The Weight of Water

In this edition I share the story of a three town Fire Protection District needing a new apparatus repair facility. Like most agencies, they were on a tight budget. The search committee settled on an existing building. The District purchased the building in 2010. The building has concrete tilt up walls with three garage doors, high ceiling and floor space to create multiple service bays plus storage and office space. image

In movies and books there is a technique called Foreshadowing. That is where the writer briefly mentions a scene, place, a sentence and then moves on. Similarly, the director will drop a passing scene or bit of dialogue into the movie and then move on. Later on, that little foreshadowing looms large over the story and impacts what happens. There is foreshadowing in the first paragraph.

I had met the chief in 2017 at a conference I attend every year. He contacted me and asked me to contact the different architectural firms that I work with to see if they were interested in responding to the RFP below. I immediately sent it out to five firms I’ve worked with who were within striking distance (three hours drive time) of this project.

Then I did what I always do. I brainstorm with only the information in front of me. I had not been in any of this District’s firehouses, let alone, the repair shop. I shared my thoughts with my architect partners. All have firehouse design experience but only one had firetruck repair building experience. What see you below is the original RFP with the name and address changed. You will also see my first look, stream of consciousness response to each section. I hope you don’t find it too confusing. My text is indented and Italicized.

Request for Proposal

Central County Fire Protection District

Engineering and Design for 410 Roosevelt Drive Facility Improvements

This is a request for proposal (RFP) for the Central County Fire Protection District’s Fleet Services Building at 410 Roosevelt Drive in Capitol City. To submit an RFP on this project the Engineer/Designer/Architectural Firm will submit proof of current licensure, bonding and insurance with proposal submittal. This project is prevailing wage.

The scope of the project is:

To investigate, engineer and design a shop floor that will withstand the current loads being placed upon it in the course of maintaining fire department apparatus.

  • What is the heaviest GVW of the Rigs? Drive thru bays? Upgrade rollup doors?
  • Ceiling height to accommodate tilt cab rigs inside the building
  • What are the Electrical Power requirements?

To engineer and design an approximately 2000 square foot mezzanine within the main shop floor area of 10,000 square feet.

  • Existing or new elevator? Seismic issues – foundation, brace frames, shear walls
  • Weight of material on Mezzanine, Second stairs for fire exiting? Sprinklers above and below

To design an air handling system for air circulation purposes for the shop floor area.

Unclear – HVAC or Diesel Exhaust or both?

Design for an emergency standby generator.

Full capacity or select circuits? belly tan? stand-alone tank or both?

Design for gasoline and diesel fueling tank(s).

Co-locate and connect with Generator to prevent stale fuel, possible neighborhood noise issue. Determine need and design for ADA access to the 2nd floor office area.

Install a Second elevator or just one for people & freight, Forklift landing for freight to second floor? Delivery dock needed?

Additional thoughts

  • Is Electrical Company capacity within reach?
  • Ceiling mounted equipment – Lights, air lines, diesel exhaust, gas heaters, apparatus doors
  • Environmental issues – drains & filters, rain water capture, petroleum waste, exhaust capture or filtration, Is brake dust a problem?
  • In ground hydraulic lifts, floor mounted lifts or trench bays?
  • Title 24 issues (energy efficiency) – Daylight the Bays with skylights
  • Orientation issue – potential sun and wind issues
  • Location of Decontamination station
  • Dedicated work stations for most common jobs, i.e. brakes, fluids, tires OR Flexible workstations?
  • Rig storage inside or work space only?
  • Additional rig storage needs? Steel Frame Butler style building – bay width and length?
  • Lockers, showers & bathrooms – men and women facilities?
  • Break room and / or kitchen?

All prospective bidders must attend the walk through of the project at the site/facility. The walk through was scheduled for June 14th 2018, 1000 (10 AM), at 410 Roosevelt Drive, Capitol City, CA.

Questions regarding the walk through can be directed toward Battalion Chief Walter Smith.

All RFP’s are to be sealed, marked as “410 Roosevelt Drive RFP” and turned in at 930 17th Avenue to the attention of Chief Jones. RFP’s will not be accepted after 1600 hours (4 PM) July 19th, 2018.

The winning bidder was to be notified by the end of August, 2018.

PREVAILING WAGE REQUIREMENT: Per the Department of Industrial Relations “DIR”, the District may only award Public Works projects to contractors/subcontractors that comply with the Public Works Contractor Registration Law (SB 854). Public Works are defined as projects involving any work done under contract and paid for in whole or in part out of public funds.

Effective June 27, 2017, SB 96 requires reporting by the District to projects that exceed $15,000 for maintenance work and $25,000 for new construction, alterations, remodel, demolition, or repair work.

Contractors/subcontractors doing Public Works projects must register with the DIR and meet requirements using the online application before bidding on Public Works contracts in California. The DIR application also provides agencies that administer Public Works programs with a searchable database of qualified contractors/subcontractors.Based on my experience I try to cover all the bases. More than once a remodel has turned into a new building when the costs to bring the structure and its systems into the current century were compared. As it turns out all they really needed was the concrete floor re-done with some other Tenant Improvements or TI as it is known.

