Patience wins through with industrial freezer build

Building a commercial freezer is no easy task. The amount of work and effort that goes into making sure all the specifications are met can be arduous. This is not lost on the team from Total Construction, a company that specialises in food and beverage builds.

In 2015, a baking company wanted to build a new freezer due to its business expanding and so began a consultation process with Total Construction’s Engineering Construction Group (ECG).

“We began talking with them five years ago about building a 500 sqm freezer on an adjoining site to its current plant,” said Rob Blythman, general manager for ECG. “The client makes par baked bakery products for the café market and their point of difference is that each individual product has its own unique shape and look – the real homemade appearance.”

It was for this reason that the bakery needed to expand. With orders up, and the uniqueness of some of its products, space was at a premium. The scope of the job was nothing new to ECG, so they started to scope the project with the client.

“The Total Construction team worked with the client’s operations staff extensively through workshops and discussions to develop a profile of what the client needed by way of a freezer build and how this could be achieved with maximum efficiency at the lowest cost,” said Blythman.

Total Construction was up for the challenge, and presented four design options to the client. The point of the four different options was to provide a variety of possibilities when it came to costings. This would allow the bakery to enable the best process flow while maximising the pallet capacity of the facility.

“After much discussion on the cost, the client decided to go it alone and manage the construction with his own team,” said Blythman.

“As you can imagine, we were extremely disappointed to have missed out on doing the build. However, we were quite philosophical about it too, as we well know, in the food and beverage market, this frequently happens. This is mainly due to many clients being privately owned medium-sized businesses that want to save money wherever they can. We respected the client’s decision and said if they needed any help at all to give us a call. Little did we know that a few years down the track we would get that call.”

Three years later Blythman was with some colleagues at a food and beverage trade show when they ran into the owner of the bakery. They talked about the state of the industry, but the discussion soon turned to the freezer project that had been on the cards back in 2015.
“It turned out the client was at his wit’s end with the project, as he had experienced nothing but trouble trying to get it started,” said Blythman. “To top it off, he had been pinged by council for conducting building works without approval.”

Blythman and the Total Construction team knew in the back of their minds that this kind of issue could come to the fore because Total Construction has had extensive experience in how councils work, due to being in continual contact with various councils on a weekly basis on many projects and fully understood what type of issues could arise going it alone. However, Total Construction wasn’t the type of company to bask in the misfortune of others, instead it saw an opportunity to help.

“Within a few weeks we had signed them up for design works, a DA submission and CM contract for the construction,” said Blythman.

The scope that the owner gave Total Construction was extensive. It was to construct a new freezer in the neighbouring building with all council approvals completed; make sure there was access from the existing premises through to the neighbouring premises; make sure there was a provision of an air lock ingress/egress in the new freezer; ensure that there was sufficient area allocated for the dispatch of receivables; provide a series of layout options for the freezer size and additional production locations; and makes sure that the freezer racking design could accommodate long-term and short-term pallet storage (400 pallets) within 500 sqm.

The biggest issue that needed solving was the final instruction in the scope – accommodating the pallet storage. Space was at a premium and they had to come up with a strategy to make sure it met the specifications. They did this using some lateral thinking.
“To maximise pallet space, we came up with a design that allowed the freezer space to follow the existing building roof line to allow sufficient space for the required evaporators. This posed a problem of potential issues with the EPS panel ceiling joints not sealing properly due to the acute angles involved,” said Blythman.

“To counter the potential of icing of the joints, particular attention was given to the over sealing done on each joint to ensure no air would penetrate, so the freezer would not only function properly, but provide room for more pallet space.”

In the end, the project was completed on time without a hitch and not only to the customer’s specifications but meeting all council and building standards.

“Needless to say, the client was impressed with the final build as were we,” said Blythman, “We found the project interesting from a build point of view – with regard to the acute angles – and the client ended up with a freezer that will help move the business forward.”