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.