Blog | Concrete history
Tilt-Up Concrete Construction

Tilt-up concrete construction has become the building method of choice for large-scale projects such as retail stores, schools, apartment and office buildings, warehouses, commercial structures, and even residential homes. Used since the early 20th century, tilt-up is a construction method where huge concrete panels are cast on site and then lifted up into position—think barn raising but with concrete instead of wood. Today, tilt-up concrete construction is used on virtually every type of large building project, due to reasonable cost, durability, and construction speed.

Tilt-Up Concrete Construction

Tilt-Up Prep
Much of the effort happens up front during planning, site layout and evaluation. This helps ensure that proper procedures and methods are followed, and that a safety perimeter is established for the actual lift. A flat work site is best (although not always possible) as the huge concrete panels are cast on site. Typically, wall forming occurs while laid out on the foundation of the building or on a temporary casting slab.

Tilt-up Concrete Construction concrete slabs laid flat

Construction Process
It’s not uncommon to lay the exterior façade, such as brick, on the cast concrete panels before tilt up occurs. If no façade is laid, a release agent is applied to the slab after proper curing. This helps the panels lift easier without breaking.

Steel reinforcements are installed in a grid pattern to add structural integrity to the concrete panels. Lifting/bracing sensors are secured to the reinforcements. A vibrator ensures even concrete placement throughout the panel. Contractors use laser screeds to improve the quality of casting slabs, and ride-on trowels to give the surface a smooth finish. Tilt-up forms are then laid out and measured precisely with laser technology. Engineering inspections occur at every step of the process.

Tilt-up Concrete Construction ICS raising panels

Upon curing, formwork is stripped from the panels and prepared for tilt up with appropriate lifting mechanisms, clutches and cables. Safety briefings are critical prior to lift, and one person is usually assigned to communicate with the crane operator. After an engineering inspection, the tilt-up crew guides the concrete panel into position and adds structural shims after precise measurements and placement are confirmed. Temporary braces hold each panel in place as others are raised.

Once all of the concrete panels have been lifted and secured, the project engineer inspects and signs off on the tilt-up construction so the building exterior and interior can be completed.

A crane lifts a concrete panel

Product and Equipment Innovations
The growth of the concrete tilt-up construction industry has led to many product, method and equipment innovations. Lifting inserts, braces, brace anchors, aluminum strong backs, rear supports, dobie, bolsters and spacers, bondbreakers, ground release and gyro tilt systems are just a few of the products available to ensure safe, efficient lifting and placement of the massive concrete panels.

Intermountain Concrete Specialties Tilt-up Concrete Construction

As experts in tilt-up concrete construction, we offer tens of thousands of products, vast project knowledge, and a continuous history of construction innovation. No job is too large or too small. Call Intermountain Concrete Specialties today at 801.486.5311 for the products and support you need for your next tilt-up concrete construction project.

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Concrete History: Edison Portland Cement Company

Most people know Thomas Edison for the light bulb, but did you know the famous inventor also held 49 cement patents? An important part of concrete history, Edison’s patents included cement processing equipment, waterproofing cement paint, and even a mold for single-pour concrete construction. The visionary thinker imagined a future with concrete houses, concrete furniture, and even concrete pianos and refrigerators!

Edison developed an interest in cement after noticing the amount of sand waste produced by his ore milling company. He sold the fine sand particles to cement manufacturers for concrete production. In 1899, he created the Edison Portland Cement Company, based in Stewartsville, N.J.

concrete history
U.S. Patent 775,600 / Public Domain

Many of Edison’s inventions helped improve the cement production process. His New Jersey cement mill featured the longest rotating kilns in the world. At 150 feet long, these cement kilns were almost twice as long as standard cement kilns. Edison licensed the kilns to other cement manufacturers, which eventually helped his competitors improve their production but hindered his own company’s profitability.

Edison believed in concrete’s future capabilities but manufacturing processes had to catch up first. His premature vision of homes that would be both indestructible and affordable enough to help solve the critical housing shortage led to the idea of building houses with a single pour of concrete. His theory: a single-pour process would eliminate the labor involved with erecting walls, adding a roof, and finishing the interior.

concrete history

The homes could also be mass-produced. However, the mold itself, constructed of 2,300 cast iron pieces that could be assembled together and taken apart, was expensive and most homebuilders weren’t eager to spend $175,000 (equal to $2.5 million today) on the mold. Although very few concrete homes were ever poured, a handful still stand today in Phillipsburg and Montclair, New Jersey.

Teetering financially, the Edison Portland Cement Company was fortunately awarded a major construction contract in 1922: the original Yankee Stadium. As it happens, “the house that Ruth built” was actually built by Edison. Production on the big ballpark in the Bronx took just 284 days from start to finish, using:

  • 45,000 barrels of cement
  • 30,000 cubic yards of gravel
  • 15,000 cubic yards of sand
  • 500 laborers
  • For a total of 35,000 cubic yards of concrete

Edison’s concrete walls were so durable that they were left untouched when Yankee Stadium was renovated in 1973. The stadium remained in use until 2008, when the Yankees moved one block north to a new, more spacious stadium. The new Yankee Stadium features many of the same design elements as Edison’s original.
concrete history

Despite the success of Yankee Stadium, the Edison Portland Cement Company folded a few years after its completion, during the Great Depression. But between 1900 and 1919, Edison’s 49 cement patents contributed greatly to the future of concrete.

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