Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Interview with Ted Oyama - Fresh and Easy Distribution Center Architect

After visiting the Fresh & Easy distribution center in Riverside, I wanted to learn more about the construction of the Tesco facility as well as distribution centers in general. A good friend of mine works for AEPC, and arranged the following interview with Ted S. Oyama, the Lead Senior Architect of Record for the Riverside distribution facility.

1. Please tell me a little about yourself (job title, responsibilities, years of experience) your profession (architects and the design process) and the company you work for.

I am the manager of architecture at AEPC Group, LLC. I am responsible for the architectural design for all projects within the company. I have been licensed for 25 years and I currently am registered in 13 states. The architect can be compared to a maestro leading the band. Each player can play music but needs to be directed by someone to work in harmony. The architect orchestrates the different engineers and consultants (Structural, civil, mechanical, electrical, fire protection, solar, etc.) to work towards the same goal and within each others constraints. In the Tesco case it was working with other architects. The two smaller buildings were designed by E A Bonelli of Oakland. I was responsible for the large “Dry-Box” distribution warehouse. The other consultants were security and refrigeration.

2. What other distribution centers in the Inland Empire have you worked on and can you tell me a little about those? (Size, clearance, special considerations)

I worked on TUBE One Inc. This project was a shell that was being remodeled to accommodate there manufacturing requirements. About 40,000 SF with a 22’ clearance to the underside of the steel trusses.

3. Do you design (or work with) mostly build-to-suit facilities with a specific tenant in mind or general speculative space?

This company designs both speculative and build to suit designs. Sometimes we also go “Design Build.”

4. What are the most prominent/ defining features of a distribution center?

Truck loading, off loading and circulation to the docks.

5. How has warehouse design changed over the span of your career? (ESFR sprinklers, higher clearance, bigger facilities etc.)

I believe the tilt panels are becoming more creative to dissolve the Hugh massing height and length.

6. What role (if any) do real estate brokers have in design conceptualization of projects?

In this specific example, I did not deal with any brokers. I am sure this happened way before I became involved.

Fresh & Easy Distribution center in particular.

1. Can you share the specs of the distribution center? (Size (refrigerator & freezer space), clearance, parking, # of dock doors?

76 roll up dock doors with 11 knock out panels for future dock doors. The 76 roll up doors area are a mix of edge of dock and dock levelers. 34’-6” min. clearance to underside of trusses. Parking was not designed by AEPC. The freezer and refrigerator building were done by E A Bonelli.

2. What was your role for this project?

I was the architect of record. This means the original floor plan and exterior elevations were designed by E A Bonelli. I made their conceptual design buildable and to the model building code.

3. How was this project different from other distribution centers you had previously worked on?

The owner (Tesco) had their own consultant such as the civil engineer, fire protection, security , solar, and refrigeration. Since these consultants were not hired by AEPC, we did not have direct control over them and items fell through the cracks, so to speak. The structural steel was by a design build outfit that was not hired by AEPC. The structural foundation and tilt up panels were designed by AEPC‘s consultant.

4. Was there anything different in working with an overseas client (TESCO)? Any special considerations / limitations for this client / project (freezer space, fridge space, heating and cooling, special considerations for the giant solar panel on the roof?)

I had to become accustomed to the “Queen’s English.” The DRY warehouse did not have refrigeration but the refrigeration piping did travel across this building’s roof. Build out is what the Brits use for a T.I. (Tenant Improvement) Stowaway is what they use for storage.

5. I heard that for this project they had two teams of architects, one team in the United States and one team overseas. Any truth to this, and if so can you tell me a little more about why this work arrangement was needed and how it worked.

I suspect there was someone in England who looked at the preliminary drawings. The project manager came from SE Asia where he built a similar distribution warehouse.

6. Anything else about distribution centers or the Fresh & Easy center that you feel is of interest and that the general public should know?

There is a large area devoted to recycling. Product and recyclables come from the stores and are recycled at the warehouse. All of the fork lifts use rechargeable batteries packs.

7. Will you (or your firm) be working with Tesco in the future? (Designing the retail stores or the kitchen facilities that they have planned?)

We are currently working on three Fresh and Easy Neighborhood markets stores in the Bay Area.

I am deeply grateful to Ted Oyama for taking the time to answer my questions about the Fresh & Easy distribution center and for his insight into the role architects have in creating distribution centers.


Fresh & Easy Buzz said...

Enjoyed reading your interview. We have posted a short piece--with a link to your blog and interview--in Fresh & Easy Buzz.


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Saturnino Walmsley said...

I like how he describes the architect as being the maestro. Construction of the distribution center would be akin to a large orchestra playing a big tune. There's a lot of things to consider; the roles of the worker, the big picture and making sure that it's efficient for later use.