Two overriding concepts that will also propel tilt-up construction to future growth are sustained quality and increased technology. The success of the ACI/TCA joint certification program indicates positive steps toward quality construction. To date, more than 700 people have passed the certification exam. More than 500 certified technicians and nearly 200 tilt-up supervisors are now working on tilt-up jobsites around the United States and in Canada.
Still, increasing technology is of little value if it doesn't improve the design or construction processes. As projects continue to become more and more complicated, it will be important to use technology to communicate between team members and explain the building process to owners. Enhancing technology should facilitate coordination and add efficiency to the entire process, not bog the entire team down in details. 3-D modeling technology is one example of leveraging technological advancements to simplify coordination and better explain project details.
Technology is also impacting tilt-up in the field. Besides the expanding array of products for architectural treatments, the construction process is being enhanced with the introduction of adhesives for securing panel edge forms and rustication. New braces to support taller panels, larger cranes, temporary helical anchors and a wide array of communication and data transfer technologies — just to name a few — are now available.
A number of other factors will also keep the tilt-up industry growing into the foreseeable future. After an oversaturation of the market, big box warehouses will cycle back, as retailers face increasing demands for distribution space. Newer tilt-up markets, such as religious and educational, will become established, reducing the resistance of building owners.
With the forces of terrorism and Mother Nature as a prime concern throughout the nation, security and durability of structures is paramount. No other method can attest to the durability that tilt-up has proven. Just ask people in Florida who flocked into tilt-up buildings during the 2004 hurricane season.
Maintaining a future as bright as tilt-up's will take work, as other building methods will strive to steal our market share. But, the opportunities for growth into new markets and the possibilities for increased architectural sophistication will help tilt-up maintain its position as a leading construction method. I can't wait to see what the tilt-up industry does in the next 20 years.
TCA celebrates 20 years
The Tilt-Up Concrete Association was formed in 1986 by a small group of industry professionals that realized the need for an organization devoted to the interests of the tilt-up concrete industry. Though the organization started small, TCA has since grown to become an influential trade association that serves as the industry voice of site cast tilt-up construction, with more than 450 members in 44 states and 13 countries.
Tilt-up construction is a method in which concrete wall panels are cast on-site and tilted into place. The origins of tilt-up can be traced back to a quote by Thomas Edison in 1903 stating, "Tilt-up construction eliminates the costly, cumbersome practice of erecting two wooden walls to get one concrete wall." Considered the father of tilt-up, Robert Aiken began using this method around the turn of the 20th century. Constructed in 1918 by Aiken, the Zion United Methodist Church located in Zion, Ill., still stands today and serves as a testament to the strength and durability of the tilt-up method.
The original idea for TCA came from an employee of the Portland Cement Association, Don Musser, who later became the first executive director of the association. In addition to PCA, other industry trade organizations saw the need for an organized tilt-up organization. The Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute and the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association each gave funds over a three-year period to help get the movement started. They also provided support by sending representatives from their respective organizations to board meetings to help provide direction.
The organization's original mission was to provide input to code bodies, develop technical information to meet the needs of the tilt-up industry, and promote the benefits of tilt-up. It did not take long for TCA to begin meeting its goals — the first technical publication, "Tilt-Up Tips," and the first promotional brochure were both published in 1987-1988.