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Wall Bracing to

Slab-on-Ground
Floors Tilt-Up Panel

Should bracing forces be considered during the design phase?

BY David L. Kelly

I n the tilt-up construction method, concrete wall panels


are typically cast in a horizontal position on a ground-
supported slab (Fig. 1). Because the size (and weight) of a
tilt-up building—the time after panels have been erected
but before the lateral-force-resisting system for the
building stabilizes the individual panels (Fig. 2).
typical tilt-up panel can be quite high, the panels are
normally cast near their final locations, and each panel is
lifted and moved from the casting slab to its final position
in one continuous operation. Before the crane rigging is
disconnected and the crane boom is moved to the next
panel, however, each panel must be laterally supported
by temporary braces. There are issues and responsibilities
that arise during this important phase in the life of a

Tilt-Up Panel

Fig. 1: Tilt-up construction process: (a) wall panels are typically cast on a slab-on-ground floor; (b) each panel is lifted, rotated, and
translated to its final position; (c) crane rigging is removed after braces are tied to the panel and the panel is braced; and (d) the
braces are removed after the building’s lateral-force-resisting system is in place (based on Ref. 1)

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Fig. 2: Temporary bracing is a critical feature for any tilt-up project
(photo by Keith Cronin, courtesy of Panattoni Construction and the Tilt-Up
Concrete Association)

A Question of Responsibility floor subcontractor must therefore give careful attention


Many parties have vested interests in a successful to subgrade stiffness, surface hardness and finish, service
construction phase for a tilt-up concrete building. loads (fork lifts and rack loads), joint spacing, joint load
Those directly concerned with panel erection and transfer, joint filler, slab reinforcement, and slab thickness.
stability include: These factors are detailed in ACI 360R-06, “Design of
 The General Contractor (GC); Slabs-on-Ground,”2 and ACI 302.1R-04, “Guide for
 The Tilt-Up Panel Subcontractor; Concrete Floor and Slab Construction.”3
 The Tilt-Up Insert and Bracing Supplier; and Before a tilt-up building is completed, however, its
 The Delegated Engineer who provides specialty slab-on-ground floor is often quite literally the factory
service for, in this case, design of the lifting and floor. The slab serves as a staging area for materials as
bracing devices for the tilt-up panels. well as the major forming surface for the panels. This is
Clearly, the temporary bracing is within the domain of no small role, as the formed surface may be the future
these parties. But, if the temporary bracing is tied to the exterior surface of the panel, largely defining a building’s
slab-on-ground, does that domain also extend to the Slab- overall aesthetic quality. In a list of potential construction
on-Ground Floor Subcontractor and the Engineer of loads that should be considered by the designer,
Record (also termed the Engineer in Responsible Charge ACI 360R-06 includes concrete trucks, dump trucks,
or the Prime Professional)? hoisting equipment, and cranes used for steel erection,
tilt wall erection, and setting equipment. The guide
More than a Floor further notes that “Some of these loads can exceed the
For most tilt-up buildings, the slab-on-ground floor will design limits and, therefore, the construction load case
typically comprise a major part of the lateral-force- should be anticipated, particularly relative to early-age
resisting system for the structure, so the Engineer of concrete strength.” Unfortunately, the guide appears to
Record must ensure that a load path exists from the wall provide no warning regarding the effects of bracing loads
panels (normally the walls act as shearwalls) through the on a slab-on-ground floor.
floor and to the subgrade. The slab-on-ground floor must Although ACI 551.1R-05 does state that temporary
also serve as a high-quality wearing surface or as a bracing is typically designed by the engineer that designs
substrate for the final flooring materials. The slab-on- the lifting inserts for the tilt-up panels,4 it also provides
ground designer (often, the Engineer of Record) and the little guidance to the Engineer of Record regarding the

