Inherently complex, light manufacturing project —especially in the food and beverage sector often involve highly specialized systems that demand the coordination of skilled tradespeople in power, cooling, process piping, ammonia-based refrigeration, and low-voltage controls.
In 2012, Structure Tone Southwest began working for clients like Vision Works and Nature’s Bounty on these types of projects. Fast forward to today, and light manufacturing is now approximately 60% of the revenue for Structure Tone Southwest’s San Antonio office as they added such projects as a new refrigerated food process and distribution facility for Project Hoops, an authentic French baked goods company, and a barrel aging facility for Garrison Brothers Distillery, Texas’ first and oldest bourbon distillery.
“All of a sudden we were immersed in the light manufacturing business,” says Mark Jones, regional vice president for STSW San Antonio. “We’re proud of the fact that virtually all of our manufacturing clients are also repeat customers.”
CRAFTING COLLABORATIVE SUCCESS
One of the factors that makes building light manufacturing facilities successful is their inherent fit with the design-build approach to construction and the cost savings and efficient project delivery that often result. In this process, the preconstruction team plays a crucial role in the design phase by providing designers and clients with real-time pricing and schedules, helping them make informed decision and establishing a seamless connection between concept and construction.
“Having our team actively involved in the process early on enhances the project’s overall efficiency and helps us create a smooth transition from design to execution,” says Jones.
For example, with the expansion of whiskey maker Garrison Brothers’ distillery in Hye, Texas, early communication and collaboration were a huge part of the project’s success. The project had three critical main components that needed to be addressed before initiating the facility’s production area.
The first part of construction was providing fire protection to all the existing structures on the property. The existing structures have been here since the Garrison Brothers first started making bourbon. Structure Tone installed a water loop around the entire production area that consisted of 3,800 lineal feet of underground piping to each building, seven fire hydrants, nine fire riser rooms, a 210,000-gallon tank holding water, and a fire pump.
The second part of construction was expanding onto their existing mash/distilling house and adding eight new cook tanks. This project was the main driver behind expanding their bourbon production by 50%.
The third part of the construction was building a storage barn that would have the capacity to store nearly 15,000 barrels of bourbon.
The STSW team was able to collaborate with the electrical contractor from the beginning, which allowed them to contribute to the plan to integrate a brand-new building and electrical and riser room to an aging barn. All of this early collaboration also allowed the team to keep on top of deliveries and coordinate plans, which helped keep the budget on schedule and at budget more easily. Structure Tone Southwest also took a design-build approach to the 140,000sf commercial bakery they constructed for Project Hoops. The architectural plan for the dual-story steel-framed facility included a concrete foundation resting on drilled piers complemented by a mix of insulated metal panels (IMP) and concrete wall panels. The project also featured specialized electrical gear and refrigeration equipment and incorporating a glycol loop HVAC system for cooling instead of chilled water. The specialized systems involved several specialized subcontractors from Europe, so collaborating and communicating early with the design team and client was key. During the seven-month GMP process, the team was able to value engineer some efficiencies and divided the project into different work packages to accommodate the rapid changes in the supply chain.
ON THE HORIZON
As the demand for light manufacturing continues to grow, Jones sees even further specialization coming down the pike—and he and his team are ready to meet the need head-on.
“We’re definitely seeing more of a need for cold storage solutions in the future,” he says. “Overall, our light manufacturing construction process has been proven to be successful and efficient, and we look forward to future opportunities in this sector.”