Transforming the Traditional Aesthetic

Tilt-up construction has been around for more than a century but gained popularity during a worker shortage post World War II. As an efficient building method, tilt-up construction requires less on-site labor to achieve quality construction. Through the years, tilt-up has remained a staple within our industry, and now, as we face another shortage of workers, it is just as vital.

As part of the conceptual design process, MW Builders looks at projects from all angles and explores various construction approaches to achieve our clients’ goals for budget, constructability, and long-term plans. We have wide experience using tilt-up construction due to the many benefits that can be realized.

Benefit #1: Flexibility

One of the most significant benefits of utilizing tilt-up construction is the ability to quickly and easily incorporate changes in the conceptual design stages. Clients can change the shape, size of openings, and more with greater ease during the design phase.

“Tilt-up construction allows for ongoing flexibility, allowing Owners to change the purpose and shape of a building based on need,” said Justin Burgoon, P.E., S.E., Principal Structural Engineer at BSE Structural Engineers, LLC.

The flexible nature of tilt-up construction also gives the design team the opportunity to provide Owners with a better final design than what they might have come to the table with.

On a recent MW Builders light industrial project, the initial design was simple — a rectangular building concept that would suit their needs as a manufacturing facility. As our preconstruction team worked closely with other design partners, we were able to quickly and easily adjust the design to include bump-outs for the office and fire electrical room and add overall square footage to the space without any major impact to the design process timeline. With the office bumped out, the architectural team also incorporated design elements to make the exterior more visually appealing.

“We always try to explore different ways of doing things in order to provide our clients with a variety of options when it comes to how we build something,” said Bryan Hefley, Senior Preconstruction Manager at MW Builders. “Often, tilt-up construction is considered to be just as economical as other methods, if not more so, and provides clients with an end-product that’s tailored exactly to their needs.”

Benefit #2: Materials

With load-bearing tilt-up construction, columns and supports are created using concrete. It’s durable, more resistant to weather, and has a higher fire rating capability, making it both an economical and high-quality building material.

In addition, in tilt-up construction the concrete acts as a multifunctional structural system. It provides gravity support, floor and roof supports, and lateral stability for the entire building. For other structure types, there are different elements working together to achieve the structural needs of a building. Built from a fluid concrete material, it’s simple to form a panel, reinforce it, and design it to serve the complex architectural requirements.

Tilt-up construction has long been the method of choice for light industrial projects where the external aesthetic of a building is lower on the priority list. However, in recent years, many more industries are utilizing tilt-up for schools, office buildings, recreational buildings, and more, where the outside of the building requires more design elements with an upscale look.

“We don’t believe the flexibility of tilt wall should stop at that market product, and we have done several very nice office buildings using tilt-up construction,” said Paul Detke, Partner at Studio8 Architects. “Using techniques like sandblasting, painting, stone veneer, and more, we are able to provide an overall richer appearance than what one typically thinks of tilt-up.”

MW Builders has a number of light industrial tilt-up and design-build construction projects under our belt, but we’ve also executed tilt-up construction on the development of three elementary schools for the Ector County Independent School District. In addition, when identifying the construction method of our new Austin office in 2017, the team utilized tilt-up construction and partnered with Studio8 on the design.

“On the MW Builders office, we varied the volume greatly and veneered areas with stone to create a building thats shape doesn’t seem like it would be done in tilt wall,” said Detke. “We also had some curtainwall and a pitched roof on top of the highest portion of the building making it look much more like a conventionally framed building.”

Using a combined approach with metal frame, stucco, and tilt-wall, not only helped the construction, but allowed the team to make a portion of the building break the reveals of a panel dimension, which is typically a tell-tale sign of a tilt-wall building.

Benefit #3: Collaboration

“From a very early standpoint, we need to coordinate items such as panel geometry and building clearance, and we need the input from the specialty subcontractors on their area of expertise,” said Burgoon. “The earlier we are able to have these conversations, the better.”

As more and more industries began considering tilt-up construction, this method will continue to gain in popularity due to its flexible nature and multifunctional material. MW Builders places a significant emphasis on working closely with partners early in the process, which makes tilt-up construction a natural fit.