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C. Donald Johnson`

Pacific Crane & Construction, Inc.

Tacoma, Washington

Four basic concerns face the people charged with responsibility for
erection of precast concrete members: 1) the weight and size of the
members; 2) the type of connections; 3) the temporary bracing that
will be required; and 4) the individual site problems. Since erection fundamentals generally are the
same regardless of the type of unit
being handled or the type of project, this paper will discuss basic
situations commonly experienced in
conventional building erection.
The weight of the largest individual precast concrete member to
be handled on a project will dictate the size of the crane and hauling equipment required. But connections are the real key to fast
erection techniques. Vertical standing members, such as walls and columns, are the most expensive to
erect and the most difficult to keep
in the correct position. Walls and
columns must be set and held to not
one but three different criteria at the
same time. Connection details, therefore, must be realistic and, the simpler the connection, the better.
The erection sequence, the type
of bracing required, provision for
wind forces, pick-up techniques, and
truck delivery are all problems facing the erector. All of these must be

solved in proper relation to production at the plant and construction at

the site if the erector is to do his job
well and keep the final cost of the
in-place precast concrete down.

Connections for precast concrete

have to serve several purposes:
1. A connection must be provided
to allow for the erection of the
2. The connection must be adequate structurally to provide
for all design loading conditions.
3. The final connection must be
architecturally acceptable in
the completed structure.
The structural and architectural
considerations are seldom overlooked because they are the main
concern of the designers when the
contract drawings are being developed. Too often, however, the
erection technique is not considered during the design stage. In
an FOB job-site market area, the
fabricator is interested primarily in
the connection details as they relate
to his form setup and final fabrication costs. In an area where precast
products are furnished in-place, the
fabricator is also interested in the
final erected cost, as well as fabricaPCI Journal

A practical discussion of erection problems and erection costs

emphasizes the importance of always considering the total precast
projectplant fabrication, site construction, and delivery and erection
of products. Special attention to connection design can appreciably
lower the in-place cost of precast concrete.

tion costs, and he will attempt to

adjust the two costs for the best combined figure.
The answer, of course, is to have
the best combination developed at
the design stage and to have it included in the contract drawings at
the time of competitive bidding.
Through education, the precaster
must show the structural engineer
how to design a good, workable connection which meets these criteria:
1. It must be "realistic." A realistic connection is one that
a. the actual casting tolerances
of the fabricator,
b. the actual final layout of
the foundations and other
cast-in-place concrete,
c. the actual erection procedure that will be used and
the economic limitations that
2. It must be "simple." A connection can be sophisticated
in its concept but remain simple in detail.
3. It must be "tolerant." A tolerant connection is one that
can be adjusted in the field
to meet job conditions. One
simply cannot pre-measure every item and every detail in advance to assure a perfect fit.
April 1969

There is neither the time nor

the money available to do this
nor any necessity for doing it.
Columns, walls or other vertical
standing members, particularly, are
affected by poor connection details
and the consequent high erection
cost incurred by erection delays. In
the Puget Sound area, for example,
an erection delay will cost $115 per
hour for a 60-ton crane and crew,
and two trucks and a crew of five
In the final analysis, erection bids
are based not on a per ton or per
square foot basis but on a per
piece basis. Poor column connection details could make a 12 x 12in. column 10 ft. long, weighing
less than a ton, cost as much to
erect as a 100-ft. single tee 10 ft.
wide and weighing 35 tons.
Fig. 1 shows a good, simple
column or wall base connection.
This detail allows for the base plate
elevation to be preset and the base
lines to be scribed on the plate for
spacing and alignment. The doublenut system is most important not
only because it holds the base plate
in position but also because it can be
used to compensate for unsquare
wall panel ends, to adjust for varying
heights of cast-in-place concrete,
and to plumb the members. During

Fig. 1. Base plate detail

field welding of the column or wall

panel to the preset base plate, adjustments can be made for varying
panel widths or anchor bolts that
are not in the exact location.
Fig. 2 shows a bearing wall connection that also meets with an
erector's approval. This connection
allowed 40,000-lb. units to become
structurally independent of the temporary bracing by filling the voids
at the end of each day's work.
This meant that the brace could
be taken down and re-used as the
erection proceeded. Steel shims are
better than preset grout pads because the pads are not tolerant of the
actual dimensions of the panels or
the squareness of the bottoms. Shims
can be used on grout pads, but one
long unit or a high pad can mean a
costly delay. Thus, steel shims Iead
to cheaper in-place costs.
Clearances between precast members and between precast and castin-place concrete are often detailed
unrealistically. A good rule of thumb
is that at least a %/z-in, clearance
is required between precast units,
and I-in, is the minimum tolerable
clearance to any cast-in-place con56

