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From The Ground Up – Building A Laundry

Are you considering a new laundry or a redesign of an existing facility? Both jobs are extensive procedures with enormous potential for serious complications. And chances are your plate is already full with daily responsibilities that garner your full attention. So what should you, as a layman to construction, know about building a new laundry or redesigning an existing one to meet your needs?

In this article, Laundry Today gets tips and advice from Bill Taylor, of William Taylor Architects, a laundry design firm located in Syracuse, New York, on how to successfully navigate and understand the building and/or redesign process.

You wouldn’t attempt to build an apartment complex, would you? Nor would you ask your FedEx delivery man for construction advice. So chances are, it’s time to hire professionals in the field to avoid minor construction problems from turning into major disasters.

Hiring a laundry consultant and an architect with laundry design experience is an essential first step. Preferably, both will work with you until the project is completed.

“A laundry consultant reviews your operations and projections to determine whether they’re in line,” explains Taylor. “They also make recommendations for efficiencies and alternative systems.”

An architect looks at the physical environment for the laundry. The initial feedback from both will enable you to prepare a preliminary budget and begin considering the project’s financial aspect.

The next step is determining your needs. Are there enough clients to warrant expanding the existing laundry and/or to support a new site? What’s the allowable budget for construction, equipment purchase and moving expenses? How much down time will be experienced through the transition?

Once you’ve determined preliminary costs, construct a preliminary financial plan. Where will the money come from -- a capital fund or lending institution? Then explore possible tax incentives or deferred taxes for moving into an economic development zone or implementation of elements of renewable green architecture.

“Have an estimated timeline,” says Taylor. “How long will it take to pre-design, secure finances, create construction documents, acquire equipment, construct and move into that facility? And have a contingency allowance. No matter how carefully you plan -- there are always hiccups.”

When adding to an existing building, determine if local authorities will allow the addition and/or if zoning variances are required. There may also be environmental requirements to be considered.

With new construction, your architect should be conducting a site evaluation, dealing with issues such as availability of sewer, water, electricity and gas. You will also need to consider a new site’s access to clients and staff. “These are lower paying jobs that will require you to be near a bus or train line for your employees,” notes Taylor.

Climate variation is also a consideration, he adds. “If you’re used to running a laundry in Arizona, there’s a big difference to running one in Chicago. You wouldn’t want your loading dock doors facing into the wind mid-winter in Chicago. Conversely, in Phoenix, you’ve got to consider how to keep everyone cool on a 115-degree day.”

Next is the pre-design stage which entails a property survey – boundary and topographical – to show property edges and site contours, says Taylor. A geotechnical study determining soil type is important. “You have to determine soil type for seismic design. For example, the level of building rigidity that has to be designed into the new building to resist earthquake forces,” he explains.

Working with local regulatory bodies on environmental requirements, i.e. waste water treatment and chemical exhaust treatment, is next. Also, consider the zoning requirements for the site design, i.e. the number of parking spaces, height restrictions on the building, landscape restrictions and signage.

Your architectural firm will design the storm sewers, gutters, sanitary sewer systems, the new water and gas lines to the building and you get to landscape design – along with equipment selection, which is where a laundry consultant comes in handy.

“Consultants need to know vendor capabilities because when you start mixing equipment, compatibility and flow is an issue,” says Taylor. An inventory list of relocated equipment with specifications, and the same for new equipment is critical information in designing the building.

Once all the research and footwork is done, it’s time to design the laundry. Your architect and laundry consultant will determine how the “bricks and mortar” aspects of the facility will be designed, advises Taylor.

“You will want to base the design around the function of the operation, while incorporating room for future growth,” he says. When dealing with installation of equipment, you must identify the equipment to be installed and provide your consultants with utility requirements for each piece in order for the facility to run seamlessly. Ergonomics and efficiency of the operation dictate the equipment layout within a facility.

“Suppliers provide cut sheets for all their equipment,” says Taylor. “Those sheets describe, in detail, what each piece requires in terms of power, water supply, gas requirements, compressed air requirements, drainage, steam etc.” Larger equipment suppliers often assist in equipment layout to maximize the efficiencies of their particular equipment.

Once the facility layout has been established it’s necessary to establish the location of building support columns to avoid interference with the plant operations while supporting overhead monorail sling systems or large water and steam headers.

Fire detection, alarm systems, data/network wiring, telephones, paging, security systems and lighting are in the electrical category. “General power distribution is important because not only do you need to get enough power into the building to supply what you’re doing but you want to have capability to provide for additional equipment,” advises Taylor.

“Adequate light levels are important for a safe working environment,” Taylor points out. “Keep in mind that the laundry operator may require different lighting in specific areas i.e. whites are hard to inspect in an area utilizing high pressure sodium lighting which gives off an orange tinted light.”

When designing laundries, there are differences in the requirements for healthcare and hospitality facilities. In healthcare laundries, the physical design of the facility must allow for isolation of goods due to possible contamination.

In hospitality or industrial laundries (processing uniforms/mats,) there is no need for an enclosed space to receive soiled goods.

The next step is the consideration of the building’s mechanical aspects, i.e., heating, air conditioning, ventilation, heat reclamation, exhaust air, boiler requirements and steam distribution systems.

Boiler requirements mimic general power distribution requirements in that it’s important to ensure enough capability to start with while allowing excess capacity for growth. Design in redundancy with your boilers, notes Taylor. “Remember if one boiler fails and you do not have a backup your operation will come to a screeching halt.”

The design and installation of a central vacuuming system throughout the new facility will help keep the building and equipment clean and as dust free as possible while your ventilation system should keep the plant as comfortable as possible for your employees. It’s important to keep in mind that you’ll need a cart washing system if working with hospitality or healthcare customers while your requirements for a sprinkler system will be based on local code and insurance carrier requirements.

Other requirements that may be necessary to meet due to state or federal regulations could include items such as eye wash stations and special containment areas for chemical storage.

The degree of automation in a system can vary substantially, from an all- manual operation to an operation with manual involvement only on the sort and shipping ends. “If chiefly manual, you need to avoid creating inclines and bumps in the floors while a monorail requires extra height and structure capability in the building shell,” explains Taylor.

Most laundries provide a single location for chemicals to be stored with a pump station set up to automatically dispense chemicals. Be sure to consider, are the chemicals coming in barrels or in pallet containers? How will youcontain and separate chemicals? How will you move the bulk containers around facility?

Last but most importantly is the coordination of equipment delivery and installation. “You’re trying to sing a song here. If someone is out of key it throws everyone off,” says Taylor. “If the coordination of equipment coming in is not well organized it can cost you twice as much, especially when riggers are involved to move around large pieces of equipment.”

Late arrivals also affect other contractors and delay the project and/or add cost. If you’re moving to a new facility you may be bringing some of your old equipment with you so it’s crucial to coordinate down time at the existing facility for equipment removal and relocation and it all has to fit in harmony with the installation of equipment at the new facility.

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Nursing Home Fire

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Flames that began in a nursing home laundry dryer drew firefighters to the location. The fire was contained to the laundry room of the New Horizons Nursing Home and residents were not evacuated.