Normally, I attend these mandatory meetings but a death in the family took precedence.

The alphabetic list below was the existing conditions noted by one of the architects I contacted for the project.

  1. Building purchased in 2010, and has been used as a maintenance facility since, they have noticed that the floors are bowing under the weight of vehicle lifts and vehicles.
  2. Vehicles serviced are Engines, Ladders and Water Trucks, up to 80,000 lbs.
  3. The existing tilt-up concrete structure was put in place then the floor slab poured separately, they have drilled in some places and found the slab to only be about 2”-4.5” thick without reinforcement. Cracking is occurring.
  4. Water tanks in one corner of the facility are meant to stay in place, not sure if slab can be replaced without moving them.
  5. The floor replacement was suggested to occur in halves so that they could remain in the facility during construction. (It might be better to suggest a temporary structure in the yard for construction phasing).
  6. They do not anticipate the need for floor drainage within the facility, the apron areas around the site have been re-poured and are eight inch concrete thick over 12 inch OC, eight inch class 2 fill and lime treat.
  7. At the yard there is a drain invert that can be diverted to regular storm sewer or to an oil separator, see survey.
  8. They have not completed a code analysis for program requirements related to ADA requirements or if a seismic upgrade of the structure would be required.
  9. They are fully sprinklered.
  10. No emergency generator is required, strike from RFP.
  11. Fueling is desired, approximately 500 gallons of each (diesel and gas) for a 1000 gallon tank, above grade.
  12. They have no schedule or construction budget to share and their assumption is that construction would be funded out of their 2021 funding cycle.
  13. Two fleet services trucks are parked at the facility.

So, before we re-construct the building, let’s de-construct the list above.

Items A thru C: Apparently, they did not know or may not have tried to find out the depth of the original concrete floor. I didn’t want to ask because the answer may be embarrassing. If the owners did not have that answer readily available, you could find it in the Specifications Book for the construction or in the As-Built drawings. These are a set of plans that are marked up as the project is being constructed. They are to document ‘what actually was built’ because no set of plans matches the final product. Knowing the depth of the concrete floor may have sent them looking for other options.

Normally, in California, when you see the words tilt up you first wonder about the age of the building. This is where the foreshadowing comes into the story. Tilts Ups built before the 1971 Sylmar earthquake are suspect if they haven’t been retro-fitted. Luckily that was not the case. Ironically, the method and sequence of construction on this building works in everyone’s favor on this job.

Probably because of the tilt up walls, the concrete floor was not poured in conjunction with the perimeter foundation. The floors can be cut out and replaced without touching the concrete foundation under the walls. I haven’t talked to the Structural Engineer to see if there will be tie ins between the foundation and the new floor slab. Replaced with minor surgery, not major surgery that would have decreased the structural integrity during the work and increased the cost to put it back together at an earthquake resistive level.

Item D: Moving those tanks and temporarily relocating them should be easy once they were emptied. With a portable tank and an engine, you get credit for a pumping/relay drill.

Item E: I agree with the architect’s suggestion of a temp structure for two reasons: Concrete takes 28 days to fully cure. No contractor will guarantee the pour if the rigs drive on it in less time. Secondly, this facility contracts with six other agencies to provide vehicle maintenance. They wrench on 110 vehicles averaging two new work orders per day, including on watercraft.

Item F: A more current recipe for heavy duty concrete is listed.

Item G: California is big on keeping anything but rainwater out of storm drains. As a result, newer construction is required to have an underground vault that separates petroleum-based products from rain water before they move off the property.

Item H: As I mentioned in my brainstorming notes, nobody builds or remodels any public building without considering the Americans with Disabilities Act. And, of course, you don’t design and build just about any structure in California without taking Natural Forces into account. Here it is earthquakes. Since I am writing this right after Florence and Michael blew through the South, buildings there have to be designed for wind and water. But you already know that. Actually, most construction has to take wind and water into consideration. The strength of the wind forces different solutions. My sister in Florida has laminated windows that can stop a 2 x 4. We won’t talk about the poor folks who have to calculate snow loads.

Item J: I am waiting until my next meeting with the BC in charge of this project to ask why the generator was cut. I may have mentioned sometime over my five years of writing that I have been doing All Risk ERT training for over 30 years. I see no scenario that does not include needing generator power because the lines are down or power is disrupted somewhere upstream. Ironically, there is a link on the district’s website for the power company’s real time outage map.

Item K: I called this out in my brainstorm comments. The generator should be sized to handle running all electrical equipment in or on the building. It should have an integral belly tank and be located next to the diesel fuel tank. There are several ways to connect the two tanks and keep the fuel in the belly tank fresh.

See you in three months, Jim.

Jim McClure is the owner of Firehouse Design and Construction (FD&C). The mission of FD&C is “to help firefighters, architects and government agencies design and build maintainable, durable, and most importantly, functional firehouses.” McClure’s career in public safety spans almost 29 years. For more information visit,, call 408-603-4417 or email

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