June 21, 2012 | by Peter Downs, Editor
Architect David Suttle described the new Dierbergs Supermarket in Des Peres, MO, as a store unlike any other. It is the first area grocery store built with an underground parking garage, but more than that, "it is not just a box around fixtures," Suttle said. It has architectural finishes around all four sides and high level finishes on the inside.
"This is going to be the finest, most revolutionary store among Dierbergs' 25 locations," said Michael Perry, president of HBD Construction, the general contractor. "To call it their flagship is probably an understatement," he said.
The 80,000-square-foot store is the first supermarket in St. Louis to have under-store parking. It also is Dierbergs' first multi-level store with a 5,000-square-foot mezzanine for cooking classes and demonstrations. It will feature the largest produce department in the chain to date, a larger seafood department, a remote drive-through pharmacy in the parking garage, a new florist and gift department, a Whole Life Foods section, and customer and cart escalators for moving between the parking level and the grocery level.
The main level will feature 36-to-38-foot ceilings, large clerestory windows, and terrazzo floors. A pneumatic tube system similar to the systems that connect banks to their drive-through kiosks will connect the drive-by pharmacy window to the main level pharmacy department.
Although Dierbergs is not pursuing LEED certification, the company did opt for several sustainable features in the design, including daylighting, heat reclamation for refrigeration, and catching rainwater for irrigation.
Perry said that HBD was involved with the project "from day one," first helping to develop the preliminary budget and then performing other preconstruction services. "In effect, we acted like a construction manager, who turns into a general contractor," he said. HBD self-performed carpentry, layout, and cleanup, and managed the work of 20 subcontractors.
Preliminary plans called for building the deck between the garage and the grocery level with precast concrete, much as the South St. Louis Target store was constructed. HBD analyzed different options and compared them against precast and found steel would allow longer clear spans between support columns and steel suppliers could better accommodate the construction schedule.
"From scheduling and construction feasibility standpoints, we zeroed in on structural steel and composite deck," Perry said.
As a result, the garage features 63-foot clear spans so that more people can get in and out of cars without bumping their doors against columns.
That required heavier weight columns to hold the loads.
Roy Gittemeier Contractors was responsible for the structural concrete, including the concrete columns inside the parking structure.
The high level of finish required was unusual.
Bryan Ashcraft, project manager, compared the level of finish Dierbergs wanted with the level of finish that a local assisted living facility had required for their underground garage.
"The assisted living center's garage was pretty much a standard enclosed concrete garage, completely unlike that of Dierbergs. Dierbergs was a higher level of finish, more artistic, more visually stimulating," he said.
"The [Dierbergs] garage design originally called for round columns, but they were soon changed to include more architectural detail. It was decided that six of the columns would be rectangular. We had to take special precautions not only with forming them, but in pouring them as well," he said.
The higher level of finish is more expensive: it takes more time. There is more thought put into how to build the columns: more preparation and planning, with more thinking about which processes to use. For example, "we have to pay more attention to the quality of the forms, because they affect the finish afterwards," Ashcraft said. The forms have to be smooth on the inside and the contractor has to take care when removing them so as to not damage the surface.
"To me, the most intriguing element of the entire project was how it incorporated a rain garden structure into the design and the overall 'see-through' experience," Ashcraft said. "From the street, you are able to see through the garage and can tell that the building is elevated, as opposed to typical buildings, which are built at ground level," he said.
In a typical grocery store, the plumbing that runs under the store is protected from freezing by being underground. In this case, it runs through the parking garage and so needs protection from freezing. Protecting pipes in a garage is not unusual, plumbers do that all the time in office buildings, but the amount of piping at Dierbergs was unusual.
"Most garages don't have sanitary and domestic water piping hung from the ceiling. They usually just have storm drains and fire suppression," said Scott Sommerkamp, project manager for Merlo Plumbing. "Here we have copper pipe for water for all the coolers and all the kitchen areas and restaurant areas in this Dierbergs, which is unique," he said.
It was a challenge fitting all the pipe in the garage and keeping the required height clearance, he said.
The new Dierbergs store was built on a congested suburban site facing Manchester Road on the north with Tallie Drive and Lindeman Road forming the east and west boundaries.
The HBD team first had to demolish 11 properties and prepare the site. Then they had to erect a new sound wall across the back of the site to protect residential neighbors from the noise of construction. Then they had to pave a parking area for workers before building the store in order to keep dirt off of neighboring roads.
"So our schedule was determined long before we ever started building the store," Perry said. "The typical grocery store project takes 9-to10-months. This one is more like 18," he said.