Reaching New Heights With Tilt-Up Construction

Photo courtesy of Big 4 Steel.

Photo courtesy of Big 4 Steel.

In the outskirts of major metropolitan areas, the need for Class A office buildings is high, but available land is scarce. To accommodate this demand, the construction trend is moving to four-, five- and six-story buildings, rather than the lower structures that had once been in favor. Despite the old perception that tilt-up construction is best for big, gray warehouses, it has proven to be an ideal solution for these structures, even at increased heights.

Tilt-up is an effective method for reducing both construction costs and the total cost of building ownership. In a study published by Construction Specifier in June 2013, researchers found that tilt-up provided a savings of $7-10 per square foot on the cost of the core and shell construction versus steel framed construction with precast cladding. Tilt-up also delivers speed of construction and a sophisticated palette of architectural finishes, including flexibility of panel sizes for creating unique looks.

One of LJB’s most recent multi-story projects showcases the heights and sophistication that can be reached with tilt-up today.

At six stories, The Reserve at Sierra Pines II is the tallest building constructed with load-bearing tilt-up concrete in Texas. The 154,000-square-foot Class A building is vertical in its proportions, which differentiates it from many tilt-up projects. Because there was no precedent for a tilt-up structure of this magnitude in Houston, Powers Brown Architecture (PBA) relied on LJB’s tilt-up expertise and ingenuity to design the right structural solution for this project.

But, how do you reach heights of five and six stories? According to the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, single panels of nearly 100 feet tall have been lifted on tilt-up projects in recent years. Panels of this height are typically used for key architectural features, such as towers or steeples. The introduction of advanced construction equipment—including higher capacity cranes and larger braces—has made these feats achievable. However, to retain cost efficiency for multi-story office buildings, contractors are stacking panels in elevation to achieve greater heights. For example, Sierra Pines’ six stories were constructed with a lower four-story panel, and a two-story panel stacked on top. The transition in panels also allowed PBA architectural freedom that would not have been possible with a full six-story panel.

For now, tall architectural features and stacking panels to achieve six stories are stretching the limits of tilt-up. With design and construction innovation, tilt-up is sure to continue reaching new heights in the coming years.

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