With many other forms of construction, contractors are juggling the ordering, arrival, storage, installation and finishing of a multitude of products. Each one of these steps or items creates opportunities for lost time and mistakes. With tilt-up, there are minimal products to coordinate, virtually no on-site storage needs, and, because of the time dedicated to meticulous planning, very little opportunity for mistakes.
With this speed comes a need for planning. Constructing a tilt-up building takes an extraordinary amount of planning to achieve precise execution. Because of the size of the panels and the typical sequencing of the job, every effort must be made to ensure the panels are appropriately laid out and located for efficient movement during the erection stage.
Before placing even one foot of formwork, hours of thought go into panel layout diagrams. These diagrams are designed to inform the exact location of each panel construction. They ensure the forming and casting processes are happening in harmony with other efforts being conducted on site. Panel layout diagrams are also critical in maximizing the efficiency of the crane and the uninterrupted placement of panels in a manner that is safe and physically possible.
The attention to detail and demand for precision does not stop after the planning stages. These up-front efforts create an on site environment of accountability, knowledge, confidence and focus.
With panels measuring upwards of 100 feet tall, the demand for a consistently spaced vertical joint is no small task. Typically the joint between panels is a consistent ¾ inch. However, there are contractors (or architects) that insist on maintaining a standard ½-inch joint between panels. They insist that it looks nicer, provides the owner with an even tighter building and reduces the amount of sealant needed on the job. Understanding the difficulty in achieving these extremely tight tolerances over such a long distance, one can appreciate the extra time put in during the forming phase to ensure dimensional accuracy.
The fluidity of concrete. Concrete as a building material with measurable and adjustable flowability can be cast into virtually any shape creating an infinite number of project solutions. Therefore, tilt-up is uniquely positioned to utilize the distinct advantages of concrete. Additionally, it provides opportunities for cast-in elements and relief.
Working horizontally has its advantages. Because tilt-up panels are formed and cast horizontally, there are endless opportunities for unique forms and innovative textures. The distinctive project solutions offered through tilt-up craftsmanship are evidenced throughout the Tilt-Up Concrete Association’s (TCA) Tilt-Up Achievement Awards Program.
The ability to easily deliver form creativity is one of many attributes of tilt-up construction contributing to the resurgence of craft. The form of a tilt-up panel can be manipulated in plan, elevation or both. Curved, angled and shaped panels are regularly used and offer designers flexibility not economically practical on most projects.
The panel’s shape is not the only aspect that can easily be manipulated. With only the edge to form, both the casting surface and the exposed face of the panel remain very accessible and can be easily affected to produce extremely unique finishes. From exposed aggregate to polished to tabby stucco and natural earthen finishes, there are absolutely no limitations beyond the contractor’s and designer’s imaginations … or project budget, of course.
The best part of all of this is that virtually anything is developable. That is to say not only is it possible to achieve these forms and finishes, it is practical. From the beginning, even on very complex projects, the contractor is set up for success. The confidence gained from knowing this challenges designers and contractors to continue to exceed expectations and, therefore, develop the foundation for pride.
It is clear that there are things happening within the industry that are unlike any other. The rate at which the quality of the design and construction of tilt-up buildings is improving is astonishing. Each year, there are projects that break new ground with a unique finish, an unbelievable form, incredible size, incredible speed and new applications. Craftsmanship and pride in the industry continues to soar as tilt-up concrete construction becomes the answer for more projects.