Finding the Ideal Facility – Part 2 – The Building

Now, let’s turn our attention to the building itself.  The first thing you need to do is determine what activities will go on in it.  Obviously, you will need some office space for your operations and admin staff.  You might need some warehouse or cross-docking space for your internal needs.  A shop area is probably on your list as well.  Here’s a few things that you may not have been thinking about:

  • Space for your drivers while they are waiting for maintenance on their buses or while they are waiting to be dispatched.
  • Do you need to provide showers or other amenities for the drivers?
  • What about file storage space for those documents that have a retention period?
  • Will there be lockers, or a change room required for any of the staff, such as mechanics?
  • Lunch room and any meeting/conference spaces
  • Washrooms – both placement and the number of them
  • Parts and equipment storage
  • An IT room with adequate power and cooling
  • Adequate clearance in any shop or warehouse areas to allow for their safe use

Develop your list of things that you must have but at this point, try to keep things general.  Many design engineers will tell you that good layouts develop from the general to the specific, not the other way around.  Don’t go in with a set idea of where things will be as they will act as constraints on where other things can be put.  Knowing what areas should be adjacent to each other is good but getting too many specific items such as “the tire machine should be here, and the parts room should be there” will likely result in a suboptimal design.  Next, determine what activities will occur in the facility, both now and in the future.  As an example, if you think your warehouse activities will grow over the next few years, you may want to place it at the back of the facility so that future expansion is a possibility.

Determine what areas are the priorities.  Many designs focus on the front end where the main entry and the offices are.  However, other areas may have more of an impact on your revenue stream, such as the shop.  Sometimes it is better to start with the rear of the facility and work your way to the front.  One question that needs to be asked before focusing on any individual department or area is “How does it impact the movement of people and/or product throughout the entire building?”  A way to look at this is the product to be handled will determine the warehouse and equipment needs.  Equipment locations determine workflows. Eventually you will need to put the pieces together on paper and determine what area needs to be adjacent to each other.

Some other considerations at this stage include the following:

General Building:

  • Try to anticipate any future needs by designing spaces to be potentially converted or expanded.
  • Anticipate any future loading docks, truck space and car parking and leave enough space for them
  • Include enough structural capacity to handle any additional rooftop equipment, such as additional HVAC units.
  • Avoid block or poured cement walls as much as possible to allow for future expansion. Ideally a curtain wall construction is used so that the outer cladding can be removed, and a new section added with a minimum of disruption.
  • Try to specify the use of energy efficient items such as LED lighting and proper insulation. These will cost a bit more in the construction phase, but they tend to have a lower overall cost of operation.  LED lights also tend to last longer than other options, reducing the amount of building maintenance required.
  • Try to avoid dark colours on the outside of the building and roof as these will result in additional cooling capacity. A more neutral colour will also be less restrictive if the building needs to be remarketed in the future.

Warehouse/Parts Room Space:

  • Consider what products may be stored in the space and include enough fire protection based on the anticipated fire hazard.
  • Allow for adequate circulation paths in both the dock and the parts areas. This includes walkways as well as paths wide enough for forklift trucks to safely operate.  In the shop this includes walkways for staff to circulate, safely move required parts to their service bays and allowing for the required number of egress points.
  • Ensure that the floor slab is capable of handling not only today’s uses but allow for potentially heavier loads in the future.
  • Use racking that is sufficiently rated for the products being stored. Racking should also be considered to maximize the parts room’s capacity and utilization as well as to maintain proper laneways for both people and materials handling equipment.

Office Space:

  • Try to anticipate any future computer or telephone locations. Cable drops are much easier and less costly to install before the wall cladding is installed.  If the exact locations are not known, consider running cables that are coiled and secured in the drop ceilings with enough extra length to allow them to be installed relatively quickly.
  • Allow for natural lighting in the design for as many workspaces as possible.
  • Take into consideration any fumes or smells that may infiltrate into the office areas. In some cases, the mandatory fire breaks may be enough but additional ventilation or air barriers may be required if the shop must be adjacent to the office space.
  • Looking specifically at the office area, consider having the structure capable of supporting either a mezzanine or the ability to add an additional floor above it if expanding to that end of the building is not feasible.

Shop Space:

  • Shop bays should be designed with enough space at the sides to allow for both the storage of tools and equipment as well as the safe passage of employees.
  • Where possible design shop bays in a drive through configuration. This will not only minimize the need to shunt vehicles around but also reduces the need to back vehicles out which can result in a visibility issue.
  • Allow space for shared equipment, such as tire machines, bearing presses, etc. so that mechanics can access them without having to move vehicles that are being worked on.
  • Consider the use of either a lift or a pit for doing fluid or tire changes to minimize the reliance on jacks or jack stands and to provide a more efficient workspace.
  • Ensure enough airlines and/or fluid delivery lines are placed in each bay as retrofitting these is costlier than installing them during the original construction.
  • Orient the overhead doors to allow for ventilation during warm weather but at the same time try to avoid orienting them directly into the prevailing winds. This allows the doors to be left open when the weather allows it while minimizing any snow or rain infiltration into the bays.

This is not intended to be a complete list but gives you an idea of some of the unique things for our industry that should be taken into consideration.  Make certain to look at any other items that make you different and ensure that those needs are put into the design.

As much as possible use an architect and/or engineering firm that has experience with truck terminals and repair shops.  They will understand some of the ways that our industry works and what questions they need to ask of you.  At the end of the day it is more important to spend a couple of extra days planning up front instead of having to bring in a construction company to retrofit something a short time later.  Getting it right the first time is always less expensive in the long run.