E-commerce was already on the rise before the pandemic hit, and now talk about billions of dollars in online sales is shifting to trillions. Stay-at-home orders and other restrictions launched e-commerce supply chains into uncharted territory that’s looking more like the new normal than a temporary side-effect of a public health crisis. Retailers, warehouses, and distribution centers are pushing their pipelines to the limits as construction crews follow in their footsteps to build more and more operating space.
“You’re easily looking at more than a square foot to support every dollar in e-commerce sales. says AOG General Manager Blake Bennett. “That’s a lot of construction, and a lot of it is happening in Kansas City. It’s a great opportunity for our firm to make a difference.”
Engineering the Right Economics
It’s no secret that Kansas City is quickly becoming a major logistics hub with Amazon, Walmart, CVS, and other major brands counting on new facilities in the heart of America to handle the online shopping surge. While many of those businesses are retailers, these days they’re also looking like real estate conglomerates, snatching up property and speeding construction projects across the country. Bennett says developers are moving fast and hurrying to catch up.
“There’s no time to waste. Developers are lining up manufacturing, warehouse, and distribution center construction projects as quickly as possible and the Kansas City market is a hot spot thanks to our central location and supporting infrastructure. KC is in the spotlight and that won’t change anytime soon.”
Bennett is hard at work plugging into the conversations and planning that’s shaping the flow of e-commerce construction. He’s gauging feedback from key players to sharpen AOG’s role and optimize its impact.
“Developers line up all of their construction costs upfront and roll it into a building’s total cost. The faster they can nail that down, the faster they can set up leasing and keep things moving,” says Bennett. ”We’re packaging our role as a geotechnical partner in ways they can immediately understand, appreciate, and factor into their calculations.”
In other words, Bennett is speaking their language. He’s working to take as much geotech risk out of the equation as possible upfront and tie costs more directly to square footage, a standard measurement that drives these kinds of construction deals.
“We’re looking at these projects like developers look at them,” explains Bennett. “An all-in project price is what they want, from soil investigation to testing and special inspections. It’s not easy to price upfront because there can be so many unknowns in the work we do, but we have the experience that makes it possible. Developers are finding we’re unique in more ways than one.”
Exactly Right for the Job
We’re especially excited about the e-commerce building boom because we know this kind of work like the back of our hand. AOG has a long history of huge commercial projects and loads of experience directly related to what e-commerce builders are going through. Not only are we experts at dealing with soil and construction materials like concrete and steel on a massive scale, but we’re also skilled in the specific construction practices involved.
“As soon as you tell us the purpose of your building, we immediately start thinking about the foundation, what kinds of weight loads we can expect and how we’ll need to handle those loads in different situations,” says Bennett. “Our minds quickly jump to strategies for supporting extreme pressures resulting from heavy machinery doing high-powered work that challenges foundations. We’re also thinking ahead to potential buoyancy forces and other subsurface factors that may impact design. The wheels really start turning with that first conversation because we know where this is going. We’ve been there before.”
Imagine a slab floor big enough to cover more than a dozen football fields. That’s the kind of square footage manufacturers, warehouses, and distribution centers get into. The AOG team is seasoned in supporting mass excavation to move dirt around and get it perfectly positioned and leveled to support all of that concrete. Bennett says our experience is matched only by our enthusiasm for big jobs.
“We love the wide-open spaces and dirt work. And you’re talking tens of thousands of cubic feet in concrete going into a single floor and all of the testing and inspections that go with it. That’s intimidating to other firms, but not for us. It draws on every skill we have and every service we offer. We enjoy it.”
Developers driving these types of projects welcome our experience in ensuring the Floor Flatness that’s central to the smooth operation of robotic technologies and the utilization of towering shelving structures. We’ve shaped Floor Flatness for a spectrum of industrial uses and have a rich history of related work matching new foundations with existing foundations, and perfecting subgrade to meet the strict specifications of world-class soccer turf.
Tilt-up panel construction, a massive engineering feat, highlights another AOG specialty commonly ordered up by the e-commerce building boom. The process of pouring concrete to form huge sections of walls laying horizontally, and then hoisting them into place vertically, is complex and critical. We understand how it works, the stress it puts on materials and structural components, and the painstaking precision needed to pull it all together with the help of supporting columns and the roof.
“Tilt-up panels are complicated on top of being massive, so it’s really challenging work and you need experienced crews,” says Bennett. “We’re the eyes and ears owners and general contractors need and trust to make sure everything is being done right. The inspection responsibilities are substantial. It’s hard to imagine the amount of concrete involved and the delicate movement of it all.”
Experience That Builds Efficiency and Speed.
When you’re trying to get a massive warehouse built as fast as possible, efficiency is a priority and the AOG team is specially designed to deliver. We’re a hand-picked group of seasoned professionals who have gone down these roads so many times before that they’re second nature. We understand project goals and exactly how we fit into them, offering additional help that allows our project partners to do better work and flag more opportunities for saving time and money.
Working with us means lowering the risk of surprises that slow your project down. Our experience gives us the ability to anticipate needs and forecast problems before they become show-stoppers. We can look at your budget, quickly get a feel for what you’re trying to do, and find the best way to go about it, all things considered. We understand the realities and limitations of soil, steel, concrete, asphalt, and other construction materials, and offer the kind of skilled creativity that creates options and flexibility, from taming rocky subgrades to fine-tuning custom foundation designs.
“Can we do spread-footings as a less expensive option than piering? Do we need to remove rock or can we save money by working with it? It’s questions like those that lead to smarter solutions and we’re not afraid to ask them,” says Bennett. “Nothing scares us because there are few scenarios we haven’t seen before in Kansas City. We jump at the chance to get creative and work with our construction partners to achieve goals in different ways. We don’t just fill out reports and walk away. That’s not AOG. We’re in for as long as it takes to get the job done right. Our work speaks for itself and we look forward to helping the e-commerce building boom become another symbol of Kansas City pride.”