The past 20 years have seen an explosion of new businesses and products, increasing the need for streamlined logistics. Never in our history has it been so important that packages arrive on time. To keep up with demand, improve delivery and achieve better efficiency, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) rapidly built and expanded dozens of state-of-the-art distribution centers nationwide. We’ve designed and built more than 40 of them. As part of their broader construction efforts, the USPS needed a processing and distribution center to assist in package delivery to the Pacific Northwest. And they selected us to design and build a new one at the International Airport Business Park in Spokane, Washington.
The demands of the job
The USPS absolutely requires total efficiency and streamlined logistics to meet mail distribution demands. Packages and mail must rapidly move in and out of facilities, with the systems and technology in place to ensure they reach the right destination. Due to the urgent nature of mail delivery, the high performance demands on their facilities and a tight, transparent budget, the USPS required a fast-track project with hard schedule constraints and a minimal cost.
Getting the job done
To take on a project of this magnitude, we used an interactive and cooperative Design-Build approach. We hand selected a multi-disciplined project team that included design, engineering and construction professionals who partnered from concept to completion to identify and overcome project challenges.
As we started the job in early fall, and it called for a rapid, 1-year project schedule, we had to carefully coordinate the project so crews could work throughout the winter without weather delays. Given the climate of Spokane, Washington, the job called for us to pour the foundation, build the walls and install the roof before winter so the team could finish the facility indoors. Early in the project, we encountered several unique challenges. First, the deep soil had a surprise in store — boulders the size of cars that our team had to clear with specialty equipment. Next, we presented the USPS with a roofing option they hadn’t considered, as the previously specified selection wouldn’t properly adhere when the weather grew colder.
We had much of the building elements pre-fabricated off site so we could overlap elements of construction for a fast-track project delivery. Perhaps the most important element of the project, the facility ties directly into the airport so the USPS could move mail straightaway from the airport and into their operation. Throughout the process, we worked closely with the airport and FAA, building with the right paperwork and coordinating our high crane with the airport’s timing needs.
Through a collaborative team approach, we provided best-value solutions and a successful job, as measured by a range of key performance indicators, from cost and schedule control to safety and quality assurance.
The completed processing and distribution center covers 352,000 square feet and houses bulk mail and airmail operations. It also contains a workroom, offices, administrative areas and mechanical mezzanines. The building was the second to use a new USPS design prototype for its processing and distribution centers — a steel structure with a split-faced block exterior and a prefabricated metal panel border along the top of the building.
Our project team delivered the project 68 days ahead of schedule, so the USPS then requested we build its Bulk Mail and Tray Mail Conveyor System. Through an aggressive procurement plan and round-the-clock installation, we completed the Bulk Mail System and Tray Mail System 18 days ahead of schedule. In total, the project came in at $27.8 million — right on budget.