Article tools: Share:

TILT-UP Future Think 2.0

Español | Translation Sponsored by TCA

Tilt-Up Future Think 2.0, presented by HD Supply Construction & Industrial White Cap and Massachusetts Institution of Technology, was the second event of its kind that brought together tilt-up contractors, architects, engineers, suppliers and manufacturers for a networking luncheon, followed by a series of talks focused on emerging technologies and ideas with promising applicability for the tilt-up concrete construction industry.

The event, which took place on June 20th at the beautiful Pinnacle Club at the Grand Hyatt in Denver, Colorado, consisted of a series of talks that were organized into three sessions: workforce, fabrication and concrete. Each session consisted of two 15-minute presentations, and was followed by a panel discussion where global experts in tilt-up design, engineering and construction discussed the potential of each idea and how it could shape the progress of tilt-up. Future Think 2.0 was designed as a focused review of these technologies, and the panel’s thoughts on each technology serve to inform the limited research-oriented resources for our members.


Labor shortages are a concern for the building industry. The issue leaves many wondering: What does the future entail and how can we help solve the issue now? Behold, bionic and tech-driven construction workers – a fresh series of robots and drone systems that companies are developing to create new possibilities in the world of construction.

These technologies can enhance workforce productivity, as they require less manual labor and create less personal risk. Plus, they can work faster and cheaper for a variety of building-related tasks.

Presented first in the workforce session was “Bionic Construction Workers” from Sarcos. Sarcos is one of the companies working to combine human intelligence, instinct and judgment with robotic strength, endurance and precision. Based in Salt Lake City, it develops and deploys robots to perform some of the world’s most dangerous and complex tasks in areas where human safety is at risk. The company has invested $300 million in technology over the past 25 years, much of which holds applications for the building industry.

Kristi Martindale, Sarcos’ executive vice president and chief marketing officer, highlighted the company’s “Guardian” line of robotic systems, which includes:

  • Guardian S: A surveillance and inspection tool that can reliably traverse challenging terrain and facilitate two-way, real-time video, voice and data communication from a safe distance
  • Guardian GT: A human-controlled, dual-armed robot that helps a single operator do more, such as safely lifting up to 1,000 pounds
  • Guardian XO: A powered, untethered, industrial exoskeleton suit that improves human strength and endurance without restricting the operator’s freedom of movement

Panelists were particularly excited about the benefits of the Guardian XO. Martindale shared that one Guardian XO suit paired with one worker is the equivalent of 4 to 10 laborers, which, she says, readily addresses the industry’s current labor shortage.

The second presentation in the workforce session was “Automated Rebar Tying Drones.” Commonly known for delivery and video-capturing capabilities, the drone is another high-tech tool entering the construction industry. Eohan George, CEO and co-founder of SkyMul, explained how the start-up company’s new SkyTy drone concept can be both an efficient and scalable solution for tying rebar.

“SkyTy requires 84 percent less labor than traditional methods,” says George. “It’s also 1.9 times faster than manual labor and 13 percent cheaper.”

Drones can be added to or removed from the job to fit any project’s needs and work area size, even those on strict time schedules.

SkyMul’s website states that each SkyTy drone will be able to land, tie and take off regardless of the other drones. If one breaks or its tie tool breaks, it can be swapped for a spare, forming a flexible and robust system. The company plans to have prototypes of SkyTy ready for review by the end of the year.

While the implications of robots and drones sound promising, several panelists brought up notable concerns, including what industry union workers might think of the high-tech additions.

Martindale noted that, at the end of the day, union workers and their employers want safety for everyone, and products like those in the Guardian series will help in this area. Panelist Tim Manherz, senior vice president of operations for TAS Commercial Concrete Construction, encouraged the tilt-up industry to embrace the new equipment. “All this new stuff is a game-changer in today’s market,” he stated.

As new technology continues to be revealed, one thing is certain: the combination of smart tools and flexible automation of robotics has the capability to transform the structural concrete industry.


Technology is pushing forward what is possible in tilt-up concrete fabrication. Although they are in the early days, technologies like 3D printing processes and creative tilt-wall shapes are being worked on to be more useful. While both technologies can be used, the industry has not widely adapted them, yet.

First up in the fabrication session was Henrik Lund-Nielson, founder & CEO of COBOD. It seems that anything can be made via 3D printer, and a building is no exception. As of December 31, 2018, 81 total ongoing projects (including buildings and other structures) worldwide have been made with 3D construction printing.

Lund-Nielsen noted that 3D printed buildings are becoming more common, and the potential is available for more buildings to be created using this method.

His company 3D printed the first building in Europe, where there have been five buildings built using 3D construction printing. In the U.S., only three have been built using this method: two military and one commercial project.

Currently, 3D construction printing and tilt-up can be used together, where 3D is used for the rounded areas and tilt-up for the straight panels. In the future, Lund-Nielsen envisions using multiple printers to create all panels more quickly. He said this could result in an entire 50,000-square-foot warehouse being constructed in one week with 25 percent of the current amount of labor used.

The second presentation in the fabrication session, “Repeatable Curvilinear Edge Forms for Tilt-Up,” was presented by Jeffrey Brown, CEO and founding principal of Powers Brown Architecture.

While it is not currently possibly to reliably produce a curved edge tilt wall, Brown discussed how that is being changed.

Through the firm’s patent-pending process, they are working on creating a reliably repeatable curvilinear edge form for site casting. Brown said there would be 4.7 million possible edge combinations. “It’s a transformative property,” he noted. “For a minimum investment, there are lots of possibilities.”

