The Blog

Welcome to the SMBH blog. Here you will find industry updates, recent news, and topics related to our industry.

Recent Posts

Multi-Level Distribution Centers: When the Only Way You Can Build is Up

Posted on March 12, 2019

E-Commerce in 2019 is all about "last mile" delivery, meaning deliveries that go to an end-user or customer in a matter of hours instead of days or weeks. In densely populated cities like Manhattan, last mile delivery is made harder by the distance between the customer and the distribution center their goods are coming from - that's where Multi-Level Distribution Centers step in.

We sat down with our Senior Project Engineer Mike Sugrue, who gave us the down-low on building higher. "E-commerce centers now are on big, huge, virgin tracks of greenspace, often in clusters close to truck routes, and they build out horizontally because the space exists away from population centers and is relatively inexpensive. So, businesses need to get these centers where the people are in order to accomplish the one to two-hour delivery target time." With land at a premium in cities like New York, that means the only way to build the spaces required is to build vertically.

In a city with a long history of servicing industry, there is a surprising lack of appropriate space available - mostly because they've been repurposed and converted into multi-family housing and lofts. Even if such buildings were available, many aren't suitable for modern distribution center requirements like 30-foot clear heights, open bay spacing, and other features designed to replicate, as best as possible, the client's traditional e-commerce layout that makes their operations efficient.

Sugrue points out, "Additional concerns with the space for racking are also common. Incorporating the racking loads supported by floors instead of slab-on-grades, and there's been challenges there incorporating all the point loads safely in the structure."

There have been other unexpected challenges, too. "Because property and the cost of land is so expensive, owners and developers need to maximize the amount of buildable land on those sites, and that means closer proximity to the property lines, which results in vertical setbacks that have to be incorporated into the building due to zoning regulations. This is a different factor that you're not faced with in a normal build for an e-commerce center," said Sugrue, who also notes that this has been one of the most unexpected challenges about designing Multi-Level Distribution Centers.

So, what's in the future for these new bastions of e-commerce industry? Sugrue says, "It's in its infancy, so I think as it progresses, the market will determine what's worked and what's not been successful as a payback feature. The needs that evolve will affect our design of the structures - we'll build in refinements and efficiencies." While he says it's unlikely we will see these types of structures outside of cities with densely populated neighborhoods, there are still lots of places where these buildings will be needed more and more in the future.

"The bar continues to move on faster delivery for online shipments, and all the studies have shown the people that are more inclined for online purchases are only going to grow. Because these customers tend to represent a younger demographic, they haven't even reached the peak buying years. Online sales are only 15% of retail right now, that's only going to go up. Multi-Level Distribution Centers seems to be a solution for faster delivery in dense areas. Everything has shown that it's going to go up."

*All Photos are Ware Malcomb Multistory Distribution Prototype Images

March Core Values Award Goes to Kara Hendren!

Posted on March 04, 2019

March's Core Values Award Recipient is Kara Hendren, one of our Senior Project Engineers. Kara's been with us for 11 years now, and brings all her experience and knowledge to every project she works on. Kara's favorite things about SMBH are, "The culture and the people. We are a family here and care about each other, and I love that." Our favorite things about Kara are her sharp intellect, killer engineering skills, and great sense of humor. 

Thanks again Kara! We love having you on the SMBH team!

2019 SMBH Annual Chili Cook-Off

Posted on February 28, 2019

Our Annual Chili Cook-Off was a great success! We had a variety of chilis available for tasting, with all the trimmings. 

Our Controller, Dawn Becker, won this year's Grand Chili Champion Trophy with her "Low Carb No Bean Awesome Chili!" Lisa Connelly, Director of Marketing and Business Development, won Best Veggie Chili with her "Veggie Chocolate Chili", and there was a tie for Best Newbie's Chili between Ben Wiley's "The Chili" and Niaz Chowdary's "Chicken Chili Majestic". 

Thanks for everyone that participated, it was a delicious day!

Breaking Up the Winter Weather with Fun!

Posted on February 05, 2019

The winter weather woes are hard to beat, so we've gone all in on whatever fun we can have! Check out some of our recent celebrations.

For International Fun at Work Day, we did an office chair relay race! We assembled teams of 3 to race around the office. Racers had to propel themselves with their chair, then hand it off to the next racer on their team once they finished their leg of the race. Coincidentally, the team that won was literally named "The Winning Team," and included all of our Principals, Steven Metz, Bob Baumann, and Jon Beier. Here they are with their trusty, winning stead. 


Hot Chocolate Day was a real winner! With 5 different kinds of hot chocolate and candy and marshmallow mix-ins, it was an absolute treat. It was great weather for the day, too - only 3 degrees outside!

We were happy to participate in Wear Red Day this year, which helps increase awareness of Heart Disease. Almost half of our office donned some red to bring attention to the cause. Can it be pajama day now? 

February's Core Values Award Goes to Ann Strosnider!

Posted on February 04, 2019

A new month means it's SMBH Core Values Award time again! February's recipient is BIM Specialist Ann Strosnider.

Ann is always happy to pitch in to get work done. She's also a delight to have around the office. If you haven't checked out her BIM User Group, COBUG, you really should! Their next session is on March 12th at Watershed Distillery.