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effect of bracing on the slab-on-ground floor. There is at pullout at loads below the expected capacity of the
least a statement, however, that hints at a possible anchor; and
overlap in design responsibility for the concrete floor: “If  The floor slab may slide. Slab panel joints are deliber-
a strip of floor slab is left out until the panels are erected, ately designed to avoid transferring tension forces,
deadmen for anchoring the braces may be required until and slabs are often constructed with polymer vapor
permanent connections are made.” retarders—friction forces may therefore be limited.
So, who is responsible for ensuring that a slab will be Sliding can lead to panel misalignment or, in extreme
capable of resisting bracing loads? cases, allow a panel to topple.
The Engineer of Record may say that panel bracing
and associated hardware can be classified as means and Who (or What) Dictates
methods that are in the domain of the GC. After all, when Bracing Forces?
the building design is underway, how will the Engineer of Guidelines for determining bracing forces during
Record know how the panels will be braced or what construction are published by the Tilt-Up Concrete
bracing and anchor types will be used (the engineer may Association (TCA).5 The current version of TCA’s guide-
not even know who the GC will be)? lines for temporary wind bracing uses the wind force
When selected, the GC may say that only the contract recommendations provided in SEI/ASCE 37-02,6 the U.S.
documents were bid. Special slab provisions for bracing standard providing minimum design load requirements
loads, such as thickening or adding reinforcing to the slab- during building construction. Per SEI/ASCE 37-02, a basic
on-ground, may not be the GC’s concern unless the GC is wind speed with a 50-year mean recurrence interval can
self-performing the casting and erection of the panels. The be adjusted for the reduced construction period. In this
GC may also be reluctant to change the slab design shown case, the construction period is assumed to be 6 weeks to
on the drawings to accommodate the bracing forces—not 1 year, so the reduction factor is 0.8. Most of the U.S. is
only could the changes be uncompensated, the GC could located in a 90 mph (40 m/sec) wind zone (50-year
also incur responsibility for the service-life performance of recurrence interval, 3 second gust speed), so TCA
the slab. Finally, the GC can always argue that only the recommends a minimum wind speed of 72 mph (32 m/sec)
Engineer of Record is intimately aware of the design for bracing loads, resulting in the equivalent uniform
requirements and has the necessary expertise to properly pressures on solid sign-type structures given in Table 1.
design the slab. In coastal regions, higher wind loads are required to be
The Tilt-Up Subcontractor will have no contractual used for building design, but SEI/ASCE 37-02 allows the
control over the slab-on-ground conditions and is use of a 90 mph (40 m/sec) building design wind speed
often dependent on a Bracing Supplier for providing a (72 mph [32 m/sec] bracing design wind speed) if special
highly critical and highly specialized component of the precautions are taken during hurricane season.
tilt-up system. Per Section 8 of the TCA bracing guidelines, the floor
The Bracing Supplier will normally employ the services slab, footing, or deadmen should be designed with
of a Delegated Engineer who designs the braces and their sufficient strength and weight to resist the applied brace
connections for wind loads. The Delegated Engineer will loads, using a minimum safety factor of 1.5. The section
rarely have a contract or the authority to design the slab- provides a method for estimating the required thickness
on-ground. In fact, the slab-on-ground could very well be of a floor slab to safely anchor wall braces and recommends
in place at the time the bracing design is completed. the designer consider the type and location of joints, the
Finally, all bidders can argue that they would risk losing thickness and reinforcement in the slab, the strength of
the contract if they were to include services not indicated the concrete in the slab, and the size and location of slab
in the contract documents. closure strips. For sliding resistance, a friction coefficient
So, what are the possible consequences of these of 0.5 is recommended.
confused relationships?
 Anchors may pull out of the slab. There are no post- Table 1:
installed anchors that can resist a substantial load in Equivalent uniform pressure for basic wind speed
concrete less than 5 in. (125 mm) thick, so a floor (90 mph) and construction period wind speed (72 mph)
slab designed with no consideration of bracing loads Panel height above
may be too thin to develop the required anchorage foundation, ft (m) Wind pressure, psf (kPa)
forces for the braces;
0 to 30 (0 to 9.1) 12.5 (0.6)
 The floor slab may crack. Even if the slab is thicker
than 5 in. (125 mm), it may not have enough strength >30 to 60 (>9.1 to 18.3) 14.1 (0.7)
to prevent flexural cracking when wind forces cause >60 to 100 (>18.3 to 30.5) 15.6 (0.75)
uplift at the anchor points. This can lead to anchor Note: 1 mph = 0.447 m/sec

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process, it’s unlikely the slab designer will have any
contact with the bracing supplier. So, even the TCA
bracing guidelines don’t provide a clear assignment of
responsibility for bracing load effects on slabs.

