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In-Forest Facility

A fleet management building blends into scenic surroundings

Blackwell Fleet Mar19 3

Located about 35 miles west of Chicago, the 1,366-acre Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville, Ill., is one of most popular forest preserves in DuPage County. It has been repeatedly voted among the best in Chicago’s western suburbs and offers fishing, camping, archery, picnic shelters, an off-leash dog area and more. Blackwell visitors recreate on land shaped by a retreating Wisconsin Glacier 12,000 to 15,000 years ago that left behind savannahs, marshes and prairieland.

Maintaining the forest preserve requires vehicles for everything from patrolling preserves and managing recreational areas to maintaining trails, trimming trees and clearing streams to prevent dangerous flood conditions. In May 2007, the Forest Preserve District's Board of Commissioners approved funding for a new 16-bay fleet building at Blackwell. The site is located near several existing Forest Preserve District maintenance, operational and fleet-management facilities, and provides almost 29,000 square feet for the maintenance and repair of Forest Preserve District vehicles and equipment. “[It] modernizes our fleet management capabilities in conjunction with our alternative fuel vehicles while improving our overall operational efficiency and working conditions for staff,” says a Blackwell district planning manager.

The new shop allows the fleet to consolidate two older maintenance facilities. There are 14 drive-through bays, two shorter skid-steer bays, one welding/fabrication bay, one paint booth bay and one receiving bay. The entire building has LED lighting and dormer windows on the roof, as well as windows in bay doors to let in natural light. It also includes all new equipment and furniture. Every technician has a computer cart at his or her bay, with a Wi-Fi-capable tablet for easy data entry into the fleet management information system and for bringing up diagnostic software.

Rural Character

To best blend into the site’s rural character and landscape, and out of respect for areas residents’ concerns for its appearance, the fleet building incorporates a barnlike structure design, as opposed to a more industrial one. Landscaping meets the district’s policy of all native plants and vegetation for low maintenance. A wide variety of trees and shrubs screen the building from view and blend with the natural surroundings.

Area residents provided fleet management with final design feedback after being concerned about the appearance of the building within the forest preserve and the walking/biking/horseback riding paths that are adjacent to this site. Chicago-based Knight E/A Inc. provided design and construction administrative services for the building. “[Knight E/A] staff also met with key stakeholders and local residents to ensure the exterior design paired with the aesthetic of the community,” says Roxanne Knapp, RA, LEED GA, at Knight E/A. “Although LEED certification was not sought, the facility was designed to meet LEED certification standards and the process was monitored by the district's green team.”

A Barnlike Structure

The project features 130 tons of structural steel. This metal panel-clad structure has split-face, block-base walls and landscape-appropriate colors designed to mimic and maintain the rural character of the site. The 35,200-square-foot roof uses 5-inch CFR panels from Houston-based MBCI in a Kynar-painted finish.

MBCI also supplied 3-inch CF panels for the walls in a Kynar-painted finish with a 26-gauge exterior and interior metal skin, in addition to FW 120 soffit panels. Varco Pruden Buildings, Memphis, Tenn., provided the structural steel framing for the roof, walls and main framing. Sno-Gem Inc., McHenry, Ill., supplied snow retention bars.

After negotiating a deal with general contractor Frontier Construction, Willowbrook, Ill., subcontractor Optimal Construction Services, St. Charles, Ill., purchased and then provided the building, sheeting and coordinated the steel erection with the erector, Area Erectors Inc., Rockford, Ill. “We purchased the structural preengineered package from Varco Pruden Buildings and the roofing/siding/trim package from MBCI, and coordinated very closely between them to make sure all details were as specified,” says Jerry Meister, owner of Optimal Construction Services. “In the Chicago market, most GC’s prefer to work with a specialty trade contractor that does all the coordination for the metal building structure so they have a single source.”

Because the intent was for the building to resemble the look of a barn, Meister says this required wider trim around the openings, and also a cupola supplied by Campbellsville Industries Inc., Campbellsville, Ky. The front entry was designed with a hip roof to further mimic the horse barn design. A pre-engineered framing system was used for the economies and the ability to create a high-pitched roof with a clear-span design for the open floor plan.

“The roof design was very complex,” Meister adds. “The roof has numerous clerestories, hips, valleys and different roof pitches with eave lines crossing over into the adjacent walls. The best way to frame all of this, especially the front office area, was a real challenge. This was also the first time that we have purchased/installed an IMP product on the roof, so the various details made it even more concerning to ensure installation went as needed.”

“The factory-insulated roof and wall system became the obvious choice in meeting the energy code and achieve the aesthetics requested by the customer,” Knapp says. “This complex project has several clerestories at the front to allow light dormers at the rear for mechanical venting. Staff selected the exterior metal as an attractive solution that was cost effective and kept the project on schedule, and metal panel construction is easy to maintain as well.”

Using IMPs saved construction costs. “[They] cost more in material but we made up for it with the savings in labor,” Meister says. “This is the benefit of a prefabricated metal building system. We experienced unique challenges with the custom architectural features of the entry and roof system. Optimal Construction was able to work with Knight on these unique conditions to help realize the vision had for this project.”