We’ve all driven by a behemoth concrete building that seems to go on forever; warehouse + distribution facilities tend to be easily identifiable. If they look similar, you might think that their construction must be pretty prescriptive, right? Wrong. These large buildings can be very complex. One of the early decisions the owner + design team must make is related to construction materials, affecting cost, schedule + maintenance. Two common options are precast concrete and tilt-up concrete wall panel construction. Let’s compare.

Precast concrete wall panels | Plant-cast concrete wall panels

What it is

As the name implies, precast concrete panels (also known as plant-cast concrete wall panels) are produced at a plant offsite in a climate- and quality-controlled manufacturing environment. Concrete is poured + cured in regular, reusable forms typically 8-13 ft wide (to fit on a flat-bed truck), and then the finished panels are shipped to the site to be erected in place using a crane.

Precast concrete wall panels are a delegated design item. The precast manufacturer designs the wall panels using high-strength pre-stressed strands or conventional rebar, and includes additional connections between the narrow panels to counteract the specified overturning forces. The general contractor, architect and structural engineer must coordinate with an additional trade (precast manufacturer) as well as review + approve stamped precast plans + calculations for general compliance with the construction documents as a delegated design item.

Tilt-up concrete wall panels | Site-cast concrete wall panels

What it is

As the name implies, site-cast or tilt-up panels are produced onsite as soon as the building slab or casting bed is ready and weather permits. The concrete is poured and cured flat in custom built forms typically 12-30 ft wide, and then physically tilted up into place using a crane. Site-cast wall panels are typically designed by the structural engineer using rebar or welded-wire-reinforcement. The general contractor, architect and structural engineer review + approve the contractor’s submittals for general compliance with the construction documents.

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