January 3, 2012
Systems Built
Building Systems in Action
Tilt-Up Concrete Construction a Fast, Efficient Alternative for Single-Family Builders
A prototype home built in Jordan using tilt-up construction

Tilt-up concrete construction has been popular with commercial builders for nearly a century and used extensively on larger buildings since the 1940s.

But now, with the availability of smaller cranes, this fast and efficient construction method of lifting — or tilting — site-cast concrete panels to form building walls is finding its way into single-family home construction, especially in planned communities where many homes are being built in succession. 

Tilt-up construction is gaining in popularity because the site-cast panels can be produced in a variety of shapes and sizes — including flat and curved sections. In addition, the finished home is often built at reasonable cost, requires little maintenance and provides long-term durability and speedy construction with minimal capital investment.

The panels also can serve as the home’s finished surface and, although they have inherent thermal mass properties, can be insulated to achieve greater, even maximum, energy efficiency.

A prototypical home recently built in Jordan — a country that need to expeditiously build housing for its military and goverment agencies — demonstrates the benefits of tilt-up construction.

At 1,754 square feet, the simple, modest rectangular home is well-suited to flat-wall sections and tilt-up construction. While the home has a Southwest feel to it, the construction technique can be applied to a wide variety of architectural styles — from traditional to contemporary — of varying sizes.

Thirty panels were used to create the entire structure, including a small front courtyard that adds interest to the layout. The panels varied in size, with the tallest 18 feet high, the widest 34 feet 8 inches and the largest 324 square feet. The heaviest panel weighed 32,450 pounds.

Built on a slab-on-grade floor, wall and roof members are sandwich-type construction with integral insulation. Two concrete facing panels were connected through a foam core using fiber composite connectors. Because there is no thermal bridging, this construction method provided excellent energy performance.

Other benefits of tilt-up construction include:

  • Speed of Construction. Wall panels are often put in place while the other building systems are being

      Thirty panels were used to create the home, including a panel for a small front courtyard.

    designed, enabling the trades to begin work quickly and accelerating the time to occupancy. Tilt-up structures offer all the energy efficiency, strength and durability associated with concrete construction.
    • Durability. The structure is strong, solid and resistant to all kinds of forces — including severe weather, high winds and projectile impact.
      • Sustainability. Tilt-up is widely recognized as an environmentally friendly construction method. Typically, the thermal mass of tilt-up eliminates the need for insulation. Of the approximately 25% of panels that are insulated, most use non-conductive ties to take best advantage of thermal mass properties — creating a solid, insulated and energy-efficient wall.

        Tilt-up buildings also can be designed to accommodate change because the panels can be moved, removed and reused or even recycled, if necessary.
      • Curb Appeal. Exterior finishes can be as simple as light stucco texturing or something more ornate. Common decorative techniques form liner textures and colors using paints, stains or integrated pigments. 

      This article was provided by industry experts of NAHB’s Concrete Home Building Coalition. The coalition is sponsored by the American Concrete Institute, the National Concrete Masonry Association and the Portland Cement Association.

      To learn more about the various types of residential concrete construction, go to

      National Association of Home Builders
      1201 15th Street, Washington, DC 20005-2800

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