A “Cool” Idea: Box-in-Box Retrofit

Here’s a cool solution that happens every day: a public warehouse operator or distributor suddenly needs controlled-temperature storage to satisfy a key customer, compete in a new geographic market; or perhaps a fast-growth refrigerated or frozen food processor quickly needs more production space but doesn’t have the time or money for a Greenfield project.

In both cases, food warehouses and food processors should consider box-in-box retrofit projects. All it takes is thinking outside the box—and selecting knowledgeable and reputable architects, engineers, and contractors such as ESI Group.

The objective of a good retrofit is to make the final product act and behave exactly the same as a new Greenfield building. Although projects vary by size and scope, the typical retrofit project can be completed in 30% to 40% less time because the new structure is already sealed from exterior influences (rain, snow, excessive heat or cold). Likewise, such a project can be more economical than a similar expansion or Greenfield project.

However, any cost equation starts with the right project partner. If a retrofit is not planned and executed correctly, building owners can set themselves up later for immeasurable damage from improper freezer floors, hidden mold or other issues. For its part, ESI has completed multiple temperature-controlled building retrofits. Some of these operations are approaching 20 years of trouble-free operation.

ESI applies that experience to the design and materials selection of …

walls and ceilings: The downside of a retrofit is its duplicity of ceiling and walls. In Greenfield projects, a building’s exterior (including the roof and walls) serves as the envelope and isolates the structure. In retrofits, walls and ceilings must be separate due to thermal and vapor issues that cause condensation and ice formation. Regardless of whether it’s a warehouse or food processing plant, both facility types require inside ceiling designs and materials that maintain refrigerated or frozen room temperatures.

food warehouse floors: The biggest retrofit shift occurs when an existing building becomes a -10°F freezer. Here, it’s important to remove the existing floor and replace with an under-floor heating system, vapor barrier, insulation, and new wear slab. Contractors must take special care to ensure that the columns and footings directly under the slab have been modified for protection from freezing. This can require extensive remediation.

food plant floors: USDA-regulated food plants typically require an extensive network of under-floor process waste lines to carry water from the drains. Floors must be pitched in excess of 3/16″ per foot to ensure that there’s no ponding and drain pots collect water. Although each case is specific, it’s generally better to remove the entire (pre-existing) floor to install the drain lines and pitch the floor. This is more cost effective than patching and using epoxy to pitch. ESI is a proven partner for quick, retrofit, box-in-a-box projects. Contact us to learn about “cool” options and fast-growth building solutions.

ESI Group’s Tim Gibbons, AIA, LEED AP, is VP of Design/Business Development



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