Which building method is best for you?

Posted: April 28, 2017

There are many different ways to build a building. Of course, you have probably noticed this – whether it is the wood frame construction on the house down the street, cement block construction on the new supermarket in your neighborhood, or the steel beam construction on the project you pass during your morning commute.

At REDCOM Design & Construction LLC, we typically go about our projects using three different commercial building methods: tilt-up, precast, and pre-engineered steel.

We want you to feel confident in knowing the “ins and outs” of each of these methods, so you can make the best decision for your project – whether you choose to build with us, or someone else.

For a tilt-up project, concrete for the walls is poured directly on site into molds, including openings for all windows and doors. Once the slabs have been cured and dried, the panels are “tilted-up” using a crane and set in place around the footings, laying out the shell of the building.

When using the precast construction model, the concrete wall panels are molded and cured in a controlled environment and then delivered to the site, where they are lifted into place.

Similarly, pre-engineered steel is also manufactured in a controlled environment, and then delivered to the job site to be assembled.

Now that you have a sense of these different building types, here are the pros and cons of each technique and the projects they lend themselves to.

Tilt-up construction results in a long-lasting facility that can withstand harsh weather without any cause for concern. However, making changes to a tilt-up project during the construction process can be difficult, because of the need to cut through concrete panels.

This process also requires adequate planning for utilities, like plumbing and electric.

“With the tilt-up, you need to get all of your plumbing in place so you can set the underground plumbing pad,” explained Sean Feeney, Director of Construction for REDCOM. “Also, if you’re doing in-ground lifts and have a lot of stuff going on under the slab, it really doesn’t become cost-effective to do tilt-up because there are too many things that you have to have in place.”
Tilt-up construction at Greenleaf at Union by REDCOM
The good news is that without interference from outside elements (weather, scheduling, etc.), the tilt-up process is fairly time efficient. It takes two weeks to set the walls, and another two weeks to cure the panels. After they are cured and dried, the panels can be erected in as little as a week. Once the panels are up, the steel, decking, insulation, and roofing can begin.

At REDCOM, we have used tilt-up for many different projects, from auto dealerships to warehouses – it is a popular choice among our clients for durability and versatility. 

We primarily use a single contractor, Bedrock Concrete Corp., for our tilt-up projects. They handle the concrete footings, slabs, and walls, as well as the steel and decking for the facility.  Our relationship with Bedrock goes back a long way, and we always have great success working with their reliable team.

Precast is similar to tilt-up construction in many ways. It results in an extremely durable and reliable building, since the wall panels are also concrete and placed around the foundation slab by cranes on site – and, it can be used for many different projects. However, there are some significant differences between the two methods.

One of these differences is that you can precast at any time during the process. To get a head start while waiting for the panels to be delivered, you can install underground piping and/or set the slab. Also, steel work can be done before the precast, or vice versa. Precast allows for the most flexibility in scheduling – it takes about 12 weeks for fabrication and delivery of the panels, with another 7-10 days of installation.Precast Construction at Audi Hawthorne by REDCOM

While this approach allows for scheduling flexibility, it is similar to tilt-up in that it is difficult to make changes once the panels have been fabricated, requiring a lot of planning and key decision-making in the design stage. This can also be cost-prohibitive depending on where the panels are being delivered.

“Take New York City for example,” said Feeney. “It costs a lot more just to get across the bridges, which really ups the price. At that point, you’re better off looking at the other building options.”

Precast also lends itself to many finish alternatives. There are different molds that can make the exterior look like brick or exposed aggregate, for example. Owners enjoy having these options to create a nice aesthetic for their facility.

Pre-engineered steel
Pre-engineered steel is quite different from the previous building methods. This technique provides the skeleton of the facility, allowing for many different options for the walls of the structure. Exterior walls can be made of metal panels, steel frames, cement blocks, or a combination of these components.

Certain projects lend themselves well to pre-engineered steel – particularly warehouses – because there are usually no interior finishes in these facilities.
Pre-engineered steel construction at BAMCO by REDCOMNormally, the cost is much less than tilt-up or precast. However, unlike tilt-up and precast, pre-engineered steel lacks in durability.

“Pre-engineered steel is designed to be the most economical of the building types,” explained Feeney. “It’s also designed to be less stiff than precast or tilt-up, which is important to consider when deciding on interior finishes and other components.”

Pre-engineered steel takes 12 weeks for fabrication and delivery, and about 6 weeks for installation, without any outside interference.

Now what? 
While these examples are the most common building techniques used by REDCOM, there are several additional ways you can construct your next facility. However, by using this building method information, you now have enough knowledge to proceed with confidence during your next construction project.

At REDCOM, we can tailor our approach to fit your every need – to ensure your facility is built in a timely manner, built under budget, and built to last. Let us know how we can help with your next construction project!