Osceola County, Florida, is growing. From 2010 to 2022, the number of residents more than doubled, climbing 56% from 269,841 to 422,545. For comparison, during that same period, the population of the US grew by 7.7% and Florida by 18%.

I recently facilitated a session for the Osceola County School District leadership team and caught a ride to the airport from the district’s Head of Construction, who explained how they are adapting to the population explosion. At current levels of growth, the district needs to build schools at a breakneck pace to ensure they deliver quality learning for all those new students. One solution that’s providing a safe, efficient, and cost-effective way to build new schools is tilt-up construction. It’s also an example of how, across industries, a business trend called Proximity is driving companies to produce value closer to the moment of need in time and space (see the upcoming book that I am cowriting with Robert Wolcott).

Tilt-up construction and Proximity 

Proximity is a concept that brings the production and provision of value closer to the point of demand across both time and distance. As customers, we already expect entertainment streaming on demand and products to be delivered overnight. But soon, Proximity will pervade nearly every aspect of our lives.

The ideal scenario, demonstrated in the graphic below, is P=0. Value is produced and provided closest to the moment and location of need.

For school districts, that means being able to produce and provide schools for students, whenever and wherever they might move. And right now, many of them are moving to Florida. In 2023, Florida was the second fastest-growing state in the U.S. (behind South Carolina). To meet the increased demand for schools, construction companies are using a form of construction called tilt-up.

Tilt-up construction moves the Proximity needle in both dimensions (time and distance) by allowing the school district to stand up new schools in far less time. It’s possible in part because of an important characteristic of Proximity technologies: moment-of-use (MOU) production. Companies can wait until the last possible moment to produce what is needed.

The tilt-up method creates more of the value that goes into a new building at the point of demand – the construction site. Instead of trucking heavy, pre-made blocks from far-off manufacturing plants, construction companies create the elements they need right where they need it with cement and rebar. Instead of long trucks carrying wide loads across highways, cement trucks pull in and deliver materials as needed.

Another element of Proximity is the ability to customize the walls to include spaces for light fixtures, electrical boxes, windows, and doorways in the precise places they are needed. Each can be entirely customized, requiring less additional work after the walls go up.

What seems like a simple choice – constructing the elements of a building closer to when and where the demand is – builds up multiple complex advantages that multiply into profound implications for counties, school districts, teachers, parents, and most importantly, the students they serve.

The basics of tilt-up construction: Fast, safe, and cost effective 

Midwesterners might be familiar with “barn raising,” gatherings when community members worked together to stand up the walls of a neighbor’s barn and celebrate. Tilt-up construction has a similar feel. First, the concrete floor is poured, forming the shape of the building and the map of the walls. When the walls are ready, they’re tilted vertically into place upon the foundation. You can see a demo in this video.

More than 650 million square feet of tilt-up buildings are erected every year. And it’s growing at record speed, contributing to 10,000 projects per year and a 20% market growth rate in the U.S. Tilt-up reduces the construction process to days instead of weeks or months. The method creates a safer worksite with no need for scaffolding or construction employees working at heights. It also offers customizable options for external decor and finishing.

Most public schools are constrained by time and budget. Tilt-up systems use less materials and labor than traditional concrete construction. One case study of a school district using tilt-up was able to build an entire new school, from blueprints to opening, in only eight months.

Final thoughts

The story of Osceola County embracing tilt-up construction is more than a tale of speed and savings; it’s a testament to a Proximity technology that is bringing the production and provision of value to the moment school districts need it. Three elements are at play:

  1. Value is created at the moment of demand in both time and distance.
  2. Customization is available for less cost and wait.
  3. Waste and excess inventory are reduced.

As Osceola County looks to the future, it stands as an example of how Proximity innovation can solve some of today’s most pressing challenges, ensuring that the district remains a place of opportunity and growth for its young residents.

For more on the concept of Proximity, click here.