February 22, 2017

Problems with Tilt-up Walls

There are traditional disadvantages to commercial tilt-up wall construction, and there are also certain problems with their ability to meet today’s demands for energy-efficient structural designs.

Many organizations, including ICC, AIA, USGBC and ASHRAE, promote high-performing, energy-efficient commercial construction techniques. The 2015 IECC Code updates often require designers and architects to add additional layers to a tilt-up wall system to generate the desired energy savings and meet the code’s requirements. And rising energy costs make energy-efficient exterior wall systems more important than ever before.

What Is a Tilt-up Wall?

Tilt-up concrete walls are poured on-site before they are raised to the vertical position. The walls are either poured on the building foundation or on a temporary casting bed near the structure’s footprint. Once the concrete panels have cured, they can be raised into position by using a crane. They must be temporarily braced until other building components, like the roof, are added and secure them in place.

The tilt-up technique should not be confused with pre-cast, the prefabrication of panels in a factory. Since tilt-up panels are cast on-site, they can be larger than those made in a manufacturing facility and transported to the construction site.

Tilt-up Disadvantages

Despite the advantages of engineered tilt-up construction, there are a number of disadvantages to consider as well:

Site limitations - Tilt-up walls require adequate space to facilitate efficient on-site fabrication. When there isn’t enough space, panels are often cast on top of each other, adding time and complexity to the project schedule.

Higher upfront costs - Site preparation and other activities often compromise the overall efficiency of tilt-up wall construction. Panels cannot be successfully cast until everything is prepared and in order. Construction managers with exhaustive tilt-up experience are usually required to maintain efficiency.

Safety concerns - The process of tilting a cast concrete wall into its vertical (final) position requires safety precautions consistent with OSHA requirements. The safety equipment required for compliance is costly to purchase or rent.

Too expensive for smaller projects - The complexities and safety requirements of the tilt-up method make it an unrealistic option for relatively small projects.

Weather delays - The on-site demands of the tilt-up wall fabrication process make it vulnerable to weather delays. Rain, wind and temperature extremes may all potentially impede the tilt-up process.

Inconsistent with creative architectural designs - Tilt-up panels are suited to basic rectangular, warehouse-style designs and do not lend themselves well to more unusual designs that demand larger numbers of cast panels.

Additional insulation layers - To achieve the higher R-values consistent with 2015 IECC code requirements, added layers of insulation are often required. The process of adding these insulation layers after the walls are raised to their final position defeats the purpose of the construction technique to a degree. Although it is possible to fabricate insulated tilt-up panels at the construction site, such designs may be cost-prohibitive.

Remote site inefficiencies - Commercial projects in more rural or remote areas do not always benefit from tilt-up construction, particularly if there are limited resources that reduce productivity. When heavy equipment like cranes must be transported greater distances, savings are reduced. 

Unforgiving process - Casting large engineered concrete panels is a precise process. Even minor errors can be costly to remedy and may result in unacceptable construction delays.

Later changes difficult or expensive - Relocating doors, windows and other openings after the engineered panels are cast and tilted into place is usually expensive.

The innovative Bautex wall system allows for a versatile, energy-efficient, four-hour fire-rated wall system. Construction processes are typically simpler than those required in tilt-up construction. The Bautex wall system overcomes many of the drawbacks of tilt-up walls while still providing the same benefits to meet varying Texas weather conditions.

To learn more about why the Bautex wall system may be a better choice than tilt-up for your next building, click here.