Designing Desirable Space at Highlands Distribution Center

In 2019, an office supplies warehouse in Smyrna, GA was ablaze for nearly two days. Deemed the largest fire in the City’s history, it burned the facility to the ground.

Months later, developer EQT Exeter stepped in to rebuild it, proposing Highlands Distribution Center, a 100,000-SF speculative distribution center with an approved 20,000-SF expansion. EQT Exeter then faced the challenge of new and more stringent regulations for stormwater management and fire safety on the site.

EQT Exeter’s team looked to Bohler for solutions. While initially engaged to redesign the site to adhere to the new regulations, Bohler also helped the developer identify and act on opportunities to save money and minimize impacts from the proposed expansion.

Adhering to Stricter Stormwater Standards

Since the 2019 fire, the City of Smyrna had adopted stricter stormwater management regulations that generally required expensive underground infiltration systems.

In reviewing the updated code, Bohler identified an opportunity for significant savings. If less than half of the site was disturbed, more economical water quality devices could be used instead of the costly underground filtration system.

Bohler was able to bring the site’s disturbance area under the 50% threshold through creative modification of the layout and coordination with the general contractor to reduce the area required for utility installation. By looking at the big picture, our team saved the developer from having to implement the underground filtration system, valued at approximately $100,000.

Improving Fire Safety and Access

Because of the fire, Smyrna’s Fire Department issued specific requirements for exits, pathways, and entry points around the entire perimeter of the building to provide sufficient access for pedestrians, fire trucks, and first responders, as well as additional fire sprinkler protection requirements.

  • To safely accommodate the regulation, the building needed to be shortened by 20 feet from its original conceptual design. Collaborating closely with the architect, Bohler resourcefully redesigned the site’s parking and circulation to meet the requirement while preventing further loss of square footage.
  • Bohler redesigned the upper parking lot with a “hammerhead” turnaround that allows for complete firetruck access and turnaround on both sides of the building.
  • In the lower lot, our team recommended a striped firetruck turnaround in an area that does not impact loading docks or regular truck traffic. This solution saved the client from implementing another “hammerhead” turnaround that would have required a loss of valuable loading dock space.

Planning for Future Expansion

Knowing that a speculative development with flexibility for future growth is more attractive to a potential buyer, EQT Exeter incorporated the 20,000-SF expansion as part of the project scope. Bohler’s stormwater management design and associated entitlements incorporated the expansion, so that future build-out will not be subject to another new set of regulations.

Rebuilding Better

EQT Exeter set out to bring new life to the destroyed distribution center and delivered, despite the challenges presented by more stringent regulations. By looking beyond the plans, Bohler’s out-of-the-box approach identified opportunities for significant cost savings that helped them accomplish their goal. Ultimately, EQT Exeter was able to bring an appealing, successful facility to market.

120K SF
20 Ft Grade Change

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