After five years of significant growth, Diamond Mowers needed to accelerate and expand their research and manufacturing capacity. The search for an appropriate facility began and a location in Sioux Falls was being considered. Unsure of the true condition of the potential location, Diamond Mowers contacted Lucas Fiegan, AIA of Fiegen Construction and sought the guidance of their facility assessment services.
Diamond Mowers, founded in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in 2000, is the leading manufacturer of industrial mowing, mulching, and brush cutting equipment for the municipal, skid-steer, and excavator markets. Its products range from boom mowers and rotary mowers to flail mowers and forestry mulchers. In 2017, Diamond Mowers was included in the Inc. 5000 list which recognizes the country’s fastest growing privately-held companies for excellence in their industry.
Making the leap to expedite the growth of a business is both exciting and stressful.
It can also be a very vulnerable time for a business. For Diamond Mowers, this prospective new facility was exactly what they needed, but it certainly wasn’t perfect. The fact of the matter was, the building was in pretty rough shape. On the surface, exterior concrete was cracking and fixtures needed updating, but there was much more to it than that.
Knowing the scope of the job demanded a deeper investigation, we teamed up with licensed professionals in the fields of architecture and structural, mechanical, and electrical engineering. The team began with a code review, followed by an in-depth evaluation of the site, the building's exterior and interior, a structural assessment, a mechanical assessment and an electrical assessment.
The first step was meeting with the Building Department for the City of Sioux Falls. The Department was able to determine that the building was designated a Manufacturing: F-2 occupancy, allowing only non-combustible materials to be produced in the facility. If Diamond Mowers were to manufacture wood, plastic, or other combustible materials, a change in character of the building would result, requiring moving those parts of the facility within 40 feet of the property line and the installation of a three-hour fire rated wall. Luckily, the only portion of Diamond Mowers’ manufacturing line that needed to be shifted was the painting area.
Additionally, the Building Department discovered the ceiling insulation was not in code. Foam insulation had been banned following the original construction of the building. Given its highly combustible nature, it would need to be removed or, if after testing, it proved to have lower combustible properties, a liner panel application could be placed over it. The City of Sioux Falls Zoning Department was also contacted to determine any site limitations. Other than ensuring there was sufficient parking and applying a new sealcoat to the pavement, Diamond Mowers was not required to make any drastic changes to the parking lot.
The exterior of the building faced deteriorating concrete sidewalks and stairways. Given their heavy use, the Fiegen team recommended that Diamond Mowers replace sidewalk curbing around the main entry, dry pack grouting and sealing the stairway stoops, as well as new prime and paint for all handrails throughout the exterior of the building. Additional areas could be patched so as to prevent further damage.
The site is surrounded by security fencing, which we determined did not need immediate attention, though should be monitored for continued wear and tear. Alternatively, the exterior concrete masonry unit (CMU) had severe moisture problems, causing surface cracking and spalling around the entire warehouse. The damage appeared to be consistent at eight-foot intervals, aligning with the slugged rebar cores. We recommended Diamond Mowers contact a competent masonry subcontractor to replace the CMU and apply a sealant and new coat of paint throughout the entire exterior of the facility.
Water penetration into the building was also an issue. Sealants surrounding the office windows had failed, weather stripping around exterior doors were worn, and overhead doors at the loading docks needed replacing. Our team also recommended that bumper stops at the loading docks be replaced, as well as all dock ladders, rails, and bollards be sandblasted and repainted. Minor water damage was also present on the roof of the structure and along the building’s edge. Luckily, giving the roof a thorough cleaning, unplugging drains and scuppers, and replacing missing gutters and downspouts would be all the maintenance required.
After an extensive interior inspection, our team moved inside.
The warehouse break room, bathroom facilities, and office space were in fair condition, and we recommended Diamond Mowers remodel those spaces to upgrade their finishes. Additionally, multi-zone rooftop heating units appeared to be at the end of their lifecycles and should be replaced before cooler temperatures arrived. Plumbing fixtures would need to be cleaned as they were not well maintained by the previous tenants.
The shop area of the facility was heated by a number of gas fired units, all of which were past their life expectancy and should be replaced or repaired, if possible. Exhaust fans and roof mounted upblast and downblast power roof ventilators did not appear to be working. These required extensive repair or replacement to properly ventilate the manufacturing area. The building has five make up air units that serve to replace the flow rate of exhaust air. Unfortunately, only two units appeared to be operational and all needed to be upgraded with new units.
The interior masonry walls were found to have minor cracking due to water infiltration. Apart from that, there were noticeable faults that are stained due to the same water infiltration problems. We recommended cleaning and sealing the cracked joints, as well as cleaning and applying block filler and a fresh coat of paint to the CMU walls throughout the entire warehouse.
Fire protection is a huge concern in manufacturing facilities.
The potential for loss of life and equipment is a risk Diamond Mowers did not want to take. Despite the age of most of the equipment in the building, the two, eight-inch fire protection lines were inspected and fully-operational.
The Fiegen team uncovered issues that likely would have been missed or overlooked with a cursory inspection. With only a few weeks to work and no accurate building plans to guide them, Fiegen, Justin Christensen, PE, Kelly Loudenslager, PE, and Thomas DeWit, PE, inspected the 68,000-square-foot facility top to bottom. With a building of this size and age, it can be easy to overlook minor issues, ultimately costing Diamond Mowers time and money down the road. Our team understood the importance of providing a comprehensive report so Diamond Mowers could make an educated decision about the feasibility of this location.
The team compiled a thorough 31-page report that covered a code review, an exterior and interior assessment, as well as a structural, mechanical, and electrical appraisal. All of which were documented with photos and visual proof of what needed to be resolved.
Bill Doyle, President of Diamond Mowers was pleased with the report. “I wanted to purchase the building but was concerned because the property was 45 years old. I could tell the building needed work, but wasn't sure the structure was sound. Fiegen's report was very detailed and way more than just walking around and taking a look. The report gave me the exact information I needed. I lowered my offer by $350,000 and the seller accepted...worked out great!”
The report gave Diamond Mowers all of the information they needed to make a more informed buying decision.
Since we delivered our feasibility report, Diamond Mowers has moved forward with our recommendations. Here, you can see the interior has received a fresh coat of paint as well as a Simple Saver roof system to brighten the space and protect from falling insulation. They’ve also done quite a bit of work to the mechanical and electrical systems as well as the masonry walls that were crumbling. In addition, Fiegen crews installed steel to take the bearing capacity off of the exterior wall so they could replace it in the future. Instead of committing to a facility prematurely, Diamond Mowers leveraged our expertise in the industry to negotiate the purchase price of their new facility with greater clarity and confidence – saving them a sizable six-figure amount.
Don’t go in blind – we’ve got your back. With Fiegen Construction’s Facility Assessment Services, you can be empowered to make an informed decision before you make your next real estate transaction.