Educational Opportunities

Tilt-up the solution for quick school construction.

As our country continues to grow, one area that is feeling the pinch of expanding neighborhoods is school districts.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, total public and private elementary and secondary school enrollment reached a record 54 million in fall 2001, with an increase of 5 percent expected by 2013. These statistics demonstrate the tremendous opportunity available to designers and contractors who can meet the needs of today’s educational facilities on a tight schedule. This year’s winners in the educational category of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association (TCA) Achievement Awards prove the viability of tilt-up in this marketplace and highlight the benefits that the medium brings to today’s schools.

Expanding to serve community

Receiving tremendous support from the community, the 29,444-sq.-ft. addition to St. Anthony High School in Effingham, Ill., created a secure entrance with more classroom space, a 400-seat multipurpose room and a 2,100-seat gymnasium. Tilt-up was selected for its speed, strength and thermal properties. Two of the most aesthetically pleasing elements of this project are the integration between tilt-up and glass, as well as the successful balance between exposed concrete and brick.

Numerous offsets and corners, as well as two elevations of embedded steel for connections of mezzanine and roof structures, added to the complexity of this project. The building has a tremendous amount of curved window and door openings. Four different panel thicknesses were used throughout the building. Panels had to be stack-cast three high because only a minimum amount of floor space was available. Brick and EIFS were used on the exterior, but most of the interior walls were painted.

Creating a campus

Leander Independent School District in Cedar Park, Texas, required a campus-style high school that is reflective of a junior college designed for 2,400 students. The 387,528-sq.-ft. Vista Ridge High School was to be built in one phase that integrated an innovative mechanical system into the structure. The owner cited multiple reasons for selecting tilt-up, including speed of construction, cost-effectiveness, long-term durability, structural integrity, improved fire resistance, simplified architectural details and improved integrity of the exterior building envelope.

Architectural treatments included a variety of cast-in reveals – straight, curved, “V”-shaped and rectilinear, as well as receivers for masonry and cast stone. A host of open shapes – square, arched and pointed – with integrated chamfers and reveals were major elements in the architectural concept. In addition to the two-tone color scheme, both rock-faced and burnished masonry with cast stone accents were used to add visual interest to the exterior.

The project had a high degree of complexity that included multiple buildings with a variety of reveals, applied architectural features, exterior mechanical and electrical systems, limited casting space, precise elevation requirements for tie-in to structural steel elements and hipped-steel connections. It required placement of curved reveals that mimicked the arches corresponding to adjacent window openings. Adding to the level of complexity was the coordination of more than 300 window and door openings, as well as countless mechanical and electrical penetrations and stub-outs.

Meeting a tight schedule

Familiar with the benefits of tilt-up construction, the Central West Palm Beach School District in Wellington, Fla., selected the construction method for the 256,000-sq.-ft. high school, because of its need for cost-effective and durable facilities completed in a short time frame. The project boasts interesting detailing, and canopies and exterior walkways that broke down the scale of the project (see photo p. 15).

This project involved nine buildings clustered together on a tight site. The challenges included staging so many structures in such a tight space while adhering to an unheard of schedule – 18 weeks for shell construction of all nine structures. Each structure has its own unique attributes, five are multistory, and the auditorium presented special challenges with sloped floors and 50-ft. ceilings in the gymnasium. Although construction began in the summer of 2002, all nine structures were completed in time for the 2003 school year. Tilt-up allowed the school board to respond to the growing community and provide an educational venue for approximately 1,200 students.

A variety of cast-in form liners added relief to the large structures. One of the ribbed form liners was used in a diagonal fashion to achieve a herringbone pattern. The form liner work was extensive and complex, requiring great attention to detail. Further, visual interest was created by casting themed motifs – about 4 ft. in diameter – that correspond with the building’s purpose.

Getting up to speed

The original Hoover High School Gymnasium in Fresno, Calif., was constructed in 1963 and was characterized as being undersized from the day it opened. Further, not only was the gym too small, it was inaccessible to the physically disabled, which made the need for a new gymnasium critical.

The 27,522-sq.-ft. addition was designed to tie in with the existing gym to create an “Event Center.” Tilt-up was selected for its attributes of low-maintenance, durability and fire-resistance, as well as the need to match the construction of the existing gym. Great use of the juxtaposition of elements and materials made this project stand out in the competition.

Since the new gymnasium was built adjacent to the original facility, the team worked to incorporate a solution that successfully de-emphasized the existing entry to the old gym by providing a new curvilinear raised concrete planter that redirects the circulation pattern. This planter area is landscaped with a row of coast redwood trees to further act as a visual screen of the old entry, which now becomes a secondary entrance to be used only by the students and staff.

Tilt-up concrete construction was selected because it provided a clean facility without numerous interior columns. To minimize the visual impact a big box gymnasium would have on the school, trapezoidal flutes and reveals were utilized to create patterns in the concrete, breaking down the box. With seating for more than 2,800 students with folding chairs on the court, the event center has become the meeting place for districtwide functions that require a large seating capacity.

Ed Sauter is the executive director of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association. This article is the fifth in a year-long series on the applicability of the growing site-cast tilt-up method for a variety of end-use markets. For more information about the TCA and this year’s award winners, visit or contact Ed Sauter at (319) 895-6911 or