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Message from the Director: What’s All the Fuss? Tilt-Up Has Always Been Green!

One of the hottest topics today in the construction world is sustainability.

How “green” is your product? We sit here and wonder what has taken the rest of the world so long to become green. Tilt-Up has always been “green” – we just haven’t made that big a deal of it. I guess its time we start expounding on the virtues.

I won’t spend time on basic meanings of sustainability but will focus on why Tilt-Up is, and always has been, green.

1) The Use of Local Materials.

The basic components of a Tilt-Up panel are water, sand, gravel and cement. The first three are among the most abundant materials on our Earth and are available in every region of the country (and world). This keeps transportation and extraction costs minimal making them low in embodied energy, a key component in the greenness of a material. Concrete is mixed within a few miles of the job site and the panels are manufactured on-site, adjacent to their location in the building. It’s hard to imagine a more green and efficient material. The final ingredient, Portland Cement, I will discuss at the end of the article.

2) Energy Efficiency.

Concrete is a dense material. The thermal mass inherent in a Tilt-Up panel contributes significantly to a structure’s energy performance, particularly in moderate climates. Concrete absorbs solar energy during the day and dissipates it after the heat of the day has passed. It can eliminate the need, or significantly reduce the amount of insulation required in some structures. If you need an insulation system, the most efficient system in the market is a natural for Tilt-Up panels.

3) Less Waste

Concrete is ordered in the amount needed to construct the panels greatly reducing waste which can clog landfills or which must be burned, adding more CO2 into the atmosphere. The enterprising contractor can have molds on the job-site for building splash blocks or other “precast” elements if the quantity needed for the panels is exceeded.

4) It’s Recyclable.

How many building products that you are aware of can be ground up and reused in another building, a road, a foundation, or some other type of structure.

5) Durability

Concrete buildings are extremely effective at resisting the elements. Wind, waves, fire — all are resisted by concrete. Concrete will neither burn nor rot. It is naturally mold resistant because concrete is not a food source, one of the essential ingredients for mold. Concrete is also a low maintenance material. Some finishes are good for the life of the structure. And, as long as we are talking longevity, there are concrete buildings that have performed for over 2,000 years.

So what about Portland Cement? Yes, Portland Cement is relatively high in embodied energy, but so is steel and even wood when the cost of fabrication and transportation through the entire life-cycle of the products are included. Factor in the life of the building and the embodied energy issue seems far less important. Concrete actually absorbs between 1/3 and 1/2 of he CO2 emitted during manufacturing frm the atmosphere over a 100 year period. Concrete can also use manufacturing bi-products or waste materials such as flu ash and slag to displace part of the cement making concrete even “greener”. Kilns used to produce such as tires to generate a portion of the heat necessary.

So what’s the fuss all about? It’s about the other materials. Those which we ship half way around the world to put in our structures or those that take 50-100 years to grow before they can be harvested. I, for one, think it’s about time architects and owners recognize Tilt-Up as the original “green” material.


Ed Sauter, Executive Director

TCA Board of Directors

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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.