Tilt-up construction is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States, with more than 15 percent of industrial buildings in the US built with this method. It’s no surprise that this innovative method of construction is becoming so popular; there are many advantages in terms of cost and time on any given project.
Tilt-up construction methods are continuing to evolve, incorporating new materials and techniques as they become available. A newer concrete technology—Ultra-High Performance Concrete—is one of the innovative materials being used in tilt-up concrete construction, making it even better than before.
A quick overview of tilt-up construction
Tilt-up construction has been around for over a century. It began to gain traction in the 1940s when a labor shortage during World War II demanded less labor-intensive (and more efficient) methods of construction.
As its name implies, this approach involves pouring slabs for the tilt-up concrete walls at the job site horizontally. Once set, the walls are raised into position and placed on foundational footings to form the exterior walls of the structure. Each panel is braced until the roof joins the entire structure together.
Tilt-up wall construction has been most commonly used for large structures such as warehouses, but it is now being used for just about any type of building, including office buildings, schools, and even churches.
Benefits of tilt-up concrete construction
This method requires less skill from your construction team and fewer people. It only takes a few workers to pour the slab walls and a crane operator to lift them into place. Scaffolding is not needed. As a general rule, as square footage increases, tilt-up construction becomes more economical.
Tilt-up concrete walls can be built quickly, so structures go up faster. Walls are tilted into place after just a few days of curing and placement is less labor-intensive than other construction methods.
When structures are enclosed more quickly, workers and their tools are protected from the elements. This makes the overall project less susceptible to inclement weather.
An example of the time gained with tilt-up is visible in a school building project. The team was able to make up for a delayed start and still finish on time thanks to tilt-up concrete construction.
Reinforced concrete has excellent insulating properties, especially when compared to the alternatives of steel and wood. Energy is also saved in the manufacturing process. Concrete walls are easier to produce, requiring less physical labor and equipment.
Tilt-up walls create less waste, making them better for the environment. Should a building be taken down, these kinds of walls can be recycled.
Tilt-up concrete construction walls do not have to be plain and boring. Various textures and surface effects can be done during casting, and tilt-up walls can be covered in almost any type of exterior siding.
During a recent project in Dallas, a brick wall façade was “snapped on” during the tilt wall construction process.
Disadvantages of tilt-up construction
There are not many disadvantages to tilt-up construction, but you should be aware of a few potential constraints:
Lack of architectural design
Tilt-up walls are perfect when your building consists of traditional square or rectangular structures. More complex designs are not typically well-suited for this approach, although progress is now being made in this area, with the use of a new concrete material—UHPC.
The worksite needs a certain amount of space so tilt-up walls can be poured and cured horizontally. There are instances where the worksite simply makes tilt-up construction not an option, namely sites with little to no free square footage to pour panels and allow them to cure.
How UHPC is revolutionizing tilt-up concrete construction
As an innovative construction method, tilt-up construction is always evolving, and new processes are being incorporated that provide even more benefits to the construction process. The use of Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC) in tilt-up buildings is one of the latest innovations being introduced.
UHPC is a new concrete technology that is extremely strong and durable. The unique properties of UHPC add to the list of benefits of tilt-up construction.
Incredible strength and durability
As tilt-up walls are used in larger high-rise buildings, the concrete walls become important load-bearing structural components. UHPC makes this possible, with a compressive strength of 30,000 pounds per square inch (psi). Some mixes can achieve 50,000 psi.
Compare these numbers to traditional concrete’s compressive strength of 4,000 psi, and it is obvious why UHPC is the best choice for tilt-up construction. UHPC has a longer useful life than regular concrete, with an estimated longevity exceeding 75 years. The use of UHPC concrete in tilt-up construction increases the life of the structure.
Fast curing time
Tilt-up walls should not lay around the worksite for too long. They are often moved into place after just a few days of curing. UHPC generally produces half-strength in just five to seven days.
This half-strength is already three to four times as strong as traditional concrete after it is fully cured. UHPC increases the safety of tilt-up construction and keeps the process moving quickly, while meeting the required compressive strength for structural stability.
Fewer material requirements
The strength of UHPC allows for walls to be thinner while still delivering more support. Less material delivers cost savings and allows for more space within the building itself.
UHPC can be constructed in thin sections, which allows for the precise replication of architectural design elements. This makes it possible to use the tilt-up method in structures with a more complex design element.
UHPC has a higher density than regular concrete. Tilt-up walls made with UHPC are virtually impervious to water.
Concrete wall panels made with UHPC can be 25-33 percent thinner (and therefore lighter) than those constructed with traditional concrete. Lifting and placing UHPC tilt-up walls into place is easier and less dangerous.
UHPC (unlike traditional concrete) is ideal for the application of adhesive bonding. Joining tilt-up panels together is more secure, and there are many options for adhering various external finished onto UHPC panels.
UHPC can absorb three times the amount of energy as regular concrete, providing greater protection from earthquake damage. This is particularly important for high-rise buildings constructed with the tilt-up method.
Tilt-up concrete construction has been saving money and reducing construction time for quite some time. The introduction of UHPC into the tilt-up process brings new benefits, including improved strength and durability, walls that are lighter and require less material, and the option to incorporate architectural design into tilt-up walls.
UHPC tilt-up construction makes it possible for buildings to go even higher without losing strength.
Photo provided by Peter Buitelaar Consultancy and design by FDN in Eindhoven the Netherlands.