Increased acceptance by building and design professionals and a growing number of skilled tilt-up contractors have allowed the tilt-up concrete construction industry to evolve. Today, the architectural community and industry suppliers are working in conjunction with the more progressive tilt-up contractors to produce colorful, texturized panels with eye-catching reliefs.
Although speed of construction and cost savings are still the top two reasons building owners prefer site cast tilt-up concrete wall panels, recent advancements in wall panel finishes and architectural design have moved tilt-up into arenas it had never been considered in before.
Industries and products that were once perceived as adversaries to the tilt-up method are now adapting their products for tilt-up applications. Masonry and block producers have recently developed a cast wall system that integrates with tilt-up wall panels to produce the look of split-face block but with the ease and efficiency of tilt-up.
Similarly, brick manufacturers continue to develop real fired-brick products that are cast into tilt-up wall panels to create a real masonry surface in a fraction of the time. With a variety of colors and specialty pieces, like corners and window bricks, building owners can achieve almost any masonry look they desire – even to the point of matching existing masonry structures.
By installing these products directly on the floor slab and then casting the structural wall panels on top, workers have a more efficient, safe process to create the same appearance. In addition, the finishes are integrally cast into the wall panel, which reduces moisture penetration and long-term maintenance.
Exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS) manufacturers have also embraced the tilt-up method as a carrier for their products. EIFS exterior treatments allow tilt-up contractors to create interesting architectural projections of varying size and shape, producing a variety of sculptured looks and decorative moldings. By applying only a topcoat of EIFS, contractors economically achieve color and texture options that are superior to simply painting the panels. The topcoat also masks panel surface imperfections and eliminates the need for much of the rubbing and grinding that is required before painting. This technique could cut down the panel prep time by as much as 90 percent, reducing the cost of the overall project due to labor and time savings.
Even some of the mainstream architectural treatments such as formliners and rustication products have evolved significantly and now create patterns, shadows, and sophisticated window treatments. Engineering and construction innovations have also paved the way for architectural accents such as curved corners, arched panels, and increased use of glass.
The inherent benefits of building with the site cast tilt-up method – increased durability, lower maintenance, speed of construction, thermal efficiency – will undoubtedly continue to attract building owners. But with the recent advancement in wall panel finishes, contractors can not only deliver these crucial benefits, but they can do so with a sophisticated and attractive facility.
Dale Thomas is manager of marketing and communications at the American Concrete Institute (ACI International), a Farmington Hills, MI-based technical and educational society dedicated to the design, construction, maintenance, and repair of concrete structures. More info is available at (www.concrete.org).