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Cast walls and slab at the same time with tunnel forms



unnel formseither full tunnel forms or half tunnel formscan be used to cast the walls and ceiling slab of a room at the same time. From the end, a full tunnel form looks like an i n ve rted U: the soffit form for the ceiling slab is connected to the inside wall forms for two opposite walls of a room. Soffit form and wall forms are all one piece of formwork, erected and stripped as one unit. Split a full tunnel form down the middle of the soffit form, and you basically would have two half tunnel forms. A half tunnel form looks like an inverted L. To form the walls and ceiling of a room, the soffit forms of two half tunnels are bolted together. Use of half tunnels or full tunnels is based on the width of the room, weight of the forms and crane capacity. Half tunnels are used for spanning wide rooms, full tunnels for spanning narrow rooms. Half tunnels are also quicker to strip and move, and they allow continuous shoring of the concrete slab. Shores can be placed under the slab while the slab is still supported by one half tunnel.

Full tunnel form with collapsible soffit form is used to form narrow room bays. Half tunnel forms which are used to form wide bays are quicker to strip and allow continuous shoring of the concrete slab.

The forming procedure

Step 1: Cast foundation and starter walls. Before tunnel forms can be used, the foundation, first floor slab and starter walls for the first floor level must be cast. The 3inch-high starter walls are used to position the tunnel forms, so their position and vertical alignment must be accurate. Step 2: Install tunnel forms. After the starter walls have been stripped,

room-length sheets of welded wire fabric are tied to rebar embedded two feet apart in the top of the starter walls. The rebar provides continuity of reinforcement at each floor level from the wall below to the wall above. Tunnel forms are then placed by crane between the two lines of wall

fabric, butted against the starter walls for alignment and leveled by screw jacks. Electrical conduit is installed, and blockouts for doors and other openings are placed in openings precut in the wire fabric. Fo rm s for the other side of each wall (usually other tunnel forms) are then placed. Spacers are used to center the fabric between the forms. Necessary struts and props are supplied as a part of the forms. Inclined struts between the wall forms and soffit form help keep the soffit form at the proper elevation and also transfer the weight of the concrete slab to the starter walls. Ve rt i c a l support props under the soffit form dont function as shores during concreting but simply keep half tunnel forms from falling over when theyre not connected to other half tunnels. Tapered blockouts for plumbing raceways, air conditioning ducts and other services are placed on the soffit forms, and welded wire fabric used to reinforce the slab is set on bolsters on the soffit forms. Step 3: Form starter walls for next level. Starter walls for the second floor level are formed at the same time the second floor slab and first floor walls are cast. Steel angles that form interior starter walls are supported by cross-shaped precast blocks set between the tunnel forms about every 6 feet (see drawing). The bottom member of each crossshaped block keeps the block centered between the forms, while the top member supports one of seve ra l hangers welded to the steel angles. Starter walls for exterior building walls are formed on the outside by the outside wall forms and on the

The 3-inch-high starter walls used to position tunnel forms are formed by steel angles. When forming starter walls for interior walls (top), the steel angles are supported by steel hangers that sit on top of cross-shaped precast blocks set between tunnel forms every 6 feet. Starter walls for exterior building walls (bottom) are formed on the outside by the outside wall forms and on the inside by steel angles attached to the outside wall forms.

Two-story townhouse buildings are built by assembly line, using half tunnel forms. Specialized work crews move from building to building. One crew with one set of tunnel forms casts the first floor level of every building, while another crew with another set of tunnel forms casts the second floor.


Using half tunnel forms and heated curing, a Fl o rida contractor has been able to cast the c o n c rete foundations, floors, walls and roof of a 4-unit townhouse building within 7 days. Because of this rapid forming of the concrete shell and an assembly line coordination of trades, a building is totally completed in 27 working days. And, because 27 buildings are under construction at the same time at va rious stages, a building is completed every working day. These two-story, four- u n i t buildings are built using production line methods. Wo rk e r s s p e c i a l i zed in only one task move from building to building p e rf o rming the same task. Four c a r p e n t e r s, for example, do nothing but install mansard roofs. Another group specializes in steel stud partition walls. And other crews do only concre t e w o rk. Only two sets of tunnel forms are used, one for the first floor level and one for the second. Each day, each set of forms is moved from one building to the next. The same crew with the same set of forms casts the first floor level of every building. Two days behind, another crew with the other set of forms casts the second floor level of eve ry building. Wo rkers also only work four days a week. And, although they are guaranteed pay for a 40-hour week, whenever they finish their assigned work for the day, they can leave. Most workers ave ra g e 32 hours but get paid for 40 hours. Less turnover and absenteeism are re p o rted. De s p i t e these added work benefits, labor savings are estimated at 30 to 40 p e rcent, this due to the speed of construction and repetition of jobs.

inside by steel angles attached to the outside wall forms by hangers. Step 4: Place concrete. Step 5: Cure and strip. Propane gas heaters are placed in the bays between wall forms to accelerate curing. The open wall at the end of each bay is covered with canvas flaps. After curing overnight at 120 to 150 degrees F, 3000-psi design concrete, the design mix frequently used, reaches a strength of 1600 to 1800 psi, strong enough so that

forms can be stripped. Half tunnel forms are separated and one at a time wheeled about a third of the way out of the building and picked

up by crane using a specially-designed lifting device. Shores are installed in each room bay after a half tunnel is removed but while the oth-

er is still in place. Step 6: Repeat Steps 2 through 5. Tunnel forms and heated curing enable concrete to be placed on a daily repetitive cycle (see box).

Cost and precision

Building dimensions are reportedly formed within 132 of an inch. Plumbing and electrical conduit can thus often be bent and precut to size so that all workers have to do on site is install it. Opportunity for error is minimized, too, because starter walls are used to position forms and fixing points on forms are used to position blockouts. Cost of tunnel forms, including

the heating system and all access o ri e s, averages $40 to $45 per square foot of form contact area. With the cost of forms spread out over 150 to 200 reuses, the cost of a concrete shell built in Florida ranges from $4 to $5 per square foot of floor area. Of this amount, the cost to form the concrete shell is about $1 per square foot of floor area. Total building cost, according to a Florida contractor who builds 4-unit townhouse buildings similar to the ones described in the adjoining box, is about $21 per square foot. For tunnel forms to be cost competitive, howe ve r, they must be reused on at least 150 to 200 identical units.

Forms can be reused 500 to 1000 times. And they can be rebuilt for forming different designs. Bay spans of half tunnels can be increased by adding infill panels or table forms; lateral walls can be cast at the same time by placing a panel at the back of the tunnel; and to form sloped concrete roofs, soffit forms can be sloped and wall forms can be designed with gables.

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