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Thoughts from a LEED AP

Christopher Harris is a Project Manager at McIntyre Construction, Inc. in Eugene, Ore. He is also a LEED Accredited Professional. We’ve asked him to share his insights as well as some advice about LEED and sustainable design in the Tilt-Up concrete industry. Harris can be reached at 541-687-2841 or

TCA: What does the Tilt-Up industry need to know about green and sustainability?

Harris: One of the most common definitions of sustainability is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Knowing this, the Tilt-Up industry should keep in mind that green/sustainability is not just about being environmentally friendly, or mindful of the resource base, but also satisfying human needs and aspirations. When taking all these aspects into consideration, building sustainable structures can reduce operational costs and energy requirements, improve occupant satisfaction, reduce impacts on the ecosystem and more efficiently utilize the resources base over the life of the building.

TCA: Why and how is Tilt-Up a fit for LEED?

Harris: In using concrete Tilt-Up construction, as many as 20 LEED points from the following credits can be achieved directly, this is a mere 6 points from achieving LEED Certified:

  • Minimum Energy Performance (Energy and Atmosphere Prerequisite 2)
  • Optimize Energy Performance (Energy and Atmosphere Credit 1)
  • Building Reuse (Materials and Resources Credit 1)
  • Construction Waste Management (Materials and Resources Credit 2)
  • Recycled Content (Materials and Resources Credit 4)
  • Regional Materials (Materials and Resources Credit 5)
  • Low-Emitting Materials: Adhesives & Sealants (Indoor Environmental Quality Credit 4.1)
  • Low-Emitting Materials: Paints & Coatings (Indoor Environmental Quality Credit 4.2)

Tilt-Up can also be used to obtain points indirectly, by utilizing the thermal mass of concrete it contributes to Indoor Environmental Quality Credit 7: Thermal Comfort; or with the use of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) lumber forms for Materials and Resources Credit 7: Certified Wood; etc.

TCA: How is Tilt-Up a fit for LEED?

Harris: Using concrete in buildings can help achieve LEED Certification a variety of ways. Concrete can be composed of many recycled materials including reinforcing supports, reinforcing bar, and weld wire mesh, and can be recycled itself. It is manufactured locally, so transportation impacts are reduced. The amount of Portland cement can be reduced in the mix with the use of fly ash or slag, reducing its embodied energy. Concrete forms can be made from FSC lumber or reusable forms. The form release agent can be vegetable or water based and contain low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s).

TCA: Please dispel any misconceptions about the use of Tilt-Up concrete in a LEED project.

Harris: A misconception I’ve encountered with the use of Tilt-Up on LEED projects is the myth that it is difficult to provide openings suited to meet some or all of the following credits.

  • Increased Ventilation (Indoor Environment Quality Credit 2)
  • Controllability of Systems (Indoor Environment Quality Credit 6.1)
  • Thermal Comfort (Indoor Environment Quality Credit 7.1)
  • Daylight & Views (Indoor Environment Quality Credits 8.1 & 8.2)

Tilt-Up panels can be engineered to contain a wide variety of openings including, large and complex designs and even ribbon window treatments. This ability to engineer panels gives Tilt-Up a unique advantage when building a LEED project and makes Tilt-Up an attractive choice of owners that want an adaptable building. Panels can be engineered so that the majority of each panel can be removed, leaving only structural columns. This allows the structure to be easily expanded making Tilt-Up construction quite adaptable to change.

TCA: Even if a project isn’t seeking LEED Certification, what elements of LEED can be incorporated to the betterment of the project?

Harris: LEED can be a very effective tool in guiding the design of any project looking to be more sustainable. Currently, McIntyre Construction is working on a project where the owner wants a “LEED Platinum level” building but is not seeking certification. With this project, we are using the LEED rating system to guide site selection and development, design, and construction. When reviewing the credits, take careful consideration to determine which credits are most logical for your particular project.

TCA: Who is driving the decision to use Tilt-Up on your projects?

Harris: For the most part, McIntyre Construction is the driver in utilizing Tilt-Up. We meet with owners and work to understand their vision and discuss the most suitable construction method for their particular project. Sometimes owners come to us wanting to use Tilt-Up for their project(s). In either case, we value engineer several options to ensure the Tilt-Up panels will meet the owner’s needs. Consideration is given to insulated sandwich panels, utilizing the concrete’s thermal mass properties more efficiently, types and styles of different architectural treatments, panel engineering, etc.

TCA: Who is driving the decision to use green or sustainable elements on your project? What about LEED Certification?

Harris: For the past 20 years, McIntyre Construction has been incorporating sustainability features into the majority of the projects we work on. We have accomplished this by incorporating high efficiency windows and lighting, better insulation, efficient HVAC equipment, and environmentally and occupant friendly finishes. Oftentimes, owners come to us with a project in mind and typically want to be green or sustainable but don’t necessarily know how to or what it involves. We work with the owner to help them understand the benefits
of sustainability and make informed decisions that work for their project.

We rarely do public works projects, which consume the vast majority of projects seeking LEED Certification. In our experience of working in commercial construction, owners typically pursue LEED Certification for two reasons. 1) It makes financial sense. 2) It is a desire of the owner to have a LEED certified building.

TCA: How can a Tilt-Up contractor, engineer, architect or product supplier capitalize on the growing green and sustainable movement?

Harris: The best ways to capitalize on green and sustainable construction is to educate yourself on sustainability and the cost impacts on the project. Become the expert on economical sustainable products. Then develop a method to effectively convey that information to the decision maker(s).

TCA: How does Tilt-Up compare to other building methods with regard to LEED Certification?

Harris: Using Tilt-Up over other building methods in a LEED project should be the result of understanding the requirements of the project to determine the building method that yields the most efficient means of obtaining LEED credits. One of the beauties of LEED is that it does not lend itself to a particular building method. Yet, I have found that Tilt-Up is the method that works best when designing sustainable structures and can achieve several LEED points directly and indirectly as described earlier.

TCA: Where do you see the role of Tilt-Up in the green/sustainable movement in the future?

Harris: With the versatility, durability, adaptability, constructability, recyclability, recycled content, thermal mass properties, energy performance capabilities, cost, construction timeline, and aesthetic capabilities concrete Tilt-Up construction encompasses, I see an ever increasing role in the green/sustainable movement.

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TILT-UP TODAY, a publication of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, is THE source for Tilt-Up industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the Tilt-Up industry. A subscription to TILT-UP TODAY is included in a TCA membership. Subscriptions for potential TCA members are also available. If you would like to receive a complimentary subscription to the publication, please contact the TCA.