Super flat floors, extremely tight schedules and a host of special considerations make today's warehouse and distribution centers some of the most challenging construction projects. For decades, site cast tilt-up has been known as the best solution for some of the largest distribution centers in the country. Although the method is growing in acceptance for other end-uses, tilt-up professionals are still proving the method's viability in the distribution and warehouse market. Innovative tilt-up professionals have refined their processes to ensure that the medium's attributes of durability, speed, and economy are maximized to provide the quality that owners have grown to expect. Further, owners have come to expect architectural appeal for these facilities, which tilt-up professionals have been able to readily achieve.

Brewing success

A key selling point for the Coors Brewing Company is that all of their products are kept cold from brewing to the retailer. In support of this marketing message, Coors maintains strict cooling requirements and places strong demands on their distribution centers. The 265,000 square foot distribution center, located at the Coors Brewery headquarters in Golden, Colo., was the first new building constructed on the campus in a long while. Coors' executives required an extremely efficient building that would streamline their distribution process, and they closely monitored the project from start to finish.

Tilt-up was selected for this project because it was the most economical solution that met Coors' insulation requirements. Using the Thermomass insulation system, the contractor for the project—Saunders Construction of Centennial, Colo.—was able to maintain the owner's 34-degree cooling requirements for the facility. One of the most challenging aspects of this project was the fast-paced schedule that necessitated starting the project in the harsh Colorado winter months. Since they self-perform all their own concrete operations, Saunders Construction was able to complete all foundation, slab work, and panels in just 12 weeks. All panels and the structural steel were erected in just four weeks. The project was completed four weeks ahead of schedule and expedited Coors' goals for early distribution of beer.

Building big

Proving that tilt-up is still the answer for big box projects with fast-track schedules, the distribution and warehouse center for TJX Corporation in Pittston Township, Pa. was constructed in a mere ten months. The 1.3-million-square-foot building features 130 loading docks with provisions to include 10 or more at a later date, fully adhered roofing, and high-bay racking. Onsite parking accommodates 400 trailers and 1200 automobiles to ease logistics and the movement of product. Further, the building has more than three miles of superflat floors with a tolerance of FF100.

Constructed with reinforced insulated panels, the owner chose tilt-up for this project because of the speed of construction and the elimination of perimeter columns. The project began with blasting and removing 1 million cubic yards of rock. An elevation of 1221 feet and a densely wooded site posed additional challenges to the building team. But, with an army of more than 300 workers and six-day work weeks, the contractor for the project—Cutler Associates. Allentown, Pa.—was able to deliver the project on schedule. To save transportation time, Cutler used an onsite concrete batch plant, since the amount of concrete required for the project was so large. Another time saving technique was the use of The Marvin Group's welded wire reinforcement (WWR) mats, which saved placement time when compared to traditional reinforcement. The use of tilt-up for this project enabled the contractor to meet the strict schedule requirements and also provided the owner with the high quality facility they desired.

Still the solution

As owners' need for extremely efficient warehouse and distribution space continues to grow, increased technology and innovative construction techniques have shown tilt-up's superior performance in this market. The characteristics that have made tilt-up the method of choice for decades in warehouse and distribution are still prevalent, but advancements in tilt-up finishes and architectural techniques have made the method more attractive than ever.

— Ed Sauter is the executive director of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association.