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Second generation lift slab

Walls unfold as slabs rise . . . and continuous vertical reinforcement provides earthquake resistance

BY M.K. HURD, CONSULTANT, FARMINGTON, MICHIGAN sophisticated second-generation lift slab construction technique is bringing much of the efficiency of factory production to jobsites in Mexico. Reinforced concrete bearing walls and slabs are cast in a single stack at ground level in a patented method invented by Mexico City structural engineer Pablo Cortina. Within two years of its introduction the system has del i ve red a million square feet of apartments in more than 200 buildings in Mexico City and Las Truchas, Mexico. Use of bearing walls, ingeniously hinged to unfold beneath the floor slabs, eliminates the expensive permanent lifting collars needed for conventional lift slab work. The expense of forming columns is also eliminated since the stack is lifted on reusable temporary metal columns set outside the structure proper. Only perimeter forms are required for the slabs and walls. Also, since the walls are cast horizontally, no form ties are needed and there are no tie holes to patch. Speed as well as economy charact e ri zes the new method. Once the foundation slab is done, two 5-story buildings can be completely cast e ve ry 10 working days on large projects. Fo u r- s t o ry apartment buildings have been routinely occupied less than 90 calendar days following ground-breaking. A 5-story building requires about 2 hours per floor for the cycle of lifting, wall-plumbing and rerigging.

How the system works


The ground-floor, steel-troweled slab (on a conventional foundation) is coated with a bond breaker. Perimeter forms are set, reinforcement placed, window and door frames positioned, and electrical conduits installed before concrete is cast in the wall panels.

As lifting commences the whole stack is raised and the attached lower set of walls unfolds.

Walls and slabs are cast alternately one above the other until the entire building is ready in a single stack. After curing, temporary lifting columns are set up outside the building with trusses between them supporting the lifting jacks.

The lifting trusses are moved up the columns, the stack is raised again, and the second-story walls unfold just as the first-floor walls did.

As for any other building, foundation design and construction are

Here a 5-story apartment building nears completion as the fourth set of walls is almost plumb.

Erection is complete and the lifting equipment has been transferred to an adjoining building. The temporary columns will be removed soon while workers proceed with rapid finishing of the apartments.

View of completed apartment at Las Truchas, Mexico. Wall areas not included in the folding plan were filled with brick and window units. Note decorative vertical grooves which were formed with strips of drywall material.

governed by subsoil conditions but the ground-floor slab receives a smooth steel-troweled finish against which the first-floor walls will be cast. Ducts are provided for seismic anchoring of walls to the foundation slab and extra footings are cast outside the building to support the steel lifting columns.

Casting walls and slabs

As in ordinary lift slab work, a coating of bond breaker must be applied to the base slab before the next layer of concrete is placed. Perimeter forms are set for the walls, which are cast horizontally on top of the foundation slab and, in turn, on each succeeding floor slab.

The reinforcing steel, electrical conduits, window and door frames, and lifting and hinge hardware are set in place for each wall panel before concrete is placed and finished. Smooth troweling is required to ensure a good surface on the next slab cast above. Perimeter forms are set back from the edge of the slab a distance equal to the wall thickness so that, since the walls later pivot outward into position, a flush wall-toslab fit exists after erection. Perimeter forms can be stripped the morning following casting. Spaces between wall panels are then filled level using waste materials to complete the casting bed for the floor slab above. The lower surface of the wall panel (as cast) becomes the outside face of the building; it can be textured or patterned by placing liners or rustication strips on the slab surface before setting the wall steel in place. The smooth-troweled upper surface of the panel becomes the inside wall surface of a room and also serves as the casting bed for the ceiling above. On the two developments completed in Mexico, concrete comp re s s i ve strength was 2800 psi or greater and the walls were 6 inches thick. Floor slabs were also 6 inches thick at the Las Truchas project but an 8-inch waffle slab design was used in Mexico City. Voids in the waffle were formed with pairs of lightweight concrete blocks which remain in place permanently. The resulting exposed ceiling surface was plastered. Floor plan dimensions must be integrated with the height of the walls. Since the self-erecting walls are all cast in one plane and cannot overlap, the designer selects appropriate ones consistent with the geometry of the building. Most important are the outside walls or maximum portions of them on all faces of the building because they provide two-way lateral stability during the erection process. Secondarily, some of the interior structural walls may be selected for the initial placement and then other

Architectural plan and wall folding plan for a building containing four efficiency apartments per floor. interior walls chosen to fill in as many horizontal spaces as possible according to the floor plan.