Storm and Stress


I’ll use a simple example to illustrate a few of the
potential issues. An elementary school gymnasium
has been designed with 30 ft (9.1 m) tall walls. The top
of the footings is 2 ft (0.6 m) below grade and the
finish floor elevation. The unreinforced slab-on-ground
floor is 4 in. (100 mm) thick with 16 x 16 ft (4.9 x 4.9 m)
joint spacing. The floor slab has a 4 ft (1.2 m) wide
closure strip adjacent to the panel, and the first slab
joint is 20 ft (6.1 m) from the inside face of the panel.
Can the panel be safely braced to the floor?
The 30 ft (9.1 m) tall panel should be checked using a
12.5 psf (0.6 kPa) construction wind load. The brace
Fig. 3: Tilt-up bracing geometry and construction wind load connections to the panel will be at 2/3 the height of the
(based on Ref. 5)
panel or 20 ft (6.1 m) above the foundation. To keep a
bracing angle of 50 to 60 degrees and to keep the brace
The required slab thickness is estimated using Eq. (1) anchor near the centerline of the first floor slab panel,
through (3) that are based on the geometry illustrated in the brace connections will be 12 ft (3.65 m) from the face
Fig. 3. These equations include consideration of sliding of the panel.
resistance only. Slab bending due to uplift must be Assuming that the full bracing load is resisted by only
checked separately. the floor slab panel closest to the wall panel

S = (1.5WpH2)/[2(V + Y)] (1)
S = [1.5(12.5 psf)(30 ft)2]/[2(18 ft + 2 ft)] = 422 lb/ft

U = S (V/X ) (2)
U = 422 lb/ft(18/12) = 633 lb/ft

T = (2S + U)/[wc(J – P)] (3)
T = [2(422 lb/ft) + 633 lb/ft]/[150 lb/ft3(20 ft – 4 ft)]
= 0.62 ft or 7.4 in. (in.-lb units)
where S is the sliding force in lb/ft (kN/m) including

the factor of safety; U is the uplift force in lb/ft (N/m)
S = [1.5(0.6 kPa)(9.1 m)2]/[2(5.5 m + 0.6 m)] = 6.1 kN/m
including the factor of safety; T is the required slab
thickness, ft (m); Wp is the wind pressure in psf (kPa);
U = 6.1 kN/m(5.5/3.65) = 9.2 kN/m
H is the total panel height in ft (m); V is the height of
brace connection above the floor slab in ft (m); Y is
the distance from top of footing to top of slab in ft (m); T = [2(6.1 kN/m) + 9.2 kN/m]/[23.6 kN/m3(6.1 m – 1.2 m)]
X is the distance from face of panel to the floor connection = 0.19 m or 190 mm (SI units)
for brace in ft (m); wc is the unit weight of the concrete
in lb/ft3 (kN/m3); J is the distance from inside face of the So, a 4 in. (100 mm) slab is too thin to provide sufficient
panel to the first slab joint beyond the anchor point in ft sliding resistance. If the slab is already installed, however,
(m); and P is the closure strip width in ft (m). what can be done to ensure worker safety?
The guidelines note that the method for estimating
the slab thickness may not be adequate for conditions Retrofit
at building corners or where bracing loads will be To provide more sliding resistance, it’s possible to
concentrated. They also recommend that the floor install temporary ties across the floor joints using,
slab be designed “by a professional engineer to resist for example, expansion anchors installed through
the applied brace forces furnished by the brace metal plates (Fig. 4). The bracing designer can then
designer.”4 Unfortunately, unless the building is being assign uplift forces to the first slab panel and
constructed by a Design-Build firm or the Engineer of sliding forces to both the first and second slab panels.
Record brings a bracing supplier into the design The slab thickness required to resist sliding is

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T = [2(422 lb/ft) + 633 lb/ft)]/[150 lb/ft3(32 ft)] 3200 lb/633 lb/ft = 5 ft (in.-lb units)
= 0.31 ft or 3.7 in. < 4 in. (in.-lb units)
14.2 kN/9.2 kN/m = 1.5 m (SI units)
T = [2(6.1 kN/m) + 9.2 kN/m]/[23.6 kN/m3(9.8 m)]
= 0.09 m or 90 mm < 100 mm (SI units) The ballast will not eliminate the need to tie the slab
panels, but it will reduce the flexural stress. The net uplift
The slab thickness required to resist uplift is will be resisted by a slab length given by

