Hickey notes that contractors can use their time to promote tilt-up to new owners, designers and untapped industries in their region, including schools, religious institutions, government agencies or other sectors that have been injected with stimulus funds. "It is critical to a contractor's success to follow and try to predict who will be obtaining funding," he says.
In addition to refining internal processes and pursuing stimulus projects, many contractors are diversifying their service offerings. "In recent months, I have heard of many contractors expanding their services beyond tilt-up," MacKinnon says. "For example, some are now shifting focus to placing and finishing slabs/flatwork, performing foundation work or elevated concrete. Diversification is key to surviving this downturn and most contractors are embracing this through expanded services or simply pursuing work beyond their typical geographic area."
Why tilt-up in this economy?
For decades, tilt-up has been a sought after construction method for projects with tight schedules and budgets. This economic climate is pushing margins even tighter, and tilt-up offers several advantages that are attractive to owners and developers. By using tilt-up, contractors have greater control of the schedule because they are not dependent on subcontractors. Construction starts while design is still in progress. Tilt-up allows trades to work on the facility sooner, provides a slab for a work area for more efficiency and many phases can proceed simultaneously. Tilt-up has long-term advantages in terms of durability and low maintenance.
"The tilt-up industry has adjusted and reacted to the changing market conditions with lower and more competitive material and labor pricing," MacKinnon says. "Coupled with speed, tilt-up is a very attractive option to fiscally-minded owners."
MacKinnon also notes they have seen more decisions being made with regard to speed of construction and schedule, rather than simply pricing, since owners have to spend more time preparing for a project in terms of procuring financing, securing approvals through municipalities, etc.
"It is important to note that many owners are keenly aware of the current market's financial benefits and do not want to miss a good deal," MacKinnon says. "The faster they can get a project built, the more money they can save on capital expenditures and construction loans."
More than just a solution for buildings, tilt-up has also been successfully used for decades for non-traditional projects. "With much of the stimulus program funds going to infrastructure projects, tilt-up contractors can pursue projects including sitecast retaining walls, bridge components and other similar applications," Simmons says.
Many in the industry are beginning to see signs of recovery and are optimistic about the future. Contractors who have used the market downturn to refine their practices, pursue new business and market their firms will be well-poised for success during the recovery. The sitecast tilt-up industry has aggressively pursued new markets, including projects with sustainable goals, adaptive reuse and even small scale structures.
According to Sauter, now is the time to make the most out of association memberships and capitalize on their resources. "TCA understands the challenges facing our membership and has refined our message for venues such as the Annual Convention to address their concerns and provide them with valuable information to weather this storm," Sauter says. "TCA is developing new programs, including contractor certification, to allow tilt-up construction to better compete with other forms of construction."
Jim Baty is the technical director of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association. To learn more about tilt-up construction, visit www.tilt-up.org.