crete. As the members get bigger

and longer, clearances have to increase to allow for form and dimensional variations that the fabricators simply cannot control.
There has been a definite trend
toward the use of connections that
achieve integration with the structure by sizable cast-in-place strips.
This is particularly true in seismic
zones, like the West Coast. A connection of this type is structurally
superior to most of the other types
being used. It is a good erection
connection as long as the erection
procedure is considered at the design stage.
Fig. 3 shows a connection that
1) provides for an erection weld, 2)
provides plenty of erection clearance, and 3) is a tolerant connection
that can be covered up with cast-inplace concrete. Erectors always will
want connections and framing systems that will allow them to start on
a project and erect the whole job
without having to stop and wait for
other work to be done.
Flange connectors between double-tee or single-tee slabs should be
detailed as shown in Fig. 4. This
PCI Journal







Fig. 2. Wall panel base connection

connection, although more expensive

for the fabricator, is superior to the
common bent rebar connectors.
Structurally, the mild steel angleand-flat-bar connections have proven to be excellent. A36 steel with its
lower carbon content is more satisfactory for welding than reinforcing
steel. Problems of metallurgical embrittlement in the heat transfer areas
of cold-bent reinforcing steel are
eliminated by the use of A36 steel
and headed stud anchors. This connection is also more tolerant of varying widths between flanges, it is
easier and faster to weld, and the
welds are more dependable. The
weld, however, is seldom critical because generally the connector fails in
shear pullout from the thin flange.
Overwelding, with its resultant excessive heat and spalling, is more
often found when rebar connectors are used. The designer should
not ask for more welding length
than the ultimate shear failure capacity of the flange.
An erector must avoid interrupted
erection sequences or moving in and
out of a job several times as a result
of poor connection details. An expeApril 1969

rienced erector will study connection details first as these are the key
to erection speed and subsequent
cost savings. Poor connection details
that reduce an erection schedule
from an average of 10 pieces per day
to 8 will raise the cost 25 percent.
Couple this with a few extra moveins to a job-site that can cost from a



Fig. 3. Floor panel to beam connection


L 11/: X 1-1/2 x 1/4 X I'S"

f52x1 /4xO4"



Fig. 4. Double-tee or single-tee flange


few hundred dollars to a thousand

dollars, depending upon the equipment and the distance, and the
in-place cost of precast concrete
can go up considerably.

Too often the sequence of erection is not considered during the

design stage but this sequence becomes important at the start of
construction, especially when Critical Path Method of scheduling is
planned. The relationship of erection sequence to construction of
elevator shafts, shear walls and stairways is necessary in multi-story erection. An erector simply must have
some sort of "anchor" to tie to for
lateral stability. (See Fig. 5). The

question of which work should lead,

cast-in-place or precast, often comes
up in the design concept stage. The
best answer is to do the cast-in-place
work first because:
1. Development of fabrication
shop drawings, tool-up time,
and casting schedules are generally such that the general
contractor can do his cast-inplace work ahead of time.
2. Once the cast-in-place section
forms an anchor for erecting
the precast elements, the risk
posed by earthquake or high
winds is reduced.
3. The overall construction time
will be reduced.
Generally, working on a vertical
front is preferred, not only by the
erector but also by the general. contractor, because it opens up the
building behind the erector to the
other trades. This requires the erector to put up a "mix" of columns,
wall panels, beams and slabs as he
goes. Erection costs are determined
by the number of pieces the .erector
can average a day in erecting this
It is difficult to determine actual
individual unit costs for columns,
walls, beams or slabs. The average
number of pieces per day for the
mix is a better cost criteria. The
average erection sub-bid for a multistory parking garage will range from
$100 to $150 per piece, while a bid
for a complete high school of some
200,000 sq. ft. might be about $60
per piece. Converting these to a cost
per square foot of floor area gives
$0.35 and $0.36 respectively. These
prices include field welding, but do
not include grouting, caulking, or
similar work.

An erector seldom is able to brace

PCI Journal

Fig. 5. Erection on multi-story buildings requires tie-in to shear walls and

adequate temporary bracing
or guy a precast building during
erection to insure that the building
will be stable during any earthquake
that may strike. Quite likely, any
high-magnitude earthquake of sufficient duration will knock down just
about any precast structure during
the construction stage if it hits at a
critical time. During erection these
critical periods could occur several
times a day, or perhaps only once a
week, depending upon any number
of possible situations.
Most structures are not fully
earthquake resistant until the floor
topping or other cast-in-place concrete diaphragms or shear walls are
integrated into the structure. An
erector can keep the probability of
failure due to earthquake as low as
it is economically practical by:
1. Planning his erection sequence
April 1969

