Solving the Affordable Housing Crisis With Tilt-Up Construction


Belleville’s Home for Good project transformed how Ontario should respond to our housing crisis.

One of the most important challenges Ontario is facing is the need to quickly build more affordable housing. Although we could write many articles on just the crisis itself, we are here to discuss a method of construction that can lower the cost of new building construction, and thus more quickly address the problem.

The construction method is called tilt-up construction, and involves casting insulated concrete panels on site, then tilting them into position. The method has been incredibly popular in North America, and more recently arrived in Ontario through Tilt Wall.

It’s this business that celebrated with its partners in Belleville the opening of “Home for Good” a partnership project funded by municipal, provincial and federal governments to help solve the local housing crisis.

Making a Plan for Cooperative Operations Using Efficient Building Techniques

Although the local housing crisis was decades in the making, leaders began working on a cooperative plan to improve the situation. The idea was to create not only a 40-unit apartment complex, but an innovative space where multiple agencies could work together with clients to improve their health and financial situation, specifically people who are homeless or at the risk of being homeless. To help these people out, stability is needed – space that is clean, safe and comforting.

The County of Hastings wanted a unique design that will last as long as the building, and chose Geertsma Construction (1988) Ltd. to undertake the project.

The business, led by president Andy Geertsma, was able to provide the property, design know-how and development expertise that the project needed. “The County of Hastings criteria included that the successful proponent provide appropriately located land, municipal approvals, design and build at a firm price in a turnkey process. Our experience as a homebuilder, land developer and design builder combined with the assembly of a first-rate team were valuable keys in the preparation of our ultimately successful proposal.”

Geertsma Construction has been a mainstay in the Belleville and Kingston area with a history going back to the 1980s, and a related company, Geertsma Homes Ltd., now builds 60–80 homes every year.

The Home for Good had many challenges that Geertsma was able to address. The building needed to be sustainable, energy efficient and durable, with low operating costs and maintenance.

Geertsma immediately thought of Tilt Wall, the Ontario-based tilt-up construction leader that he learned about by attending a seminar in nearby Bowmanville. It was there that he discovered tilt-up construction’s benefits for large warehouses, but also how smaller structures, such as schools, hotels and mid-rise residential buildings, could come out ahead.

Improving the Building Design and Quickening the Construction Schedule

Home for Good broke ground in September 2018, but not before quite a bit of design and rezoning work to make the project work. To accommodate the building’s 62 tilt-up panels, the three-storey mid-rise building also needed an additional concrete slab for constructing some of the panels. It wasn’t until snow began to fall that the Tilt Wall team began work on the panels, meaning that heaters were used to ensure that the concrete properly cured.

“We built this during the middle of winter,” says Geertsma. “It wasn’t the ideal time to work on the project, but the Tilt Wall team did a great job of maintaining the panels. They also installed temperature sensors in the concrete, and curing blankets to keep the concrete curing at the right temperature.”

Most interior walls and all of the exterior insulated walls (complete with faux brick work) were tilted into place within one week in February. Geertsma says of the momentous task, “High regards for the Tilt Wall team and their attention to detail. We were satisfied with the process and very pleased with the end product!”

fter finishing the interior and exterior work, Geertsma’s team moved on and the Home for Good opened in the spring of 2020. Using tilt-up construction techniques has helped this mid-rise construction concept to become an energy-efficient, low-maintenance and lower-operating-cost solution that is now a home for up to 40 individuals and families in the Belleville area. When its sustainable and community-focused living concepts are shared with other regions, Ontario will certainly become a happier and healthier place for everyone to live in.

Tilt Wall is Ontario’s tilt-up construction leader, providing cost-effective, energy-efficient, quickly constructed structural solutions to help solve our housing shortage. For more information on how Tilt Wall can benefit your project, contact us today.