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Awards | TCA Tilt-Up Achievement

Mechanical Engineering Research Laboratory

2003 TCA Tilt-Up Achievement Award - Educational Division

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Why Did the Owner Select Tilt-Up?

The Tilt-Up method was brought in as a cost-savings procedure. It was also thought to bring more durability to the building.

What was the Overall Complexity of the project?

The development of the new Mechanical Engineering Research Laboratory (MERL) resulted from a necessity to conform to life safety requirements, increasingly stringent building codes and a historical Stanford site context. The new research laboratory project will solve each of these critical issues and will allow the department to continue as a leader in its field.

The first challenge of this project was the complex program. This mechanical engineering building was to combine many different kinds of research into one building . Prior to the construction of this building, research within the department was housed in multiple locations making communication difficult. The multiple locations also caused space utilization to be inefficient, made materials handling difficult, and impacted the monitoring of necessary toxic and flammable gases. The Laboratory was built to meet the special needs of mechanical engineers and the varying research they perform – from measuring the adhesive force of a gecko’s foot hair to combustion and propulsion studies.

Tilt-Up Concrete was a very sound choice in solving this challenge. It is such a massive, stiff structure, that it provides a safer seismic component, as well as keeping in vibration and noise. The labs were designed with nearly a foot-thick panels.

Another challenge for this project was the extremely tight site into which the facility was placed. The existing structure contained a telecommunications hub for the entire Stanford campus. Since demolition of this hub was impossible, the architect designed the new facility around the existing hub. This was a brown field site and was a very tight footprint, which is not usually an ideal situation for Tilt-Up. There was a logistical complexity about deciding which panel to lift first and the crane lifted the panels from the deck. It demanded many pours to finally achieve the final outcome.

This building is the first academic building on the Stanford University campus that employed Tilt-Up concrete.

What was the Project Mission?

The goal for this project was focused on the multiple needs of Stanford University’s Mechanical Engineering Department. The MERL (Mechanical Engineering Research Laboratory) building primarily houses research programs to position the Department for leadership in critical emerging fields of mechanical engineering including; Advanced Manufacturing and Design, Bio-mechanical Engineering, Combustion Science and Engineering, Micro-scale Engineering and other interdisciplinary topics requiring a collaborative approach. Related space needs for project-based instruction and undergraduate research are also be met with this building. The MERL Building will help give the Department of Mechanical Engineering its own identity on the campus. The new facility provides a more appropriate building for the hazardous research that is done by the department.

As with most organizations, Stanford also had cost savings and durability as high priority goals. The project was brought in on-time and on-budget and was created to comply to Stanford’s very stringent design goals.

What were the special architectural treatments?

The design team looked at many color samples, as it was very important to match the adjacent buildings in color, as well as in texture. The University wanted a building that would fit into the historical context of the surrounding campus. Each panel was designed with reveals and raised panels to articulate a structural pattern that responded to the existing historical buildings.

What were the outstanding features?

The design team wanted to push the limits of how “open” the panels could be. In order to achieve a more transparent look and feel of the panels, they lightened the Tilt-Up to a framework which framed the window wall for public spaces. In the North and South lobbies, this was done in order to maximize daylight. In this way, the design highlighted a clear and identifiable entry into the building. The panels were designed with ‘punched’ openings to leave an expression of structure. This design was intended to relate to the context of the historical stucco buildings that surround the MERL building. Used the sheer walls on the inside as decorative features – same texture as the panels.

What was the success of the project?

The project came in on-time and on-budget, which is an accomplishment for all involved. The user group in the Department of Mechanical Engineering was extremely pleased with the facility.

What additional features or comments should be made?

This was the first academic building on Stanford University’s campus which employed the Tilt-Up concrete method. It met challenges of a very complex program, tight site constraints and rigorous design criteria by the campus, while still achieving architectural character and quality.

Project Specifics

Tallest Panel
33 ft 0 in
(10.06 m)
Largest Panel
1,270 sq ft
(118.0 sq m)
Heaviest Panel
185,000 lbs
(83,915 kg)

Participating TCA Members

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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