Fire Forces Business To Make Innovative Rebuild
Dick Cold Storage held a ribbon-cutting for its new facility in Columbus, Ohio in early June. The new building, constructed by Indiana-based Tippmann Innovation, features the newest bells and whistles that are essential in one of the nation’s most unique industries. “We’re confident that our new facility will be at the cutting edge of cold storage innovation,’’ CEO Don Dick said at the groundbreaking for the new facility in July 2017.
Dick Cold Storage was forced to build the new modern structure after the fire tore through its previous location. On Friday, Aug. 19, 2016, all of the company’s employees had left for the day when the fire started around 9 p.m. More than 400 firefighters tackled the blaze at the 144,000 square foot warehouse, and their task was complicated by the facilities’ products.
Some of the cooling systems in the appliances use anhydrous ammonia, a chemical that Columbus Battalion Chief Steve Martin said “attacks water,” including moisture that could be found on someone’s exposed skin. Firefighters could not leave the facility until late Saturday afternoon.
“Buildings that do not lend themselves to ventilation, such as cold storage buildings, are especially dangerous to firefighters. If there is no known life-safety issue, firefighters will retreat to a defensive position and fight the fire from outside the building instead of going inside,’’ Martin said.
The building where the fire erupted also lacked smoke vents, which further handicapped the firefighters. The brave Columbus firefighters could not aggressively attack the blaze due to the lack of visibility and deteriorating structural integrity. “Two of the biggest challenges we face in fighting any fire are heat and smoke,’’ Martin said. “The heat of the fire radiates on everything surrounding it, causing the flames to spread and causing rapid degradation of structural elements.”
Latest and Greatest – and Smoke Vents
When Dick Cold Storage made plans to build its new facility, its executive leadership wanted to include the latest industry innovations. Tippmann Innovation, an expert in the construction of cold storage facilities, worked with the Dick Cold Storage team to include one of the most technologically advanced facilities in the nation.
The new building also includes smoke vents. After the fire disaster that devastated the nearly century-old business, Dick Cold Storage made certain the new facility would be better equipped in case of another fire.
“Vents will allow for the removal of heat and smoke will potentially slow the spread of fire,’’ Martin said. “They will also permit firefighters to see and enter the building, to possibly extinguish the fire early, preventing the entire building from becoming a loss.”
Tippmann Innovation worked with Spohn Associates to obtain the vents, which measure 7-feet by 18-feet and include a quad leaf design. The 18 automatic, custom-made smoke vents, manufactured by The BILCO Company, allow for the escape of smoke, heat, and gasses in a burning building. The vents include a Thermolatch® II positive hold/release mechanism that ensures reliable operation when a fire occurs. It also automatically releases vent covers upon the melting of a 165°F (74°C) fusible link. Gas spring operators are designed to open the covers against snow and wind loads and include integral dampers to assure that the covers open at a controlled rate of speed.
“Additional fire protection was one of the elements that we wanted to have in the new building,’’ Dick said. “We don’t have sprinklers, but we have a lot of other measures for fire protection throughout the building.”
Unique Features in Cold Storage Roofing
Because of their unique business, cold storage facilities also require architects and engineers to pay close attention to roofing components. Inefficient roofing materials or improper installation can lead to disastrous consequences for cold storage buildings.
Vapor leaks and excess moisture could create bacterial growth. Some other side effects could include higher utility costs, safety issues for workers, structural damage from ice buildup on walls and slabs, and equipment that may require more maintenance or not reach its expected lifespan.
Tippmann Innovation paid particular attention in building a vapor-tight roof with a single-ply system. They used 45-mil and 60-mil thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) membrane. Single-ply systems minimize air leaks, which frequently lead to thermal loss and excess moisture, and are an important safeguard for a cold storage facility.
Shortly after the fire, Dick Cold Storage’s leadership contacted Tippmann and made plans to build the new facility. “Tippmann Innovation’s experience and reputation in cold storage building is well-known and respected,’’ Don Dick said at the ground breaking. “After touring one of Tippman’s newly-completed projects, we were very impressed with the company’s commitment to quality, design, and technology. We’re confident that our new facility will be at the cutting edge of cold storage innovation.”
And the new building does not disappoint. The ceilings are 50-feet clear, creating six million cubic square feet of storage space. There are 15,000 pallet positions and seven multi-temperature storage rooms.
“The cost of construction of a cold storage building is more than a dry warehouse,’’ said Tippmann Innovation’s Rob Adams, who spearheaded the plans for the new DCS facility. “When you’re trying to maximize square footage, you can build higher so that you are refrigerating in the same footprint. The cost to add refrigeration is significantly higher, so it’s better to build higher.”
The building includes the most up-to-date features in LED lighting and the most energy-efficient refrigeration equipment. It offers quick-freezing capabilities for temperature-sensitive products, as well as frozen, cooler and dry storage. The expanded building also led to the creation of 30 full-time positions. “We want to be able to move product extremely fast,’’ Don Dick said. “We’re very conscientious of food safety and storing product, so we try to do everything the right way.”
Dick remembers feeling “completely lost” after the fire destroyed the building where his family conducted business. A little less than two years later, the company is up and running with new energy and a new outlook.
“When you have time to think, you realize you just gotta get up and running and get back to what you are doing,’’ he said. “You have to be as efficient as you can. We thought it was dead, but you can’t think that way. You have to think what we are going to do from this day forward.”