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  Tilt-Up Is Looking Pretty in Wisconsin

Although a staple method of construction in many parts of this country and other nations, site cast Tilt-Up concrete is still underutilized and in some areas of the country yet unknown. Used since the turn of the century, today more than 15 percent of all industrial buildings are Tilt-Up, ranging in size from small footprints of 5,000 square feet or less to more than 1.5 million square feet. Beyond industrial facilities, Tilt-Up has been used for a broad range of projects – everything from religious institutions and schools to office buildings and homes. Those desiring aesthetic appeal, energy efficiency, long-term durability and a fast -track delivery understand that a system approach incorporating Tilt-Up delivers these elements and many more to a project. 

Tilt-Up construction had a record year for sales in the United States in 2005. With more than 753 million square feet of buildings (approximately 301 million square feet of wall panels) constructed using Tilt-Up in 2005, and approximately 664 million square feet of buildings (approximately 265 million square feet of wall panels) constructed in 2004, the industry experienced a growth rate of 13 percent in 2005. The annual growth rate is tracked by sales of lifting inserts, used to connect the crane to every Tilt-Up panel, making it the most reliable method of quantifying the number of panels and projects built each year. 

According to Ed Sauter, Executive Director of the TCA, the Tilt-Up construction method continues to gain market share for several reasons: speed of construction, advances in architectural treatments, and adaptability to markets such as schools, retail centers and office buildings.

“Exposure of what is possible with Tilt-Up today is clearly shown in the diversity of architectural expression and quality of projects submitted as part of the Tilt-Up Achievement Awards competition each year,” said Sauter. “The growth of site-cast Tilt-Up construction as a preferred building method will continue to grow as more and more owners are exposed to the benefits.” 

Architectural Finishes Aid Acceptance
Contractors worldwide now challenge today’s architects and designers to generate creative forms and aesthetics engaging a wider palate of technologies and processes. From architectural features such as cornice lines and accent bands to façade enhancements of thin brick, block, and stone, as well as a multitude of textured coatings, architects now have limitless possibilities for creating an aesthetically appealing structure. The ability to produce massive shapes including curves, arches and many replicated shapes has moved the construction method well beyond a limited application of “box”-type projects.

Thin Brick
One decorative architectural finish that has been popular with Tilt-Up concrete contractors for several years incorporates kiln-fired, one-half-inch thick bricks milled to tight tolerances with the exterior surface of the Tilt-Up panel. The bricks are placed onto the floor slab within the panel forms to build a brick wall horizontally on the casting bed. Several methods secure these bricks during concrete placement and create the “tooled” mortar joint look once the panel has been lifted into place. The faces of the brick are coated with a thin wax to prevent discoloration by the cement paste. The coating is power washed off after erection. Further, the brick has no impact on the structural performance of the wall, and it can be installed in almost any climate or weather condition.

Since the mortar joint is composed of the concrete placed for the panel, it can be enhanced with color additives. This is a definite advantage when working to match adjacent projects using a combination of the thin brick and color in thin fascia applications of Tilt-Up sandwich panels. Allowing for more design flexibility and creativity, bricks are available in a full spectrum of colors and textures with additional shapes for corners and returns. As with standard brick, thin brick systems can be placed in a running or stacked bond configuration with soldier and header courses as well.

The most common method of finishing a Tilt-Up panel is painting. While this technique has been available for decades, new advances in textured coating varieties have increased the variety and flexibility of this finishing method. Textured coatings are able to provide finishes from varying grades of surface texture to things as visually stimulating as a simulated stone finish giving new looks to the traditional painted concrete wall.

A key difference between paint and coatings is the thickness of the application placed on the wall. Coatings are applied much thicker (15 to 17 dry mils) than is typical with paints (3 to 5 dry mils). The thicker textured coatings span micro-cracks and camouflage imperfections commonly found on the surface of concrete panels. These imperfections are largely produced by the floor slabs used as the casting surface since they mirror every feature of those surfaces. Textured coatings can be applied to damp, dry, cured or uncured concrete during a broad range of temperatures. 

