Tilt-up Construction: A General Contractor's Approach to Innovative Commercial Building Construction
Have you ever driven past a construction site and seen massive cranes lifting huge panels of concrete in the air? Have you watched with amazement as a new commercial building seems to spring into place, almost overnight? What you have witnessed is tilt-up construction, an innovative method for building office buildings, retail centers, warehouses, distribution centers, call centers, manufacturing facilities and other commercial / industrial structures with amazing speed, safety, and cost benefits.
So what is the difference between tilt-up and other types of construction?
In traditional forms of wall construction, the walls can be built with CMU blocks or blocks faced with brick. For some types of buildings, the exterior wall is made up of structural steel columns with heavy gauge metal studs covered with gyp sheathing, which is then faced with brick or stucco. Regardless which traditional approach is used, building the exterior walls is a time-consuming, multi-stepped process. A tilt-up building's walls are created horizontally in large slabs of concrete called panels. The panels are then lifted, or tilted up, into position around the building's slab. This means the tilt-up structure's exterior wall is virtually finished when it is tilted into place.
Tilt-up construction (also called tiltwall or tilt wall construction) has a long history, but its widespread use is a relatively new phenomenon. In spite of this, tilt-up construction is fast becoming the method of choice for constructing modern warehouses, call centers, distribution centers, retail stores, office and storage buildings and other types of industrial and commercial facilities
Why Does ECSI Choose Tilt-up Construction?
Tilt-up construction provides numerous advantages over steel buildings or traditional construction for warehouses, call centers, distribution centers, retail stores, office buildings, storage facilities and other types of industrial and commercial building construction projects. Generally speaking, a one- to two-story structure larger than 50,000 square feet with less than 50% wall opening space is an excellent candidate for tilt-up concrete construction.
But what are the advantages?
Savings in Construction Costs - Tilt-up construction provides numerous construction cost savings. This method of concrete construction uses locally available materials rather than ones that must be manufactured and shipped in. This means that raw material costs are lower, available when needed and less prone to price fluctuations. Tilt-up work crews are typically smaller than the crews used in traditional construction and are normally comprised of local labor. That translates to reduced labor costs. Because of the economies of scale, the larger the footprint for the building, the more these savings improve the project's total cost.
Fast Construction Schedule - Tilt-up construction offers several opportunities to "compress" the schedule and deliver the building very quickly. Erecting the walls with tilt-up panels is faster than building walls using traditional construction techniques. The trades can begin work earlier in the process on a tilt-up project, which allows greater overlapping of project phases. Because the building is made of ready-mix concrete from local sources, the project is less likely to be affected by transportation delays as well. All these factors provide for a faster, more predictable schedule with fewer opportunities for delays and associated cost overruns.
Safety - Tilt-up concrete is a proven, safe method of construction. The vast majority of the project takes place on the ground rather than on scaffolding, reducing many of these risks normally faced by workers.
Aesthetics - Tilt-up concrete buildings are not prefabricated. Each one is custom-designed for the client's needs and preferences. A full range of building finishes, wall textures and adornments, colors, even curved walls, are available with this method. Tilt-up construction provides architects and designers with virtually unlimited flexibility in crafting a building that is functional, durable and aesthetically pleasing.
The benefits of a project built with tilt-up construction continue long after it is completed:
Durability - Tilt-up concrete buildings are extremely durable. Many structures created in the 1940s are still in operation today, with little apparent wear. A testament to the strength of tilt-up construction, general contractors in earthquake-prone California now use this method for 90% of their one-story industrial building projects.
Fire Safety - The concrete used in tilt-up panels meets the fire-resistance standards of even the most demanding building codes. For example, a 6.5" concrete wall offers a fire resistance rating of four hours or more. Tilt-up panels are also frequently used in the building's interior as fire walls. Tilt-up buildings offer real protection and safety for their tenants' employees, property and ongoing operations.
Ease of Maintenance - Tilt-up construction buildings require little in the way of ongoing maintenance, outside of periodic cleaning and repainting as desired. Concrete is impervious to insect or rodent infestation, so this problem becomes a relative non-issue as well.
Repairs and Expandability - In the event a wall is damaged by a forklift or truck, damages are typically more localized on a panel than in other types of structures, like steel buildings. Also, the modular design of the panels allows for easier repairs and expansion of the building.
Security - Facilities that require positive security and management of the interior environment - prisons, classified manufacturing facilities, businesses with clean rooms - will appreciate the strength and control afforded by concrete and tilt-up buildings.
Reduced Insurance Premiums - Because tilt-up concrete buildings have superior fire resistance ratings and have been proven to withstand severe weather and earthquakes, these cement buildings typically enjoy better insurance rates than steel buildings or other types of structures.
Reduced Operating Costs - Concrete provides excellent insulation, reducing the ongoing heating and cooling costs for the tenant. This insulation extends to sound as well as temperature. Workers in a tilt-up office building located in a noisy area will be less affected by the environment. By the same token, a manufacturing business that generates noise will have less effect on its neighbors and will find it easier to comply with local noise ordinances.
With a better understanding of these benefits, it's easy to see why many design / build contractors, construction managers and savvy building owners are opting for tilt-up over steel buildings or traditional construction for commercial building construction projects. Delivering value, speed and responsiveness, quality, durability, reduced construction costs, and ongoing cost savings in operating expenses, tilt-up construction is the best choice for a wide range of commercial construction projects.
Engineered Construction Systems, Inc. 440 Lipan Street Denver, Colorado 80204 (303) 477-8110 (303) 477-8020 fax