T = (633 lb/ft)/[150 lb/ft3(20 ft – 4 ft)] [633 lb/ft – (450 lb/5 ft)]/[0.33 ft(150 lb/ft3)]
= 0.26 ft or 3.2 in. < 4 in. (in.-lb units) = 11 ft (in.-lb units)

T = (9.2 kN/m)/[23.6 kN/m3(6.1 m - 1.2 m)] [9.2 kN/m – (2 kN/1.5 m)]/[0.1 m(23.6 kN/m3­)]
= 0.08 m or 80 mm < 100 mm (SI units) = 3.3 m (SI units)

For a 4 in. (100 mm) slab, the length required to The flexural stress from the resulting 5.5 ft (1.65 m)
provide sufficient weight to resist uplift is cantilever will be 281 psi (1.9 MPa). Although the 4 in.
(100 mm) thick slab can be used to anchor the panel
(633 lb/ft)/[0.33 ft(150 lb/ft3)] = 12.8 ft (in.-lb units) bracing, the thin slab will require that two slab panels are
tied and numerous ballasting drums are used. What if the
(9.2 kN/m)/[0.1 m(23.6 kN/m3)] = 3.9 m (SI units) slab designer had considered bracing effects?

But, can the 4 in. (100 mm) slab resist the uplift? The Design it
brace connection is centered in a 12.8 ft (3.9 m) bending If the slab designer had considered bracing effects, a
zone, so the amount of slab cantilevered from the brace 5 in. (125 mm) thick slab could have been required in the
point can be assumed to be half of this length. first bay. The brace spacing would then be a function of
The bending moment M will therefore be: the brace buckling and shoe capacities, not the brace
anchor capacity. The uplift force from the braces would
M = (0.33 ft)(150 lb/ft3) (6.4 ft)2 be resisted by a slab length of
2
(633 lb/ft)/[0.42 ft(150 lb/ft3)] = 10 ft (in.-lb units)
= 1014 ft-lb (in.-lb units)
ft (9.2 kN/m)/[0.125 m(23.6 kN/m3)] = 3.1 m (SI units)

M = (0.1 m)(23.6 kN/m3) (1.95 m)2
2

kN·m
= 4.49 (SI units)
m

The section modulus for a unit width (1 ft or 1 m) Fig. 4: Temporary tension ties across contraction joints allow
of a 4 in. (100 mm) thick slab will be 32 in.3 (1.67 x adjacent floor slab panels to resist sliding forces
106 mm3), so the flexural stress will be 380 psi (2.7 MPa).
Because this is a life-safety issue, a flexural strength
for the slab concrete of 5 (0.4 ) will be used. With
f ′c = 4000 psi (28 MPa), the flexural strength will there-
fore be 316 psi (2.1 MPa). The slab should be reinforced
for bending, but, in this case, it’s already in place.
Now what?
The uplift can be reduced by adding ballast near the
braces—a 55 gal. (200 L) drum filled with water will
reduce the net uplift by about 450 lb (2 kN) (Fig. 5).
Most floor anchors have an upward working load limit
of 3200 lb (14.2 kN) in 4 in. (100 mm) thick concrete, so Fig. 5: Temporary ballast installed adjacent to brace anchors
the maximum spacing between braces will be reduces uplift and flexural stresses in the slab-on-ground

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The resulting flexural stress would be only 188 psi would still be too great to be resisted by the first floor
(1.4 MPa). The slab would therefore require no flexural slab panel alone, it would be necessary to install only
reinforcing and no ballast. Although the sliding force light reinforcing across the first joint. Many projects have
been successfully completed using an 8 ft (2.4 m) width
of 6x6-W2.9xW2.9 (152x152-MW19xMW19) welded-
wire reinforcement at the critical contraction joint.
Alternatively, the tilt-up contractor could install temporary
ties across the first slab joint or shoring to the panel or
the footing (Fig. 6).

