Tilt-Up vs. Pre-Engineered Steel Buildings: A Comprehensive Comparison by Strong Building Systems

For A FREE Quote

Call Now:

    In the contemporary construction industry, two methods have emerged as leaders: tilt-up construction and pre-engineered steel building construction. Both techniques offer unique advantages and are best suited to different scenarios. This article provides an in-depth comparison of these two construction methods, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses.

    Understanding Tilt-Up Construction

    Tilt-up construction is a process where the walls of a building are cast horizontally on the ground and then lifted and secured to a pre-constructed foundation slab or edge beam. The adjacent units are then connected to ensure stability and weather resistance.

    Tilt-up construction, initially inspired by the efficiency of factory assembly lines, was developed in the 1920s by Californian architect Irving Gill. It became popular due to its speed, convenience, and affordability, particularly during the economic downturn of the Great War. Today, tilt-up construction is used in a variety of projects, from simple large-box structures to complex multi-story buildings.

    What are Pre-Engineered Steel Structures?

    Pre-engineered steel structures, also known as pre-fabricated steel structures, are designed and manufactured in a factory before being shipped to the construction site. This process significantly reduces the project completion time. The history of steel as a construction material dates back 4,000 years, and today, it’s considered one of the most durable, eco-friendly, and cost-effective construction materials.

    Comparing Tilt-Up Construction with Steel Construction

    When choosing between tilt-up and steel construction, several factors need to be considered, including the size of the project, availability and usage of materials, time, costs, design possibilities, recyclability, durability, and the purpose of the project.

    Size Matters

    The size of the construction project plays a significant role in determining the most cost-effective method. For structures less than 50,000 square feet, steel construction is generally more cost-effective. However, for projects exceeding 50,000 square feet, the lower material costs of tilt-up construction can offset its higher fixed costs, making it competitive with steel construction.

    Material Availability and Usage

    While steel structures are transported from a factory to the construction site, concrete tilt-up construction is usually performed on-site, potentially reducing transportation costs. However, steel arrives ready to use, whereas concrete preparation can be delayed by adverse weather conditions.

    Time and Cost Savings

    Pre-fabricated steel building kits can be assembled quickly upon arrival at the construction site, reducing the overall project timeline. In contrast, tilt-up concrete construction requires precise mixing of various materials, which can be time-consuming.


    Steel is 100% recyclable, making it a more eco-friendly material than concrete. The recyclability of steel also allows contractors to benefit from LEED points.

    Design Possibilities

    While concrete construction offers unique aesthetic advantages and more rentable space, steel structures provide more flexibility in terms of floor space and the ability to remodel in the future.

    Durability against Natural Disasters

    Steel structures are more resistant to natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes due to their flexibility and durability. However, concrete structures have an advantage in fire resistance.

    The Purpose of the Project

    Tilt-up concrete buildings are ideal for projects expected to see heavy public traffic over many years, while steel structures are best for projects that won’t see such heavy use.

    The Best of Both Worlds

    Depending on the project specifications and design requirements, buildings can be constructed using both steel and concrete to leverage the best qualities of both materials.


    "We had an excellent experience with Strong Building Systems. They worked with us to get the most value for our money, were extremely responsive and 100% delivered on all services as promised. Now we have a beautiful building that meets all of our needs. We highly recommended this company and will use them again in the future if needed!"
    Amy Pitts
    "I purchased a steel building and every thing went great. Good experience. I WOULD DO IT AGAIN!"
    Mike Myers
    North Carolina
    "I purchased a 40 x50 building from Strong buildings, everything was as stated and building went up smith. I’d highly recommend this company great to work with."
    Danny Flaherty
    South Carolina

    For A FREE Quote

    Call Now:

    Find out why 95% of industrial and 73% of commercial construction are using steel buildings.