so he can take advantage of all

possible lateral ties to shear
walls or other cast-in-place construction.
2. Having enough welders on the
job so that diaphragm welding
can keep up with erection.
3. Having the general contractor
follow up with the cast-in-place
connections as the erection proceeds.
Wind forces generally determine
the amount of lateral bracing required for most structures. A 20psf wind load is not uncommon
during erection. If the bracing
scheme is adequate for a realistic
wind pressure, then little trouble
from earthquakes will be encountered. For example, a 6-in, thick
wall 30 ft. high would require an
earthquake lateral loading of 20

percent or 15 psf for a UBC seismic Zone 3 or 3/4 of what would

be required by the 20-psf wind
requirement. Wind is more predictable, and when a wind comes up the
erector can stop and brace off the
day's work. Conventional steel pipe,
tilt-up braces commonly are used.
These devices combine strength,
flexibility and adjustment into one
unit. Cable guys and turnbuckles are
required for large heights. However,
these are slow and expensive to install and are seldom tight enough to
act until the structure has actually
Experience has shown that, in
bracing, tension failures or pullout
of inserts and deadmen are more





Fig. 6. Typical column pickup


critical than excess stresses in the

precast member. A pipe brace seldom buckles because it is too long. A
good rule of thumb is to keep the
braces at a low height and flat angle.
Rarely are the stresses in the members being braced large enough to
cause any distress.

Generally speaking, horizontal

members present no special handling problems once their weight
and length have been considered.
Weight, combined with the erection or lift off radius, will dictate
the capacity of the crane required
on the job. A designer should consider this and attempt to keep his
maximum weights in a pre-determined range during the design stage.
No erection is impossible if the
owner is willing to pay for it, but
in-place costs are sometimes staggering if no consideration is given to
the overall erection problem. A 100ton crane cannot errect a 100-ton
piece of precast concrete. Cranes are
rated by the capacity they will pick
up with the shortest possible boom
and at the steepest angle that they
will boom up. Thus, a 100-ton mobile
crane could pick up the 100 tons
only with 40 ft. of boom at a radius
of 12 ft. A normal working condition
would be 100 ft. of boom at a 40-ft.
radius. Radius is measured from the
center pin or center of revolution
which is annroximately 10 ft. from
the rear of the crane. At a working
radius of 40 ft., a 100-ton crane can
lift only 44 percent more than a 60ton crane, not 67 percent more as
the capacities might indicate.
Tower cranes are ideal for high,
multi-story erection, but their design combines a small capacity with
a large radius. European techniques
of construction combine smaller precast members with cast-in-place,
PCI Journal

Fig. 7. Four-point pickup on 54-ft. long wall panels

floor-by-floor construction using

tower cranes for conventional erection.
Vertical members present the most
difficult pick-up problems because
they are hauled flat and have to be
turned into a vertical position. The
best way to accomplish this is with
the two-line technique shown in Fig.
6. This usually is done with the two
lines of one crane although, when
the member is extra long or heavy, it
might have to be done with a second
smaller crane tailing the bottom for
April 1969

the larger crane. Note that the yoke

in Fig. 6. not only allows for locating
the lift points near 0.2 L. but also
allows the member to hang perfectly
plumb in the vertical position. Lifting inserts or loops required by the
fabricator for in-plant handling
should be used as much as possible
by the erector because they have
been pretested. Sizing inserts for
dual usage is an economical procedure (see Fig. 7).

Truck delivery is the usual form


-of transportation and scheduling of

truck deliveries is a never-ending
problem. Due to the weight of precast concrete members, a large number of truck loads are involved. Usually the members are taken directly
from the trucks and set in place. This
requires predetermining the exact
erection sequence. Each truck must
be loaded with respect to mark number, position on trailer, and time of
delivery. Coordinating the fabricator, the trucker and the erector is
difficult and the problem increases
as the distance gets greater. The best
solution seems to be to allow for a
certain amount of job-site storage
and rehandling of smaller pieces.
Very often transportation sets the
pace. The number of pieces an erector can put up in a day is limited by
the number of pieces he can get delivered within crane radius.
The single responsibility contract,
or in-place job offers the advantage
of better control and possibly lower
costs because the fabricator can con-

trol the loading, handling and erection. In the split contract, or FOB
job-site, the erector soon learns that
all of the limitations that are imposed are not just his own.

As a building material, precast

concrete has become widely accepted in the last 15 years, primarily
because of cost and time reductions.
Cost, however, does not stop at the
production line. Although better production methods, material handling,
and slip-form techniques are reducing plant costs, erection costs are increasing because wages are rising
and productivity is falling. The net
effect is that the cost of erection is
becoming an increasingly higher
percentage of the final in-place cost
of precast concrete construction. The
precast concrete industry would do
well to review this portion of their
business as carefully as they have
reviewed the production end.

Discussion of this paper is invited. Please forward your discussion to PCI Headquarters
by August 1 to permit publication in the October 1969 issue of the PCI JOURNAL.

PCI Journal