-mix concrete became more available.

Tilt-up construction involves pouring concrete horizontally into wall forms on the ground at the project site, De Salvo explains. Panels are then tilted into position using cranes. Although the forms predominantly used are made of sealed wood, some steel forms are available. Steel forms are more durable, but have limited flexibility. Because there are no standard sizes for tilt-up panels, wood is much easier to produce forms of varying widths, heights, and thickness.

Most tilt-up buildings are designed as non-load-bearing wall systems, according to De Salvo. Walls are generally designed to span from the roof deck to the slab-on-grade floor. In multistory buildings, wall panels are generally designed to be pin-supported at each floor.

Sandwich Panels Increase Efficiency

Sandwich panel construction is a relatively new procedure for tilt-up construction. Although the application has been prevalent in precast buildings for some time, new developments have introduced the technique to tilt-up.

Innovations in tilt-up construction methods such as sandwich panel construction and new techniques to create surface textures have increased tilt-up's popularity for building types from only warehousing and manufacturing facilities to office, retail, and multifamily housing projects. In addition, improved erection techniques have boosted the system's use in multistory structures.

Advantage of Tilt-up Concrete Buildings

"Tilt-up construction had been used predominantly for warehousing, not for architectural expression" Goodman points out. "Now, with some preplanning, we are able to achieve a cost-effective architectural finish in distribution centers, retail, and office buildings."

With this type of construction, every step of the process must be preplanned and coordinated. "Timing is everything," Goodman emphasizes. "Actual on-site construction then proceeds with remarkable speed and efficiency."

Another advantage to tilt-up construction is that it allows Goodman Associates to rapidly complete the interior, which provides a faster occupancy for the owner. "While the assembly lines or registers are being installed and the shelves are being stocked with merchandise, we are completing the exterior work," De Salvo explains.

Goodman points out other advantages of tilt-up construction.

Economy: In most cases, tilt-up construction results in the lowest first cost. Ready mixed concrete is locally available and special labor skills are not required. With material readily available, delays are eliminated resulting in speedy construction and early occupancy.

Minimum Maintenance: The concrete surfaces can be left unpainted and are unaffected by moisture and weathering. Wall panels resist day-to-day contact damage, are impervious to rodents (especially important in food processing plants), and are easy to keep clean.

Architectural appearance: Limitless design freedom is afforded by surface colors and textures. Small changes in panel shape can enhance the appearance of the entire building.

Flexibility: Walls can be designed for easy removal and relocation for future additions.

Fire safety: Tilt-up walls attached to concrete columns are fire-resistant, meeting most code requirements, and allow closer spacing of buildings and reduction of fire insurance rates. Panels made of normal-weight concrete, five-inch thick, provide an equivalent fire endurance of two hours.

Other safety features: Vandalism and theft are discouraged because concrete is difficult to break through. Wall insulating panels also surpass Energy Code standards.

Style Finishes Eliminate Box-like Buildings

Tilt-up concrete construction should no longer be associated with gray, box-like buildings, according to Goodman. A variety of architectural options are available to distinguish the appearance of a tilt-up structure, including rustication, exposed aggregate, flat stone surfaces, dimpled surfaces, brick facing, curved surfaces, and trompe l'oeil.

Tilt-up Not Always Practical

When is tilt-up not considered an economic alternative to other types of construction? For example, short and low lineal foot wall buildings are less economical tilt-up candidates, according to De Salvo. A 40-foot-long, 8-foot-high wall would not justify the cost of setting up a crane on the site. However, if an 8-foot-high, 800-foot-long wall is required, the economic viability of tilt-up increases, he adds.

About Goodman Associates

Goodman Associates provides a design-build approach to construction that can save time and money on a building project and reduce the aggravation often associated with the construction process.

"Our approach is simple, yet effective," explains Goodman. "We design and build your project, letting us 'fast track' construction and rapidly adjust to changes while keeping your job on schedule and within budget."

Goodman Associates award-winning projects include office buildings, industrial facilities, shopping malls, chemical processing plants, convalescent homes, historical renovations, and educational facilities.

Robert P. Goodman President Goodman Associates
COPYRIGHT 1996 Frozen Food Digest, Inc.
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Title Annotation:tilt-up construction
Publication:Frozen Food Digest
Date:Feb 1, 1996
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