Rigging for liking

After the entire stack of walls and slabs has been cast and cured long enough for the roof slab to gain satisfactory strength, the job can be rigged for erection. Temporary steel pipe columns taller than the finished building are erected in pairs on their own footings outside the stack of walls and slabs. Each of these columns can take up to a 50ton working load and the maximum weight of the initial lift determines how many are used. Each pair of columns is joined by a steel truss which carries two hydraulic jacks. The columns have special horizontal shear pin connectors for supporting the trusses at several elevations. A manually operated winch on each column lifts the trusses and jacks (under no load) to sequential stations. The central control console and power source for the lifting jacks are set up on the roof slab but the trusses are always positioned as low as the erection of an individual floor will allow; the shear pins supporting them are moved pro g re s s i vely higher as the lift proceeds. Jack-to-slab connections are made from the roof downward with chain-like devices attached separately to each slab. Each of these devices, bolted to lifting hardware cast into the edge of a slab, has a horizontal lifting flange which extends

Second-stage lifting of 4-story apartment house. Permanent seismic stability is achieved by placing rebars through cast-in-place ducts in the slabs and walls (seen along the top edges near the ends of each wall panel) and then grouting the voids. vertical drywall strips in the panels will be removed before painting to create a pattern on the finished walls. under the slab edge. The system is designed so that the top or roof slab lifts off from the next slab about 5/8 inch before the hardware for the next slab below engages and causes the slab to rise. The other slabs follow in similar sequencewith each individually supported and not carrying the load of other slabs on top of it. hand-winched to an elevation that will permit jacking the stack high enough to let the bottom-most walls swing into vertical position. As power jacking commences, the entire stack is bodily elevated and the lowest set of walls unfolds, sliding harmlessly across the floor and swinging toward the vertical. A simple hinge connection (described later) permits the walls to pivot about the desired axis without ru p t u ri n g the concrete. When the walls are nearly vertical, jacking stops and the

While the scene is readied for the first lift, the trusses and jacks are

panels are plumbed by laterally positioning their bottom edges. After that manual adjustment is completed, the entire stack is lowered onto the load-bearing walls of the first floor to temporarily unload the jacks. The second-floor slab, now in place, is disconnected from the lifting rods of the jacks by removing the lowest set of lifting fixtures; it is then temporarily bolted to the lifting columns to increase stability while erection proceeds for other floors. The unloaded jacks and supporting trusses are winched to the second position and supported on relocated shear pin connectors. The sequence is then repeatedthe remaining stack is lifted, thus unfolding the second set of walls and positioning the third-floor slab. The same process continues floor by floor until the entire building is completed. For apartment buildings with approximately 1200 square feet per floor, such as those in the Mexico City project, only about 2 hours are required for each floor to lift, plumb the walls, set off the stack, and re ri g the jacks. As soon as the roof is in place, all temporary structures can be removed to the next building to repeat the erection procedure.

ly a few connections before wiring and closing (with fixtures). The floors are ready for installation of coverings and the ceilings can be textured and painted. At Las Truchas the forty 4story apartment buildings completed were routinely occupied in less than 90 calendar days after groundbreaking .

Design concepts
Consisting of reinforced concrete, all load-bearing walls are placed in pairs in both directions to strengthen and stabilize the structure. Although the geometry of the folding plan will not permit all of the walls to be included in this plan, as many walls as possible should be to minimize the amount of fill-in needed when completing the casting bed; all those that are self-erecting should be structural walls. Any external walls not included in the lift are constructed later with masonry, windows or louvered panels and can be planned as decorative aspects of the facade. Co n ve n t i o n a l stairwells need not be a finishing bottleneck since the system permits lifting the staircase stringers flat, tilting them into position after wall erection and then installing individual precast steps.

Following erection of each set of floor and wall slabs, vertical reinforcement is placed in the ducts and the voids filled with expansive grout, thus providing added stability against lateral forces. The effectiveness of this reinforcement was demonstrated at Las Truchas in 1975 when 27 of the 4-story buildings rode outundamageda 6.3and a 6.6-Richter-scale earthquake in an area that otherwise suffered s e ve re l y. One building that was being erected by this system at the time of the quake also escaped damage.

Although the system is applicable to many types of buildings, it is most economical for short-span, conventional reinforced concrete where the desired stiffness can be obtained without excess weight. It is best applicable to sizable projectssay 50 to 150 buildingsalthough these need not be at a single site. With the system, a developer can organize and work efficiently, for example, on 10 buildings at each of 10 different locations within a 250-mile radius. Motels, dormitories and small apartment structures would seem to be ideal applications. Since there is little complicated forming, the system is especially suited to areas where skilled labor is lacking. Although the structures built thus far are 4 and 5 stories high, the method can be used for buildings up to 10 stories high and a 2-story, single dwelling has been prototyped. Additional projects have been licensed for construction in Venezuela and Colombia.

An important part of the system is the hinge between the floor slab and the wall panel cast below. This hinge permits the walls to fold out into position as lifting progresses. Spaced 12 to 18 inches apart, each hinge is composed of two pieces of 332- to 14inch-diameter cable strand looped around rebars in the top of the wall panel and later tied to reinforcing bars in the floor slab cast on top of the panel.

Earthquake resistance
The top and bottom perimeter forms for the walls contain a series of circular openings. Before the walls are cast, 212-inch-diameter greased pipes are laid in parallel through these openings to form ducts which will run vertically when the walls have been erected. These ducts are used for later installation of seismic reinforcement. The greased pipes are removed about 2 1/2 to 3 hours after casting and used again in other walls. Ducts of the same diameter are formed vertically at corresponding locations in the floor slab. Thus when the walls unfold, the wall and floor ducts come into alignment and permit making a continuous structural connection through the walls and outside edges of the slabs from foundation to roof.

Finishing for this type of building is conventional but faster than usual. The time and expense of plastering can usually be eliminated because the walls are unblemished by form ties and thus ready for painting. Electrical rough-in requires on-

Copyright 1977, The Aberdeen Group All rights reserved