Company sees high-rise trend toward
Concrete contractors are in great demand throughout the Southeast,
and, as in all sectors, competition is fierce among the top
And it's often these specialty contractors that feel the
greatest schedule and budget pressures from owners, developers
and general contractors. That means success is all about being
as efficient, quick and safe as possible.
With those pressures in mind, one of the Southeast's fastest-growing
concrete forming firms, Total Concrete Structures of Atlanta,
is in the process of adding another trick to its trade. Though
the company performs most of its work with conventional framing,
it is nevertheless touting the use of tunnel forms as a way
to both speed construction and increase quality.
Already responsible for the construction of the world's tallest
tunnel-formed project, the 44-story Paramount at Buckhead
apartment building in Atlanta, the company is presently spreading
the word on this technique with ongoing and upcoming projects
Though tunnel-forming has typically been used for low-rise
structures, such as garden apartments and military housing
- and one of the company's present tunnel-form projects is
a low-rise structure - it's in the high-rise market that Total
Concrete sees the greatest potential for growth.
"Starting two or three years ago, it's gotten real popular
in high-rise construction, as more and more owner/developers
see the rapid construction pace and better quality,"
said John Stull, president for Total Concrete Structures.
He added that the enhanced quality is found in the smoother
finish produced by the use of a manufactured steel form.
Stull said that due to the smoother finish, developers can
reduce other costs by eliminating some metal stud and drywall
work and applying painted finishes directly to the concrete.
In addition to its current low-rise project, the $15 million
European Village in Palm Coast, Total Concrete will be building
the 35-story Vue at Lake Eola in Orlando with tunnel forms,
and it is in preliminary negotiations for another project
in the Southeast that would easily eclipse the firm's previous
world record for height.
The European Village project is superintendent Dennis Hitson's
first experience with tunnel forms, and so far, he's sold
"Tunnel forming is a lot faster than conventional framing,"
he said. "With tunnel forms, I pour every day, and I
pour my vertical [columns and/or walls] with my horizontal.
If you've got typical bays, tunnel-forming's the way to go."
The daily repetition of the system makes it easy for workers
to learn, Stull added.
"Once you put [the form] together, you don't ever touch
it," he said. "You drop it, pull it out and set
it back in the next location. [The crew] does the same thing,
every day, at the same time. It's like clockwork."
Still, Hitson admitted to some limitations.
"Sometimes it's a headache, but the design pretty much
tells you where your headaches are going to be before you
ever put your first tunnel in," he said.
Additionally, said Stull, "It takes a lot of planning
in the initial stages of the job. The most cost-efficient
way of handling a tunnel-form job is to design the building
around the tunnel-form [method]."
For example, the architect on the Vue at Lake Eola project
had never designed a tunnel-form project. By working with
the concrete contractor in the initial stages of design, the
team was able to shave an estimated $3 million off the construction
costs and have the concrete work completed six months faster
than with conventional framing.
"If the owner and design team are willing to listen,
it's well worth it," Stull said. "It's unbelievable
how much money you start to save. But you've got to design
the building for it."
Stull said the ability to use post-tensioning systems with
tunnel forms - as will be the case on the Vue - is a further
reason for this method to expand in popularity.
European Village is Total Concrete Structures' first project
in Florida. The four-story condominium project consists of
three separate buildings sitting on top of a single, underground
parking structure. The first floor is dedicated to retail
Total Concrete Structures has a $4.6 million contract and
is constructing all of the concrete work as well as effectively
performing as GC on the project.
"We designed the building, and the structural engineer
works for us, so it's a design-build contract," Stull
said. "We helped coordinate the sitework, the grading
work. We're kind of their little general contractor out here."
The developer, Harborside Development, has separate contracts
for exterior and interior finishes.
The company broke ground in February and expects to be finished
with its work by September. The entire project should be complete
The concrete firm sold the owner on the quality it could
attain with the tunnel-form system and the cost savings it
could achieve through reduced drywall expenses. Still, Stull
said that because of problems with concrete availability,
it probably would have been better to frame it conventionally.
"With a tunnel form, you've got to pour every day,"
he said. "If you don't pour you don't have a place for
your guys to go to (work) tomorrow. That's been our biggest
problem. If I had to do it all over again, I probably would
not do it as tunnel forms."
Stull said the process has saved the owner four to six weeks
on schedule but has cost more than originally estimated due
to the cement shortage.
Over a roughly two-month timeframe, concrete deliveries shrank
from as much as 650 yds. per week to 200 yds. at the most,
Hitson said. With typical pours about 80-90 yds., essentially
this meant that instead of pouring every day, the company
was only able to get concrete two days a week.
To keep on schedule, Total Concrete has brought in additional
crews to conventionally frame portions of the third building
being erected, while the other crews catch up on the second
Concrete availability concerns started going away in July,
and the firm expected to meet its original Sept. 8 deadline.
Structure Contractor: Total
Concrete Structures, Atlanta
Designer: BFY Associates,
Structural Engineer: Sa-Tech
Engineering, Boca Raton
Electrical Contractor: Carter
Electric, Daytona Beach
HVAC Contractor: D.G. Meyers,