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Concrete Contractor Home > Historic Concrete Projects > Water Tower Place - Chicago, Illinois

Water Tower Place in Chicago was the tallest reinforced concrete building in the world from 1975 to 1990Water Tower Place - Chicago, Illinois

Tallest Reinforced Concrete Building, 1975 - 1990

Concrete contractors have come a long way since the building of the Ingalls Building in 1904, and Chicago, Illinois has become a popular place to build concrete high rises. One reason for this is because the Windy City has a good supply of high quality fly ash, a cement aggregate that allows contractors to produce a more workable concrete without adding more water. Water Tower Place in Chicago was the tallest reinforced concrete building in the world from 1975 to 1990, when it was surpassed in height by 311 South Wacker Drive, also in Chicago. Water Tower Place is 76 stories, 859 feet tall and contains concrete with a strength of up to 9,000 psi.

Named after the Chicago Water Tower, the building was designed by Loebl, Schlossman, Dart & Hackl. The general contractor was Inland-Robbins Co. and the concrete was supplied by Material Service Corporation. Contractors used both lightweight and normal weight concrete, as well as high strength concrete. A conventional design was used for the bottom 12 floors and a tubular design for the top 64 stories.

Without the development of high-strength concrete, Water Tower Place would not exist today. In the 1950s, any concrete with a compressive strength of 5,000 psi was considered high-strength. That definition changed in the 1960s, when high-strength concrete was anywhere between 6,000 and 7,500 psi. It wasn't until the early 1970s that concrete with a strength of 9,000 psi, the strength of some of the concrete used on Water Tower Place, was developed. Advancements in improving concrete's strength have continued to improve the material even beyond the time Water Tower Place was created. Today concrete can reach strengths approaching 20,000 psi.

Only some of the cement in Water Tower Place is a strength of 9,000 psi. Concrete contractors used 11 different mixes, varying from 3,000 psi for the slabs to 9,000 psi for the columns. The structural system of the building consists of reinforced concrete on the outside with steel columns on the inside and steel slabs topped with composite concrete. At 2/3 the height of the tallest steel building when it was built, Water Tower Place serves as an example of how cement's abilities make it a strong rival of steel.

Not only is the building composed of concrete, but concrete also lies underneath the building site. Construction was delayed unexpectedly for several weeks when concrete contractors discovered a stream running under the building site. Concrete saved the day-and millions of dollars. A giant concrete dome was used to plug the water so that construction could continue.

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AGC Member Bob Moore - Tilt-up Concrete Association TCA LogoBob Moore Construction is proud to be a sustaining member of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association (TCA). Founded in 1986, the TCA is the country's largest organization for the advancement of site-cast Tilt-Up construction, a method in which concrete wall panels are cast on-site and tilted into place. Sustaining members of the TCA are major industry leaders who have committed to an advanced level of involvement with the organization and the tilt-up industry. Bob Moore Construction employees have served in top positions with this prestigious association, including president and member of the board of directors.

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