July 19, 2021
Today’s feature in our Top 100 countdown covers a unique engineering and construction coordination solution we developed for Albertsons’ dry grocery distribution center in Melrose Park, Illinois. For this DesignBuild project, which also involved a 156,000-square-foot expansion, our designers and construction team were responsible for a 38-foot clear height roof-raise of the original 630,000-square-foot facility. The roof raise to a height of 38 feet, combined with the expansion, increased the facility’s capacity by more than 18.5 million cubic feet!
The roof-raise solution was developed after Albertsons wanted to expand their distribution network, serving their Jewel stores located in and around metropolitan Chicago. All Jewel stores were served from this distribution facility, located on North Avenue and 15th Street. Albertsons’ distribution staff retained Epstein in 1999 to study the possibility of adding onto this site.
Epstein studied expansion scenarios to this site, which had seven existing buildings on approximately 125 acres. On-site space was limited and landlocked by a residential area to the east, an existing bakery to the west, and required parking to the south. There was a limited area for a small northerly expansion. There was also a major open cut stormwater drainage channel that was routed directly south of the existing building. Epstein also determined that a relocation of this drainage channel was cost prohibitive.
It should be noted that all expansion solutions had to keep the facility fully operational during construction. The only viable option was to build a 156,000-square-foot expansion to the north, and then sequentially raise the roof over the existing warehouse space, which would effectively double the dry grocery storage space on site. By staying on this site and raising the roof, Epstein determined that Albertsons saved approximately $10 million.
The 630,000-square-foot roof was raised 20 feet in five sequentially-phased lifts, while maintaining full operation of the facility. A unique temporary closure system was also required to maintain a weather-tight facility during the entire lifting process.
In addition to the complicated roof-raise, Epstein was also responsible for the installation of a mechanization system that included 48 palletizing stations fed by two separate high-speed sorters and six three-high pick modules.
Two individuals who worked on the project are still with Epstein today, and they were able to recall several interesting anecdotes and details about the project. First up is Tamie Williams, our Construction Specialist:
This was a very interesting project. I was the Administrative Assistant on site. The facility remained in operation during the roof raising; it was done in sections that were separated with “Global Wrap,” a trademarked product that would safely section off areas. The project lasted over two years and was followed by a freezer addition. I wound up being on the jobsite for four years. It gave me a different perspective, I learned a lot that I apply to my current job.
Next is Randy Tharp, a Director of Epstein's DesignBuild group:
When digging out the original warehouse project drawings that were designed by Epstein, we found out that Sid Epstein had been the PM on the project back in the late 40s when it was first built. The drawings had his initials in the title block. After we constructed the first expansion, which allowed Jewel to move product into that area, we were able to take over the first section of the existing warehouse for the roof raising. When the time came to raise the roof with the hydraulic lifting system, a huge snow storm hit and the system couldn’t lift the roof because of the additional weight of the snow. To keep the project on schedule, we hired a helicopter to fly low over the roof and blow off as much snow as possible. Then we hit the roof with a team of workers to shovel off and used a liquid snow melter to be able to proceed with the roof lifting. This kind of creativity kept the project on schedule and allowed us to meet the project milestone dates.
To date, as far as we and the specialty companies that do these roof raising projects know, this is still the largest roof raising project ever accomplished, and it had the single largest area of roof raised at one time in a single lift.