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

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

Posted on January 18, 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.”


National Cut Energy Costs Day Is Every Day in a Sustainably Designed Building

Posted on January 10, 2019

In their 2015 study, the United Nations Environment Programme found that buildings account for nearly half of the world’s energy expenditures, 40% of greenhouse gas emissions, 25% of the earth’s potable water, and, in developed countries, over 20% of all solid waste generated, including food waste, yard waste, and unrecycled materials. In a time when resources are limited, and everyone is trying to put a cap on the energy they use and carbon emissions they are responsible for, sustainable design is now more important than ever.

Flexible and applicable to virtually all building, community, and home project types, stainable design provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. LEED Certification, by the US Green Building Council, is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement, helping to save energy, water, resources, generate less waste, and supporting human health.

Although the US Green Building Council and LEED rating system has only existed since 1993 and 2000, respectively, SMBH has been involved in projects that incorporate green and sustainable design since our inception in 1972. It is evident to us that, while many trends in the design and construction industry can often come and go quickly, sustainable building is much more than just a trend – it’s becoming the new norm. Design and construction professionals increasingly see requests for structures incorporating elements of sustainable design into large and small-scale projects.

One of those elements is the steel itself. We design with steel made with recycled materials from cars, scrap metal, and old structural steel. Because steel is magnetic, it’s easily separated from mixed waste streams. It’s also 100% truly recyclable, meaning the recycled steel won’t have any degradation in properties or performance.

Through our involvement on many sustainable projects, we have found early collaboration to be extremely beneficial to green and sustainable projects. The spirit of collaboration creates an open forum for idea sharing and allows the design and construction teams to meet the owners' goals in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. As design professionals, our charge is to work together to integrate sustainable elements early in the design to ensure their maximum benefit is achieved.

SMBH has been involved with more than 100 LEED projects, including 6 that are Certified, 41 that are certified Silver, 30 that are certified Gold, and 1 that is certified Platinum. In addition to this experience, we also have three team members who are LEED Accredited Professionals, demonstrating our proficiency in sustainable design and helping your project achieve LEED certification.

Want help with your next green or sustainable design project? We’d love to start working on it together, just contact us!


SMBH January Core Values Award Goes to Chris Potter!

Posted on January 03, 2019

Congratulations to our newest recipient of the SMBH Core Values Award, BIM Specialist Chris Potter. Known affectionately as Potter in the office, he is always doing his best to help whenever possible. Thank you, Potter, for everything you do here!