Typically Taller
As the tilt-up industry continues to grow, wall heights
grow as well. Multi-story tilt-up buildings are now becoming
a popular application, leading to wall heights exceeding
75 ft (23 m).
Fig. 6: Shores installed in the closure strip can transfer sliding Clearly, such tall walls are going to create numerous
forces to the panel foundation challenges that are outside the scope of this article.
Knowing that the elevation of the upper brace
connections will be about 60% of the panel height and
the distance from the face of the panel to the lower
brace connections will be 33 to 40% of the panel height,
the building designer should consider numerous
questions before the construction documents are
issued, including:
 Where will the crane be located?
 Will the panels be braced to the inside or the outside
of the building?
 If panels are braced to the inside, will the braces
interfere with installation of intermediate floors?
 If panels are braced to the outside, will the braces
interfere with the crane operations and traffic?
 Will the panels be strong enough to span between the
bracing points?
Especially for tall structures, I recommend that the
Fig. 7: Concealed deadmen can restrain sliding forces while Engineer of Record design a bracing method into the
allowing unrestrained slab shrinkage structure. Available options include the use of:
 Thickened slab panels at the areas affected by bracing;
 Shores to transfer sliding forces to the panel foundation
(Fig. 6);
 Concealed deadmen to transfer
sliding forces to the subgrade
(Fig. 7);
 Integral deadmen comprising
continuous grade beams or
drilled piers (Fig. 8);
 Discrete deadmen, consisting of
helical or toggle anchors that are
drilled or pressed into the earth
at the bracing angle and tied
directly to the brace, keeping
in mind that the panels will
Fig. 8: Integral deadmen can provide sufficient mass to resist uplift as well as sufficient probably need to be cast on a
bearing surface to resist sliding forces. For this and other options that affect the floor section,
such as thickened slabs or integral grade beams, it’s important to maintain a constant bottom separate casting slab or braced
elevation between the contraction joints to avoid inducing restraint cracking to the outside; and

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 Precast concrete blocks (often termed ecology Selected for reader interest by the editors.
blocks) that can be moved onto the site. These are
typically used to anchor the lowest level of braces
and must be designed using an appropriate
coefficient of friction, including a safety factor of
1.5, as well as considering overturning.
ACI member David L. Kelly is Vice President
Plan for the Future of the Meadow-Burke Co. With over
While the Engineer of Record must determine the 47 years experience in the tilt-up industry,
service load conditions for a building, the Engineer of he holds several patents on erection,
Record may have insufficient information to provide the bracing, forming, and structural hardware
final design of the floor slab for bracing effects. Perhaps, components for tilt-up construction. A
however, the following methods can be used to provide professional engineer licensed in several
better value and reduced risk for owners, engineers, states, Canada, and Australia, he has been
contractors, and subcontractors: the Engineer of Record on over 200 tilt-up
 In the design phase, use TCA guidelines to estimate buildings. His volunteer efforts have included membership on ACI
the wind load, brace length, and bracing forces Committee 551, Tilt-Up Concrete Construction. He is a founding
to determine the slab thickness, reinforcing, and member of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, served as President
affected slab area required to carry the bracing in 1990, and is currently on its Board of Directors.
forces; and
 On the construction documents, indicate:
1. The typical slab thickness and reinforcement
required for service loads;
2. Zones with increased thickness, reinforcement, or
both required to resist the estimated bracing forces;
3. Assumptions and forces used to arrive at the
estimated values;
4. A statement that the bracing forces have been
estimated; and
5. A statement that a Delegated Engineer must provide
final bracing design and calculations indicating how
bracing forces will be resisted.
This will allow the contractor more flexibility to
discuss and consider alternate methods with his suppliers
before the bid is rendered, when there is still time for
optimization of the tilt-up system. 1/4 page
References
1. “Tilt-Up Construction and Engineering Manual,” Tilt-Up
Concrete Association, Mount Vernon, IA, Aug. 2006, 359 pp.
2. ACI Committee 360, “Design of Slabs-on-Ground (ACI 360R-06),”
American Concrete Institute, Farmington Hills, MI, 2006, 74 pp.
3. ACI Committee 302, “Guide for Concrete Floor and Slab
Construction (ACI 302.1R-04),” American Concrete Institute,
Farmington Hills, MI, 2004, 77 pp.
4. ACI Committee 551, “Tilt-Up Concrete Construction Guide
(ACI 551.1R-05),” American Concrete Institute, Farmington Hills, MI,
2005, 29 pp.
5. TCA Guideline 1-05, “Guidelines for Temporary Wind Bracing of
Tilt-Up Concrete Panels During Construction,” Tilt-Up Concrete
Association, Mount Vernon, IA, 2005, 15 pp.
6. SEI/ASCE 37-02, “Design Loads on Structures During
Construction,” American Society of Civil Engineers, Reston, VA,
Jan. 2002, 36 pp. CIRCLE READER CARD #17

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