Located in an industrial sector south of the city center, the site was attractive due to its large footprint, adequate parking, and proximity to Interstate 95. The existing complex consisted of a 14-foot-high warehouse, full basement with a ceiling height of 11 feet, and a two-story showroom with an office on the second level. After analyzing the property, I determined its present dimensions wouldn’t accommodate the owner’s need for 120,000 gross square feet of storage.
My solution was to demolish the building down to the concrete first-floor slab, utilize the existing basement, and add two new levels above. My plan created four floors of usable space. The concrete columns in the basement were spaced at 20 feet. I had my engineer design new footings and add additional columns to create a 10-by-10-foot grid.
The basement was dry when the contractor did borings prior to construction. Unexpectedly, when digging, water from an unknown source began to fill the footings. Two large sump pits several feet below the slab with inoperable pumps also contained water.
A Geotech engineer suggested mucking out the mud and digging down to dry earth. After pouring new concrete, water continued to intrude, flooding a large part of the basement floor. A water test came back indicating the presence of chlorine. Aging urban infrastructure under the main thoroughfare was the suspected culprit. The city was unresponsive to requests for assistance. The contractor installed more drains, dug an internal trench, and exited the water to an exterior pit using redundant pumps and an emergency generator. Today the basement is dry.
While not within my sphere of control, a unique challenge occurred. The north wall of the building was located directly on the property line, adjacent to a railroad. Although the tracks appeared to be at a safe distance, the rail company would not allow scaffolding or workmen on their property. A negotiated settlement was reached requiring the siding contractor to hire a signalman to clear the area when a train was approaching. Fortunately, rail traffic, slow moving freight only, was light. However, the plan created delays of several weeks and added costs of 17K.
I cite this project as an example of Murphy’s Law in operation. The law states—“If anything can go wrong, it will.” Unique challenges surface unfailingly, while repurposing existing structures, requiring problem solving at a commensurate level.