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What is tilt-up construction?

Listen in on an interview with Keith Cobell and Craig Janofski as they discuss tilt-up construction and how it will be used in Haiti!

*Transcript included below video.

Tilt-up Interview Transcription

Hello everybody! Thanks for joining us today. My name is Craig Janoski and I am the Director of Strategic Initiatives with Extollo, coming to you today out of Michigan. I have Keith Cobell joining us, he is the president of Extollo, joining in on this call from California. Hello Keith, thank you for joining us!

Yeah, it’s good to be on this call and share what we're doing in Haiti.

For any of our followers and partners who have been following along in or work in Haiti, they've been hearing some language that we've been using the better part of I'm guessing 6 months or so we've been using a language called tilt-up, tilt-up construction but my fear is for others like me who don't necessarily come from the construction industry that there's some confusion about exactly what tilt-up is. So I'm wondering if you help us understand what is tilt-up.

So I guess to be simple and hopefully as clear as possible, Tilt-up construction is essentially pouring slabs of concrete on the ground and then tilting them up. It's almost like the old school barn-raising that you see where you have someone puts down the foundation and a group comes in and just starts building walls on that floor and then they tilt-up the walls. That's essentially what tilt-up construction is. It's being able to do the main construction there on the ground and then once the concrete cures, it's able to get tilted up and constructed that way.

Is this a new technology in construction or is this a construction technique that's currently being used in Haiti?

It's not a new construction technique, but it is innovative in Haiti. To our knowledge no one else is doing it, I remember hearing at some point that someone had tried it a number of years ago but it didn't work for them for whatever reason. Tilt-up construction is a pretty old technology, I don't know the history of it per se, but it is widely used throughout the developed world or the developed economies. You see a lot of it because it has a low-cost efficiency to it. You can actually construct a building in 1/3 of the time as opposed to other types of construction, For Haiti, what's most interesting is here you have a really fascinating intersection between the skillset that Extollo has, specifically and its founder and general contractor Sherman Balch, and one of the greatest needs for Haiti is, in the construction space particularly, with housing. Sherman is an internationally-recognized expert in tilt-up construction technology. He actually helped develop a lot of innovations in tilt-up and so as we started to think about where is Extollo going to go next as an organization in Haiti, it was going to be in the construction space because of course, we train people in the construction trades. This is where a light bulb came on for us. Why don't we take one of the top experts in this construction technology and be the first mover of it in Haiti? It has again in a number of benefits to it that could be of help to the people there.

Traditionally when people are constructing in Haiti there's a lot of brick-and-mortar. That is a common technique right now. You’ve already mentioned a couple of benefits about potentially saving money but certainly to do tilt-up and to do it well, will be a fairly significant investment. Why make the change? Why bring this technology to Haiti? What are going to be the benefits of it?

Well, there are a few benefits of it. One is that construction concrete uses inputs that are readily available in Haiti. There's not a whole lot do you have to do that is different. It's the technique that is quite different. There's a lot of construction in Haiti that uses concrete, uses block construction with mortar and cement, and so forth. Often times what you'll find is that the construction doesn't use the highest quality material. It doesn't use the highest quality craftsmanship and it doesn't use the kind of structural supports it needs, such as rebar. So you get a building that looks good on the outside but on the inside is quite fragile and the world saw that in 2010 in Haiti. So what tilt-up is doing, is basically locking in excellence and resilience into the wall before it even to quote “tilt-up”. So the tilt-up construction is essentially taking panels that you are able to do a lot of things to do while it's on the ground and then your erecting it and the ability for that wall to withstand natural disasters is significantly higher than if you were building it out of blocks. Certainly the case in Haiti, understandably people are wanting to save money so they don't fill those block walls with enough rebar or enough concrete inside the blocks. So that's one significant benefit to it.

I think secondly, this is a new construction technology for Haiti that we hope does take off. We don't see ourselves becoming a massive tilt-up construction company in Haiti but we want to share our experience and knowledge with other construction companies that can adopt this technique as well. What that will do for our students, who are learning about this technique now, we hope it is going to be a particular construction knowledge and skill set that's going to be in much more demand down the road once we've proven the concept of this tilt-up construction.

What we are going to be doing is, we will be creating a small house. Probably somewhere around 800 to 900 square feet that is going to be built using this tilt-up construction technology It's going to be at a price point that we think is going to be affordable for the majority of the middle class in Haiti. Hopefully, it'll be adopted by others. We are hoping for partnerships with other NGOs, the government of Haiti, and others that seeing the benefit of being able to reproduce a house that's very scalable but also and very resilient.

Good! I think that’s helpful. I think we have a better understanding of what tilt-up is. It sounds like it's going to be a more cost-effective solution that provides structural integrity. I would imagine the speed of constructing those walls, whether, for a security wall, security fences, or walls for a house can be done faster and so it could have some economic impact on the job markets. So let’s talk a little bit more about the nuts and bolts of this. Why Extollo? How does Extollo actually plan to accomplish this?

I mentioned the “Why Extollo” a little bit. It centers on Sherm Balch, as the intellectual asset for this. He's probably the biggest resource that we have when it comes to how to do tilt-up in varying degrees of difficulty. It's also because we've been really focusing on developing our campus. We have a 5-acre campus in Bercy, which is just essentially northwest of Cabaret, 45 minutes north of Port-au-Prince. We just finished phase one at that site and were looking to do two more phases. In the second phase is a real build-out of our infrastructure for tilt-up, a metal fabrication facility we are developing right now as we speak, as well as an auto care facility. When it comes to the ability we have, it is a lot of investment. We have been putting a fair bit of investment in the infrastructure for these tilt-up operations this includes: casting slabs which basically is a big platform of concrete on the ground that you pour these walls on to, there is equipment like cranes, cement mixers, a conveyor belts that lead from a pile of rocks into a hopper to connect and mix the aggregates that go into the mixer. This is where Sherm Balch has been having his most fun because he gets to build something from the ground up that we're all pretty confident in that is going to have an outsized impact in Haiti.

That’s fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing that with us. There are some exciting days ahead. I thank you to everybody who tuned into this video, we hope it helped explain tilt-up a little bit more and if you want to learn more information about Extollo and how you can get involved please visit We will see you next time, thank you!

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