Article No: 233

2008-04-03 11:56:34
Waking Up the Neighbors
By: Steve Habel

built by Chuck Pancheri Jr. Construction • photography courtesy of CTS Cement/Rapid Set
Building a home can often be a balancing act between splendor and functionality. In their quest to add to the architectural beauty of their high-end residential Anaheim Hills neighborhood, the O’Connor family wanted to build a home with cost-saving, energy efficient features that required very little maintenance.

To meet these needs, the O’Connors selected the tilt-up concrete construction method, much to the chagrin of their friends and neighbors who lacked understanding of the potential for the once-pigeonholed process.

As a result of their faith in tilt-up, the O’Connors’ 7,200-square-foot Southern California residence garnered notice as one of the nation’s winning Housing category projects of the recently announced 2008 Tilt-Up Concrete Association (TCA) Achievement Awards.

The TCA established the Achievement Awards program, now in its 17th consecutive year, to honor projects that use site cast tilt-up concrete to introduce new building types, advance industry technology, and provide unique solutions to building programs. Projects were reviewed by a panel of 13 judges representing a combination of TCA membership categories, educational institutions, publishing outlets, and industry management.

Although submittals were judged on aesthetic expression, schedule, size, originality, finishes, and special conditions, this year’s judges also placed an increased emphasis on the characteristics of the projects that would attract and hold the interest of architects and building owners.

“The judges routinely commented on the ability of today’s design and construction professionals to push the envelope and employ the tilt-up system for an even broader range of projects,” says Jim Baty, the TCA’s technical director.

This year, the panel of judges recognized a total of 41 award recipients of the 100 entries submitted. These winning projects exemplify state-of-the-art achievement in tilt-up construction with their unique and inventive use of the tilt-up method.

When they were considering building their home, Rod and Debbie O’Connor were not interested in winning awards—they wanted to save energy and related costs. The O’Connors found that a tilt-up home would be less expensive to heat and cool, and they liked the benefit of using concrete instead of wood framing because of the increased fire resistance and elimination of termites and other bugs.

The cost of using tilt-up was very competitive, coming in at under $200 per square foot. But the project was unusual—especially in a neighborhood like Anaheim Hills—because tilt-up is still a relatively new application for residential homebuilding.

The O’Connors admit that their neighbors seemed concerned and unhappy when they saw cranes lifting the new home’s dull, gray concrete wall panels into place. They soon changed their minds as a beautiful home revealed itself after a shorter-than-normal construction period. The home was completed in April 2007.

The O’Connors designed most of the house themselves. They decided to build their home from scratch after being unable to find an industrial-style house with ample garage space in a neighborhood they wanted to live in. The primary design challenge was the home’s extremely small footprint. The design allows several panels to be exactly the same so they could be stacked three-high on a slab. A secondary casting bed was required to complete the design. Debbie O’Connor describes her home’s look as “raw, but finished.”

The application of Rapid Set WunderFixx on the majority of the exterior surfaces contributed to this unique finish. Manufactured by CTS Cement/Rapid Set of Anaheim, California, WunderFixx is a durable, fast-setting, one-component concrete patching material formulated with a premium-grade hydraulic cement, high performance polymers, and a finely ground aggregate.

The O’Connors chose a close family friend, Chuck Pancheri Jr. Construction of Anaheim Hills, California, to build their home. Ron Drennan of Restoration Concrete in Cypress, California, was the sacking contractor in charge of applying the Rapid Set materials, completing much of the home’s finish work. Both Chuck Pancheri Construction and Restoration Concrete say they choose Rapid Set WunderFixx on their jobs because of its ease of application, excellent sand-ability, and exceptional finish.

“The inlaid patio used exterior sheathing that required WunderFixx as a coating to give the concrete uniform appearance,” says Drennan. “Many of the interior walls were left unpainted. Some of the areas required a coat of WunderFixx for smoothness while maintaining an unseen transition from raw panel to the patched surface.”

The project used thin block around the entrance and the garage and painted WunderFixx for the majority of the exterior surface. These architectural treatments were designed to be in contrast with the uncoated columns and exposed lift inserts, giving the home a more rustic look. Styrofoam trim enhances interior architectural elements. Other architectural features include uncoated, tapered columns, and exposed lift inserts. The interior of the home shows off exposed ductwork and trusses.

“This luxurious custom home proves that tilt-up buildings are no longer the boxy, industrial constructions of yesteryear,” says Pancheri. “These homes can be a gem of a high-income neighborhood. All the challenges created by the site’s small footprint were met, and the results exceeded even the owners’ already lofty expectations.”

For  more information on this and other winning entries in the 2008 TCA Achievement Awards, visit