A Lift For Fire Safety

Tilt-Up Concrete Association (TCA) recognizes graduate and undergraduate architecture students in TCA/PCA Fire Storm Housing 2008, an international design

Tilt-Up Concrete Association (TCA) recognizes graduate and undergraduate architecture students in TCA/PCA Fire Storm Housing 2008, an international design competition. Inviting submission of conceptual designs for firestorm-resistant housing in California’s Santa Ana region using site-cast tilt-up panels for shell components, the competition challenged entrants to provide creative solutions for a custom, single-family residence.

By contrast to rebuilding efforts that employ the same combustible materials and few, if any, systems to limit or prevent future damage in firestorm-prone areas, architecturally significant designs engendered by TCA/PCA Fire Storm Housing 2008 offer measurable improvements in long-term durability for housing units in rebuild communities. Each entry capitalized on the ability of tilt-up concrete walls (at least 6.5 inches thick) to resist fire approximately four hours. Notes TCA Technical Director Jim Baty, The design and construction industry must address the devastating problem of firestorms, which destroy thousands of homes each year. These students devised creative strategies that could provide a new market for tilt-up construction in areas where such hazards are prevalent.

From a pool of submissions from several colleges and universities, including Alfred State College (SUNY College of Technology), University of Illinois, and New York Institute of Technology, Alfred State students were recognized for first and third place, plus four honorable mention distinctions. All entries were judged by a three-person panel comprising TCA Executive Director Ed Sauter; Alan Wilson, a registered architect and vice president at The Haskell Company; and, TCA’s Jim Baty. Criteria used to evaluate students’ designs included:

  • Creativity of design concept in overall solution
  • Application of the tilt-up construction method
  • Appropriateness of response in context

Considerable growth in comprehension of tilt-up technology and its application to designing structures was evident in the second consecutive year of the TCA/PCA Student Design Competition, Baty affirms. TCA and PCA plan to sponsor a similar competition in 2009.


Incorporating minimalism, as well as Hispanic-themed elements reflecting the region’s roots, the first-place winning design by John Velo and Jamie Woods of Alfred State College features a combination of tilt-up concrete walls, stucco siding, and several panes of fire-resistant windows to create a modern, yet welcoming home. A breezeway and tilt-up walls divide the structure into smaller sections, thereby creating a barrier to prevent spreading flames. Also serving to impede the progress of fire is a pool around which the house is arranged.


Highlighting the second-place design, submitted by Ralph Motto of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, is a grid of custom inserts embedded in an insulated concrete building shell. Initially used for construction, the grid/insert system facilitates later retrofitting of walls as new technology, such as solar collectors, becomes affordable. Further, the project’s adaptive housing scheme allows homeowners to purchase modestly sized structures and then expand living space by securing additional units and modifying interior layouts to suit a family’s growing needs.


The third-place project, submitted by Carlos Colon of Alfred State College, is a one-story, three-bedroom ranch house whose trapezoid shape echoes that of the property on which it sits. Within the residence’s trapezoid interior, the size and volume of windows necessitated 12-in.-thick tilt-up concrete walls.