To make a reliably repeatable curvilinear edge form available to the mass market, Brown said that engagement is needed from the architects as well as contractors willing to experiment with the technology.

The capabilities of both 3D construction printing and repeatable curvilinear edge forms are still in the early stages, and there is a lot of room for growth and improvement. Both Lund-Nielsen and Brown noted that the market for the technologies has a way to go, as well.


Innovative approaches to concrete creation and assembly are accelerating the tilt-up industry toward a greener, more efficient future. Developments like CO2 mineralization and walking assembly are not just hot topics on the event agenda – they are real, actionable technologies that are making headway with designers and specifiers around the world.

The first of the two talks in the concrete session, “CO2 Mineralization and Concrete,” explained how CarbonCure’s technology is changing the way concrete is produced.

Concrete is the most abundant man-made material on Earth, but it comes at a price where emissions are concerned. Cement alone creates up to 7 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, with a pound of carbon dioxide released for every pound of cement produced, explained Ted Jones, vice president of sales and marketing for CarbonCure. But what if, instead of releasing carbon dioxide, concrete could trap it forever before it gets to the atmosphere?

That is where CarbonCure comes in. The company manufactures a technology for concrete producers that injects carbon dioxide into fresh concrete while it is mixing in a central mixer or in the mix drum on a truck. The result: the carbon dioxide chemically converts into a mineral through a process called reverse calcination, improving the compressive strength of the concrete.

The improvement in strength means producers can then reduce the amount of cement in the mix. One cubic yard of concrete mixed with this technology saves 25 pounds of carbon dioxide that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere – a savings of 210 pounds of carbon dioxide per truck, the equivalent of planting two new trees.

To date, CarbonCure’s technology has produced over 2.5 million cubic yards of carbonated concrete in North America. “Most of the people on the map [of where carbonated concrete has been delivered] are there because they want to be able to use it,” Jones said. “When we have a concrete product that’s the same price and is sustainable, why wouldn’t you? Nobody wants to be first and nobody wants to be third, but we’re getting the map filled in.”

The last presentation of the day, “Walking Assembly,” was presented by Brandon Clifford, director and co-founder of Matter Design and an assistant professor at MIT, and Davide Zampini of CEMEX Global R&D.

Tilt-up slabs are an efficient and reliable way to raise walls, but a “new” construction strategy takes a look back at the building of ancient structures erected before cranes existed. Walking assembly invites builders to walk large concrete shapes into place. The shapes are heavy but movable, thanks to a design that accounts for the centers of mass and curvature.

“How do you design something to be transported horizontally and erect it?” asks Clifford. His work is aimed at gathering ancient methods used to build structures like the pyramids and to use that knowledge to inform the transportation and assembly of future architecture.

The shapes, also known as massive masonry units, are created with variable density concrete that allows for the precise calibration of the center of mass in a way that ensures stable, but easy motion for each masonry unit. One person can move the shape into place and align it, yet the shapes take more than just a simple touch to move. “You really have to put your arm on it and start guiding it with continual motion,” Clifford explains.

“What we’re doing is building with the difference between the center of mass and the center of curvature,” he adds. “As long as we can tell the distance of those two points, we can guide these things into place. It’s counterintuitive to the idea of picking it up. We call it crane-less tilt-up construction.”

Simplifying construction with walkable masonry units also means easier demolition, Clifford adds. Wider adoption of this technology could allow builders to reuse masonry units from buildings that are no longer needed.

“Think about how much less energy it would take to get the units back down,” Clifford said. “To get to the environmental concerns of concrete, 99 percent of the waste is stone, brick and concrete, and we’ll grind up some of it, but the vast majority is landfilled. We don’t think of an afterlife. We think of concrete as a permanent solution, but our buildings are not permanent. Now, not only are we thinking about elements that can stand vertically, but can also come back down and be repositioned.”

The long lifespan of concrete helps make the case for it in sustainable construction, but technologies like these can help boost its green credibility even further. Lower emissions and the ability to repurpose masonry units take concrete to new heights as a sustainable building material.

Through the discussions on workforce, fabrication and concrete, Tilt-Up Future Think 2.0 fostered innovative and forward-thinking ideas, and new conversations about the future of the industry.

“It is imperative that the industry stays well-informed of any advancements that could potentially impact the tilt-up building system,” said Mitch Bloomquist, executive director of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association (TCA). “The discussions from our first Future Think event have already come to fruition and play an active role in today’s design and construction methods, and it is our hope that we continue to bring forward-thinking ideas and innovations directly to the leaders of this industry for implementation.”

The TCA would like to thank the Tilt-Up Future Think 2.0 panel and sponsors:

Don Greive, PE – Pinnacle Structural Engineers
John Paesano – HD Supply Construction & Industrial White Cap
Shawn Hickey – SiteCast Construction Corp.
Tim Manherz – TAS Commercial Concrete
William Palmer Jr., PE FACI – Hanley Wood Business Media

HD Supply Construction & Industrial White Cap – Platinum Sponsor
Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Platinum Sponsor
Connect-EZ – Gold Sponsor
Custom Rock Formliner – Gold Sponsor
KB Concrete Systems, Inc – Gold Sponsor

For more information on Tilt-Up Future Think 2.0, and to view upcoming events, please visit

Leave A Comment

Get Connected

Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
Connect with us on LinkedIn
Subscribe to us on YouTube


About us

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.