Tilt-up Construction: History and Uses
It all started with a flowerpot.
In 1849, French gardener Joseph Monier wanted to make a more
durable flowerpot, so he used iron mesh to reinforce garden
pots and tubs. That was the beginning of reinforced concrete
and the basis of tilt-up concrete (in some regions referred
to as tiltwall or precast panel concrete), an idea that wouldn't
be fully developed until more than 50 years later.
In the early years of the 20th century, concrete was rapidly
becoming the most popular building material. The world saw
many firsts in those early decades: the first concrete streets,
houses and high rises. Back then, concrete was solely produced
off-site and walls were built vertically. But in the early
1900s, Robert Aiken was designing and building reinforced
retaining walls at the Camp Logan Rifle Range in Illinois.
Instead of using the usual method in making concrete walls,
Aiken poured the walls in wall panels flat on the ground,
like a sidewalk, and tilted the panels up onto a prepared
foundation to form the walls. Steel rods were then used to
anchor the walls to concrete footers. Thus, tilt-up concrete
construction was born.
Aiken, who became known as the father of tilt-up concrete,
soon realized that this method would be advantageous in other
structures and used it on a number of buildings throughout
Illinois. The first complete tilt-up building was a concrete
factory on Aiken's own farm near Zion City, Illinois. Aiken
poured the walls flat on a bed of sand, around door and window
fames, and then tipped them up onto their foundation. In 1906,
Aiken used the tilt-up method to construct the Memorial Methodist
Church in Zion, as well as a two-story ammunition and gun
house at Camp Logan. From here, Aiken refined his methods
to include a steel tipping table that was used in the construction
of 15 buildings in five different states.
Thomas Edison, that intrepid inventor, saw the writing on
the wall and realized that tilt-up construction was the way
of the future. In 1908 he created an entire village of tilt-up
concrete houses in Union, New Jersey that is still standing
almost 100 years later.
Although Aiken's steel tipping table made tilt-up construction
easier, the new method of building with concrete didn't really
start gaining popularity until the development of the mobile
crane in the late 1940s. The mobile crane allowed large panels
to be lifted into place with much greater ease than before.
Ready-mix concrete also came about around this same time,
allowing tilt-up construction to become even more efficient
a method of building commercial structures.
These innovations couldn't have come at a better time. After
World War II, business was booming in the United States and
there was a great need for commercial and industrial structures.
Because tilt-up concrete allowed builders to offer high quality
projects at an economical price and with a reduced construction
schedule, it became very popular. The tilt-up structures built
in that era are still wearing their age well. Even the first
tilt-up buildings are still being used today, a testimony
to their strength and durability. In 1994, tilt-up concrete
got even further validation when an earthquake hit Northridge,
California. Even when roof connectors failed, tilt-up walls
remained standing. Tilt-up concrete has proven to be impervious
to wind, hail, mice and insects as well as being resistant
to earthquake damage.
Since the 1940s, tilt-up construction has undergone many
more innovations and refinements, and has developed into a
process that is used by many top concrete contractors and
general contractors in the commercial construction industry.
One such innovation occurred in the 1980s when curved tilt-up
walls were introduced. This more complex method creates walls
that resemble skateboarding ramps, such as those first seen
on the ADC Telecommunications building in Juarez, Mexico.
Because tilt-up concrete combines higher quality with higher
resale values, faster delivery and lower maintenance, more
than 15% of all industrial buildings are tilt-up. Tilt-up
buildings range in size from 5,000 to over 1.7 million square
feet. Individual panels can reach over 90 feet high and weigh
150 tons. Tilt-up construction is growing at an annual rate
of about 20% and is used on about 650 million square feet
of construction every year. In some parts in the country,
such as Texas, tilt-up construction is responsible for almost
75% of new commercial construction, and the method is growing
in popularity in Mexico, Canada and Australia as well.
No matter what purpose it's used for, tilt-up concrete makes
for construction projects that are extremely cost effective
and efficient. Designing and building with tilt-up concrete
is efficient because the wall panels can be formed and poured
even while the rest of the building is being designed or even
built. This overlapping of disciplines makes for speedier
project completion. Tilt-up construction enables contractors
and developers to control costs better too, because it utilizes
ready-mix concrete which is made from native materials available
near the job site.
And no, tilt-up buildings do not look like concrete cracker
boxes. Tilt-up walls can be finished in a wide variety of
ways, including textured paint, reveals, a variety of wall
claddings and other techniques that add to the building's
While tilt-up concrete is most commonly used to construct
one-story buildings, it is not unusual for this technique
to be used for structures as tall as four stories. The tilt-up
construction method has even been used for buildings as tall
as ten stories. And this method is not restricted to just
commercial buildings either. Tilt-up concrete houses are becoming
more readily available around the country. One of the most
stunning examples is located in Edmond, Oklahoma. This 4,000
square foot handicap-accessible residence includes family
and living rooms with fireplaces, a formal dining room, a
mother-in-law suite, a master suite with a cathedral ceiling
and a master bath with a koi pond just outside.
Tilt-up concrete has come a long way since Joseph Monier's
Moore Construction Company
This website is provided by Bob Moore Construction,
a leading concrete construction company in Texas. The company is a member of AGC and the OSHA Local Partnership Program.
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.
For more information about Bob Moore
Construction's green building program, please visit their website at