PLANNING THE BUMP OUT OF THE RIDE

The uncertainty of today's economic climate poses a series of interesting challenges. Perhaps the most interesting of these challenges faces companies who are performing well in an exceptionally volatile aspect of today's market and whose growth forces them to expand. It really can't be overstated that the commitment of a large amount of capital to infrastructure not only binds a company financially, but often literally determines the shape of their future success. In the same way that a company needs to pay particular attention to the assessment of long-range potential in a new hire of any kind, attributes like flexibility, functionality and intelligence play a major role in the actual return on an infrastructure investment.

One of the nation's largest suppliers of replacement parts to the commercial aircraft industry recently found itself in this type of situation. Headquartered in the City of Brea, CA the Kirkhill Aircraft Part Company (KAPCO) built their industry reputation the old-fashioned way, providing the best possible service, the largest inventory and the fastest possible order turnaround times. Commercial Aircraft has one of thinnest margins of any business, and a source of spare parts that eliminates back-ordering and client side back-stock is destined to dominate. Last year, KAPCO needed to put the flexibility, functionality and intelligence that propagated its trade success "back into the company".

The situation facing KAPCO was how to integrate the recently acquired parcel of land across the street from their present operation, a parcel that would be developed as a new corporate headquarters and state-of-the-art warehouse and distribution facility, into an electronically linked "campus environment". KAPCO's John Killan relates, "We needed to consolidate our warehouse operation into a single building, a building that would give us room to grow."

On the advice of their general contractor, Prizio Construction, KAPCO contacted GAA Architects of Irvine to design the site integration. Quickly assessing KAPCO's need for a site plan that responded to the concerns of today while providing the flexibility to accommodate tomorrow's fluctuations, GAA set about maximizing the new site footprint and allocating the 100,000 square foot concrete tilt-up structure with an unusually large clear height of 34 feet.

GAA believed that the key to ensuring the site's future potential was to be found in the ability of the warehouse/distribution facility to grow upwards as needed since the site's perimeter was predefined. This upward growth would be managed by an elaborate custom designed racking system provided by the GAA recommended Crown Corporation that would be secured directly into the floor of the new build-to-suit.

Managing a complicated order fulfillment system is one of the things that KAPCO does best and after a tour of the current operation Crown decided that a variation on their mezzanine racking system would be the best solution to KAPCO's needs. "With this mezzanine system in place GAA would be able to construct two floors of catwalk accessible storage racks, allowing them room to add a third level at a later date, providing an additional 11,000 square feet, at reasonable cost." added Crown's Doug Falk.

Warehousing and distribution, however, was to be only one of the functions of the new build-to-suit; it was also to be the new corporate headquarters for KAPCO. This set of demands required a level of thematic polish to be applied which would enhance the symbolic aspects of the building.

Taking their cue from the imagery and iconography of the aviation world, the design team at GAA set about incorporating a subtle set of curvilinear shapes and anodized aluminum materials into the project's "face" to present a sense of KAPCO's mission without overwhelming it with the obvious. Roger Deitos, Project Manager at GAA described the design process as an attempt to exceed the client's expectations, "obliviously, our primary focus is to provide KAPCO with the best possible architectural and planning solution to their functional needs, the campus that maximizes efficiency. However, at GAA, we believe that we can provide that "something extra", in this case, a visual concept that will remain relevant."

And it is under this thematic "face" that the functional elements find their unity: the expansive footprint, the generous building clear height and the easily expandable multi-level mezzanine racking system, which in turn incorporate the flexibility, functionality and intelligence that established KAPCO's success. The right kind of advance planning really does take the bump out of the ride.