Working with the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) for more than ten years, our team has created a long-standing relationship with the agency. We’ve provided a wide-range of services, including waste audits, compliance management, energy management, and more on commissaries and distribution centers worldwide. In March 2014, we were tasked with sustainment projects for two separate central distribution center’s serving Tokyo, Japan, and the surrounding region. However, after we explored alternatives and costs, our team proposed the consolidation of these separate facilities into one, expanding the capabilities of the Sagimihara, Japan, distribution center for DeCA. Due to our team’s outstanding relationships, we’ve started providing a new service with DeCA, working with them to design the distribution center.
For the first time in our history, we’ve managed the project and performed a full-service design with strategic partners. The project included renovating existing frozen and refrigerated storage and adding frozen and climate controlled storage in the 1940s warehouse building that had served as a manufacturing facility for Japanese tanks in World War II. In addition, a new 26,000-square-foot warehouse for added dry storage capacity was included.
This project highlights the way the design market is shifting towards a global project base and the need to structure teams that support international projects. We assembled a design team that included both US and Japanese firms. Taking advantage of technology, we were able to overcome the obstacles of language, a 14-hour time zone difference, and a myriad of participants.
The team also had to learn and use Japanese methods and materials for construction. This helped ensure better pricing from the local construction community and facilitated local maintenance contracts saving DeCA operating expenses. This took a considerable effort from all and required the design leads to research and identify materials and systems that are readily available in Japan. We also included a local Japanese architecture/engineering firm to provide guidance and reviews related to typical Japanese methods.
One interesting and very serious challenge arose when the geotechnical engineers were performing exploratory soil borings. In two locations (one under the proposed new building and another near an adjacent building), about 20 feet below the existing grade, a ten-foot deep void was found. Crews weren’t sure how extensive this void was or how far it could have extended laterally. After some investigation with the Base Department of Public Works, it was discovered that this was a portion of a World War II air raid tunnel system that runs adjacent to the existing buildings and under the proposed new building. Fortunately, the new warehouse is light enough that there should be no negative impact to the tunnels below.
By consolidating the centers’ functions into one facility, DeCA was able to reduce manpower, simplify management, increase efficiency, and expand their distribution output, all of which translate into operational savings. The improvements and safety features designed into this project will also enhance the operating environment for all workers on site.