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TCA Awards

2008 TCA Student Design Contest Review

Fire Storm Housing

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Students in the field of architecture, currently in graduate or undergraduate programs, were invited to present conceptual designs for firestorm-resistant housing located in the Santa Ana region of California using site-cast concrete Tilt-Up panels for their shell components. 

The competition sought to challenge entrants to creatively solve the problem of producing a custom, single-family residence for a model home. Current rebuilding efforts in this area of the country demonstrate that most homes will be reconstructed with the same combustible materials and little, if any, systems to limit or prevent future damage from firestorms. Recognizing this fact, entrants were encouraged to present prominent, architecturally-significant design solutions for housing units that could be placed in new rebuild communities that provide measurable improvements to long-term durability.

“Firestorms destroy thousands of homes each year, so it is critically important that the design and construction industry develop solutions to this devastating problem,” said Jim Baty, Technical Director of TCA. “These students developed creative strategies utilizing the Tilt-Up method that could provide a new market for the Tilt-Up industry in areas where firestorms are prevalent.”

Entries were received from several colleges and universities including Alfred State College, University of Illinois and New York Institute of Technology. Alfred State students earned first and third place along with four honorable mention distinctions.

All entries were judged by a three person panel including Jim Baty, Technical Director of TCA; Ed Sauter, Executive Director of TCA; and Alan Wilson, a registered architect and vice president at The Haskell Company. The following criteria were used to evaluate the submittals:

  • Creative use of the design concept in overall solution,
  • Application of the Tilt-Up construction method, and
  • Appropriateness of response in the context.

The first place winners were John Velo and Jamie Woods from Alfred State College. Their design was inspired by minimalism, but is driven by the Hispanic roots of the region. The combination of parallel facing Tilt-Up concrete walls with stucco siding and several panes of fire-resistant windows creates the perception of a modern home without the cold, sterile impression of concrete. The team recognized that Tilt-Up concrete can resist a fire for approximately four hours for a typical 6.5-inch think wall. By cutting their structure into smaller sections using a breezeway and Tilt-Up concrete walls, the team created a barrier to prevent spreading flames. The home is designed around a pool to catch a cool breeze through the hot days in Southern California and as a way to slow down any fires that spread to the area. Further, this design element allows for a means of escape from the second-story in the event of a fire.

Judges noted that this project had the highest architectural value and one of the most reflective designs for the intent of the competition. “Participating in this competition greatly expanded my knowledge of Tilt-Up concrete and the applications that it can be used in,” said Velo. “The challenge of coming up with a new design to fit the needs of a community was also an experience that was very rewarding and excited me about future architecture projects.”

Submitted by Ralph Motto from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, the second place project explores the idea of using an insulated concrete building shell embedded with a grid of custom inserts used for construction and later to retrofit walls as new technology, such as solar collectors, become affordable. Adaptive housing would allow individuals to purchase modestly-sized units grouped together on typical residential sites. Homeowners would then be able to expand their living space by purchasing additional units and modifying interior layouts to suit their family’s growing needs. By allowing the owners living space to “grow” with their family, adaptive housing helps to reduce unnecessary debt and waste caused by owning an excessively large home, which can overextend the financial resources of a family. Instead, these expandable living units help extend the building’s usable life for the owner by allowing for adaptability and promoting family growth. Motto noted that Tilt-Up construction can provide fire-resistant, economical and unique housing for people wanting to rebuild and restructure the way they live. Judges commented that this submittal had great value with respect to the understanding of the Tilt-Up process. Further, the submitter explored ways of creating aesthetic value from the actual process of Tilt-Up and it was a unique and refreshing approach.

According to Motto, the competition gave him the opportunity to learn more about Tilt-Up, a building method he did not even know existed. “What first inspired me to work on this project was seeing pictures of concrete panels weighing tens of thousands of pounds dangling from thin steel cables and being lifted into place,” said Motto. “Immediately, I began asking myself ‘how is that done,” leading to my research and project submittal. By making students and educational departments aware of this unique and economical process, many others will also gain a sense of intrigue and interest in developing architectural uses that are made possible by Tilt-Up.”

Developed to support an idea using Tilt-Up concrete technology in the design and construction of a suburban house with an interior shaped like a trapezoid, the third place project is a one-story, three-bedroom ranch home. Submitted by Carlos Colon of Alfred State College, the concept was to take the trapezoid shape of the property site and carry it through the design of the house. For this unique application, the Tilt-Up concrete walls were designed to hold and support the glass windows that faced the east. Because of the size and volume of the windows, it was crucial to incorporate them within the 12-inch thick walls. Judges noted that this submittal offered a quality architectural solution that expressed an interesting understanding of the Tilt-Up process and a create way to establish an out-of-the-box design proposal.

“The competition was a pinnacle in my early career as a future architect,” said Colon. “For the curriculum at Alfred State, it is a major step in their future as a five year Bachelor of Architecture program and recruitment of students.”

In addition to the top three projects, four additional projects received the honorable mention distinctions. All of the projects were from Alfred State College.

“This second consecutive year of the TCA/PCA Student Design Competition has evidenced a considerable increase in the comprehension of the Tilt-Up structures and the application to designs,” said Baty. “The judges were very impressed with the quality of submittals and the fact that so many students gave the time to understand sophisticated details of the Tilt-Up process.”

TCA and Portland Cement Association (PCA) have announced that they will sponsor an annual competition with similar dates for submittals next year.

About the TCA

Founded in 1986, the Tilt-Up Concrete Association (TCA) strives to improve the quality and acceptance of site-cast Tilt-Up construction, a method in which concrete wall panels are cast on-site and tilted into place. Tilt-Up construction is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States, combining the advantages of reasonable cost with low maintenance, durability, speed of construction and minimal capital investment. At least 10,000 buildings, enclosing more than 650 million square feet, are constructed each year using this construction method.

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