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 Construction 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.