Tilt-up construction innovation leads to cost savings in DFW

Tilt wall construction site

If you’re familiar with the concept of barn raising, you know that tilt-up construction isn’t new. But innovators have taken it far beyond a group of neighbors building a barn.

“It’s an industry filled with innovation,” says Mitch Bloomquist, executive director of Tilt-Up Concrete Association. “There’s just innovation all over the place. It’s very inspiring.”

Tilt-up construction, in which walls are constructed horizontally on the ground and then tilted into place, has been around since the Romans. But it really took off with the proliferation of portable cranes and large-scale use of reinforced concrete walls in the 20th century.

In this century, advances in the construction method have continued, driven by savings in time, cost and energy compared to other construction methods. “There are no creative limits as to how it can apply to different building types. A lot of times your limit is going to come from either the cranes that you have access to or the braces that you have access to,” Bloomquist says.

In Texas, which is a leader in tilt-up construction, innovation has allowed for taller buildings built as tilt-ups and the construction method is used in situations where it wouldn’t have been practical in the past. “In Houston, they were doing up to six-story class A office buildings that were filled with innovation,” including stacking two-story panels on top of four-story panels, says Bloomquist. “That’s happening in Dallas now.”

Larry Knox, executive vice president at Bob Moore Construction, a pioneer in tilt-up construction in Texas, calls the capacity to build taller office buildings using tilt-up construction the most exciting innovation in the market. “The engineers have been able to design these wall panels to where we can just go higher and higher,” he says.

“It was unheard of to have a 65-foot panel years ago. But now, especially in our market, they have been designed, they have been used and we’re really lucky in the DFW market where our erectors have adapted and have bought larger cranes and have the equipment to handle it.”

Knox acknowledges that, to a layperson, taller concrete panels might not be particularly exciting. But for his company’s clients, the excitement comes into play with cost savings. “In my mind, on a basic commercial structure, there is no cheaper way to create the envelope of a building than with a tilt-wall panel. You just eliminate all the other components that go into an exterior wall.”

Eliminating additional components saves time, leading to cost savings. “It’s a much quicker form of construction,” says Bloomquist. “It’s being built faster because the pieces are bigger.” Beyond saving on construction costs, tilt-up also means long-term savings on energy, he adds, because it creates a tight building envelope.

Innovation isn’t limited to the height of panels. Recently, Bob Moore was building a store in Lewisville for Northern Tool & Equipment Company. The team decided early in the process that tilt-up was the right way to go because of the cost savings involved.

But local building codes required 100 percent masonry facades, which, in previous years, would have meant building a masonry facade along the walls’ exteriors. But using a Scott System product called Brick Snap allowed crews to attach the brick wall facade to the concrete panel before the panel was lifted into place. “The steps we took were very effective and were successful at holding down the overall cost of the project,” says Ed McGuire, president of Bob Moore Construction.

Knox says the potential for such innovation in Dallas-Fort Worth is particularly high, because there’s a strong cadre of subcontractors and erectors with expertise in tilt-up construction.


As seen in the Dallas Business Journal