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Tilt-Up Myth Blasting

Tilt-Up is still an under-appreciated method

As a constructing method, Tilt-Up has only been around for a little more than a hundred years. And during that time, it’s been used in countless creative and innovative ways, but it still suffers from the hangover of starting out as the default method for huge single-story industrial structures.

It’s still hard to understand how some of the misconceptions about using tilt-up started. Maybe they’re purposely spread by users of competing methods. Maybe it’s just ignorance. Or, perhaps it’s because some designers and engineers don’t want their building to have anything in common with tight-budget, big-box construction.

“Tilt-Up quality is vulnerable to cold weather”

All types of construction methods used by contractors must bend to the will of Mother Nature during winter months to be sure that the quality of the structure isn’t compromised. But there’s a perception in some circles that Tilt-Up is particularly vulnerable

Truth: Current practices yield the required strength

Truth is, contractors that follow current best practices can take Mother Nature’s best shot and still win. If you adjust your concrete’s water-to-cementitious-materials mixture ratio, time your concrete delivery and placement for the day’s warmest temperature, you can preserve the integrity of your finished product. Some other ways you can control the quality of your placement’s outcome are by using radiant heating, tents and blankets. The key is to plan ahead.

Winter work: Holy Resurrection & St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church of Chicago

“Attainable height of Tilt-Up panels is very limited”

Some contractors are operating under the misconception that using Tilt-Up safely is limited to single-story or maybe two-story structures at the most. And if you go any higher you’re taking a very big risk.

Truth: Today’s Tilt-Up panels are reaching new heights

If this myth were true, it’s a sure thing that a Florida contractor would have never used a panel topping 110 feet in constructing a nine-story college student dorm. That one set a record. In fact, it’s not at all unusual to see multi-story office buildings or hotels that can reach heights from five to nearly ten floors. The size of panels on today’s tiltwall projects can vary widely with some jobs getting creative with panels stacked vertically in different ways. As long as you have appropriate bracing ready, getting the right crane for the job is your only limiting factor.

Tallest Tilt-Up: Biscayne Bay Campus of Florida International University – North Miami, FL.

“You need a large building site to use Tilt-Up.”

If your building site is on the small side or is sandwiched in between other buildings, this process is not going to work for you.

Truth: With the right plan, you can make it work.

You won’t have any problem at all if you have forty feet or so of room around the periphery of the building site. But if you don’t have that much room, you still have workable options. It’s not uncommon to lift panels directly from the interior of the building by driving the crane onto the slab. And if you have access to a longer boomed crane you can lift panels from the outside with limited space.

Subzero Cold Logistics, Campbell Heights Business Park in Surrey, British Columbia

“Insulation is a hassle with Tilt-Up panels”

There is a perception held by some that there aren’t insulation systems for Tilt-Up that are equivalent to ones commonly used in other construction methods.

Truth: Most insulation systems for other methods are Tilt-Up friendly

Just plain wrong on this one. Most insulation systems out there in use for cast-in-place, precast or even masonry projects are available for Tilt-Up use too. In some cases, there are even manufacturers that offer product that is specifically designed for Tilt-Up. You can even choose insulated sandwich panels for a simple, efficient way to meet International Energy Conservation Code requirements. If larger panels are being used, you’re going to get higher performance just because there will be fewer joints to worry about.

Workers with Bob Moore Construction install insulation on Tilt-Up sandwich panel

“Tilt-Up damage to the slab is unavoidable”

Some contractors think that slab repair is just extra work you have to be willing to accept when you choose to go the Tilt-Up route. When you use the slab as your casting or erecting platform, there are going to be issues, plus nails and other types of fasteners are just going to do their thing.

Truth: Prevent slab damage easily with the right plan

Although for some, the default way to do Tilt-Up is by using the slab as the casting and erecting platform, it’s by no means the only way available. In fact, if you and your team take a hard look at the situation, avoiding slab damage isn’t that hard to do. Depending on the limitations of your site you can avoid slab damage caused by crane operations by erecting panels from outside of the building. If you have more room than that, creating a casting slab is another option. And you can say goodbye to damage by nails and other fasteners by using high-tech adhesives like 3M’s Scotch-Weld™ HoldFast to attach reveal strips, chamfers, shoe plates, in-lays and form boards to the slab.

Getting forms ready for the next pour at the Centene Service Center – Ferguson, MO

“Boring designs are all you can do with Tilt-Up”

There are some architects that still think Tilt-Up doesn’t belong in the conversation when an important building is in its design stage. Forget those nice curved edges or arched windows or decorative textures. You get what you get with this method. It’s great for one-story retail or industrial needs, but that’s about it.

Truth: The only real limit is your form-building capability.

There are still architects and engineers that shudder when Tilt-Up is mentioned. But that’s just the lingering effect of Tilt-Up being the first design choice for big-box stores for so many years. The reality is, if you can build a form for your design, realizing it is only a concrete pour away. It’s that simple. You can even create concrete sculptures using Tilt-Up. Architects have used all kinds of effects to make panels that are aesthetically pleasing and fully functional. Eye catching finishes using exposed aggregate and thin brick or block are done all the time. Other options include using exotic textures like oyster shell. And even now, research is being done to develop capabilities as mind-blowing as a see-through panel!

Confluence Park, 310 W Mitchell St, San Antonio, TX 78204

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