Dollar General Distribution Center's Employee Hub
Precast Specialty Engineer:
Distribution Center Facility
Officials at General Dollar wanted their new Distribution Center’s Employee Hub to do more than simply provide storage and organize shipments. While its business was booming, employee retention was dropping. To counter this trend, the company’s design brief emphasized employee safety, wellness, and comfort. To help express this attention to detail, designers used architectural precast concrete panels with a unique pattern to represent what the employees do.
“We looked beyond basic white to find a way to brand the facility,” says Bill Baxley of Leo Daly architects in Minneapolis. “Precast concrete helped us do that. The panels were designed to be load-bearing walls that resist in-plane wind and seismic loads while providing a distinctive look.
Adjacent to the 969,000-square-foot warehouse, the Employee Hub includes locker rooms, restrooms, a large vending area, 20 glass-fronted commercial-grade refrigerators, 600-person cafeteria/break room, and an elevated sky bridge. The break room was oriented to take advantage of southern light through its diffused wall, while its glazed ends provide perspective on the docking operations.
Materials were chosen to emphasize a connection to trucks and transportation, and that included the precast concrete panels. The precaster, Metromont Corp., created a custom formliner replicating an enlarged tire-tread pattern that could be embedded into each panel. The formliner was reusable, reducing costs while creating a distinctive appearance.
“The formliner allowed endless design possibilities not possible with other construction methodologies,” Baxley says. The treads cover the entire façade of the employee hub, creating differentiation and ownership of this portion of the building while reinforcing a symbolic authority of the architecture, he explains. Panels typically are about 13’-6” wide by 47 feet tall, with a variety of smaller and larger widths and heights needed for spandrel panels.
Linking the pattern in each panel created a challenge, he notes, but the panels was erected seamlessly thanks to precise design and construction planning. “Every edge is crisp, and the quality is exceptional,” he says. “Once you see it, you want to go up and run your fingers over it.”
The panels also helped achieve sustainable-design goals by producing the panels close to the project using recycled materials. “Precast concrete panels are high performance, cost effective, and allow fast erection times,” he says. “The fact that we could create that stunning tire-tread pattern was icing on the cake.”