Demonstrating Success
Two award-winning projects in Madison, Wis. demonstrate the versatility and architectural appeal of Tilt-Up. A 2007 TCA Achievement Award winner, the 70,000-square-foot 2310 Crossroads office building features several architectural treatments. Although this building was originally designed using conventional building methods, Tilt-Up was ultimately chosen to save the owner approximately $1 million. As a result of switching methods, Newcomb Construction Company, Inc. of Madison, Wis. – the contractor for the project – faced the challenge of maintaining the appearance of the architect’s initial plans. Additional challenges included working with five-story panels and a small, 14,000-square-foot foundation. Temporary casting beds were utilized at the site for the formation of most of the panels. The 57-foot panels were the tallest Newcomb had worked with during their 14 years of Tilt-Up construction experience. Because of the project’s complexities, the engineer built a to-scale model of each panel and its braces. Then, the engineer designed a complex weaving pattern that had to be followed exactly in order to adequately support the panels. The building, built into a hill, has gray foundation walls that were exposed on the lowest level. The walls were disguised by cladding them with specially poured white Portland cement face panels. The visual appearance was enhanced by contrasting red Endicott thin brick and white cement with a slight color additive. The building, which also features 18 mitered columns and two 60-degree pointed corners, was listed as one of the top ten concrete building projects to watch in Engineering News Record.

In addition to 2310 Crossroads, Newcomb also won a 2005 TCA Achievement Award for the RS + K office building. As an advertising firm, RS + K certainly understands the importance of creating a strong brand image and corporate identity. So, when the Madison, Wis.-based firm wanted a unique, distinctive design for their new office building, they knew exactly where to turn. For years, the agency has handled advertising for Newcomb Construction Company. Familiar with Tilt-Up through their marketing efforts with Newcomb Construction, RS + K selected Tilt-Up for their facility for its speed of construction, cost-effectiveness and style. The money saved using Tilt-Up for the exterior allowed the owners to place a greater emphasis on the interior finishes. 

The owners’ desire for a head-turning design brought several complex elements to the project, such as irregularly shaped 8-foot-wide panels with 4-foot offsets for windows. The roof structure provided additional challenges as it incorporates a 4-foot-high band of windows directly below the roof and a Douglass fir diaphragm roof deck with a 4-foot roof projection. The 20,539-square-foot structure also features a stair tower formed by eight curved panels surrounding a concrete paved stair for wind-bracing support. To meet the firm’s aesthetic needs, steel cladding panels augment concrete panels that used a white Portland cement, complementing the owners’ collection of motorcycles. Clear glass and clear anodized aluminum framing were used to complement the exterior concrete and steel. Judges selected this project for the intricate panel shapes that “remind you of a jigsaw puzzle” – an architectural element that is easily accomplished with Tilt-Up while much more expensive if not nearly impossible with other construction methods. Further, the blending of construction materials – concrete with stainless steel “shingles” -- was a tremendous success. Even with these unique architectural enhancements, the project was completed quickly. Design began in February 2003 with groundbreaking occurring in April 2003. The owners moved into the facility in November 2003.

"While we were under significant time and budget constraints with our new facility, we also knew that our decisions would have long-lasting consequences and were determined not to sacrifice design or quality,” said Jim Sendecke, principal at RS + K. “Newcomb Construction, with their unique Tilt-Up technique and an incredible ‘can –do attitude’ completed our program in seven months and met every one of our expectations."

This project caught the eye of numerous architectural firms in the area, which helped to dispel previously held misconceptions that Tilt-Up was a low-cost construction method used only for warehouses and manufacturing facilities. A significant marketing tool for Newcomb Construction, this office building demonstrated to architects that Tilt-Up is a unique way to differentiate their designs. 

About the TCA
TCA was founded in 1986 to improve the quality and acceptance of site-cast Tilt-Up construction, a method in which concrete wall panels are cast on-site and tilted into place. Tilt-Up construction is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S., combining the advantages of reasonable cost with low maintenance, durability, speed of construction and minimal capital investment. At least 10,000 buildings, enclosing more than 650 million square feet, are constructed each year using this construction method. For more information, visit www.tilt-up.org or contact TCA at 319-895-6911. 

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