Two Wall and Three Wall In-Plant Offices

two wall modular building system

Two wall in-plant office system utilizing the customer’s existing block walls

Many of the in-plant offices we provide customers are located around the perimeter of their building, and we are often asked about the possibility of utilizing the existing wall.  Depending on the site conditions, a two or three wall system could offer a significant cost savings versus a typical four wall in-plant office.  Today, I’d like to talk a little about how an in-plant office can utilize your existing building walls and some of the factors to consider if a two or three wall modular building system is a good fit for your space.

Panelized building system connecting to existing block wall

By utilizing the customer’s existing block wall, they were able to design a row of offices along the back wall of their facility without needing to reroute their existing lines

One thing to consider when thinking about designing a two or three wall in-plant office is what kind of walls are in place.  If we are going to utilize your existing walls, we are going to need to tie into them in a couple different places.  We will need to attach a piece of channel called a wall start from the floor to the top of the panel, wherever the panel would connect to the building wall.  As we typically use a corrugated roof deck to form the membrane that holds the building together, we will also need to attach an angle along the enclosed length of the wall at the panel height.  Because of this, the walls need to be substantial enough to be tied into.  Block, stud and gypsum, or concrete walls are great.  Steel skinned buildings are not.  The wall should also be even across the locations where the building would tie in.  If there’s a significant gap, such as in some brick walls, you’ll need to add some flashing to seal off the gaps into the building.  In some buildings there has been a wall built in front of the steel skin wall.  Remember to make sure the height of the front wall is taller than the height of the building panels.

Modular wall system above and below a mezzanine

A four wall in-plant office above the mezzanine with a two wall modular building system below the deck

Recently, we have done a number of mezzanine supported in-plant offices along the perimeters of the customers’ buildings, and are often asked if we could utilize the existing building walls.  The issue here, though, is that even though you might not realize it, there is some movement on the platform different from the existing building wall.  These forces would weaken the structural integrity of the building system.  At the ground level below the mezzanine, we can potentially utilize the existing building walls, but we would need to go with a four wall system on top of the platform.

two wall building system below a mezzanine

This two wall modular building system allowed our customer to separate production from the employee entrance.

A two wall modular building system offers a number of advantages, such as the ability to utilize existing windows/wiring, as well as a cost savings from using fewer materials and labor.  If you are looking at putting in some in-plant offices, it might be worth your while to consider going with a two or three wall building system.

Catwalk Bridges Can Save Space and Improve Efficiency

Recently we’ve been out to a local shop for a lot of projects. This time we were called to supply some catwalk bridges. This helps them better utilize their existing space by gaining extra storage and workstation space from the areas they already had. They have several buildings in their facility that were capable of housing light storage on top of them. Ordinarily, the easiest way to access these spaces is through a pre-engineered steel staircase. The problem you run into when you have many buildings in relatively close vicinity to each other is that floor space is a premium; you can’t afford to block off aisle ways with stairs, and even if you have the space to accommodate multiple stairs to access multiple buildings, it is not very efficient having to run up and down stairs from one structure to go to another.

One stair was put in place to access a central building and then a couple of catwalk bridges were fabricated and installed to access the ancillary modular buildings. The catwalk bridges were fabricated so they could be lifted into place with a forklift truck. This allowed for quick, easy installation. This also allowed the customer to remove them relatively quickly should they need the additional vertical clearance to bring larger machinery through their aisles.

Catwalk bridges between block wall and modular building

Catwalk bridges between block wall and modular building

Attachment to their existing cinder block structure was easy, but mounting to their modular buildings required some extra consideration. Modular buildings are weakest at the panel locations. We supplied angle so the customer could span the angle from multiple posts on the building and then fasten the bridge to the angle. This distributed the load of the bridges across two sturdy posts per side instead of hitting a potentially crushable panel.  The catwalk bridges were not going to be centered directly over their panels so the angle was sent extra-long to allow flexibility in their bridge locations.

The customer now has access to multiple interior building tops for additional workspace and storage, and hasn’t sacrificed much room on their floor now that they utilized crossover bridges to open up their previously unusable  spaces.

Standing Desks – How to Make the Transition Stick

Standing desks be great for your health and productivity

Standing desks be great for your health and productivity

Over the past couple of years, in the matting department, we’ve been noticing a new trend:  standing desks. The first time I had a customer inquire about mats for the standing desks they were switching to, my mind was boggled. I believe the line running through my mind was, “But chairs are so comfortable”. Sure enough though, they were ditching their chairs in favor of a more upright position. And they sure weren’t the only ones. A fairly sizable chunk of our anti-fatigue matting sales over the past two years have been simple 2’x3’ mats for standing desks.

Intrigued, I looked into the benefits. A simple Google search pulled up a lot of information. A lot of the lists of benefits seem to stem off of each other, and a lot of the studies are done using far too small of pools to prove logical thinking, but the gist of it is: standing desks can help you live longer (via reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and fighting weight gain/obesity) and improve productivity (via improving energy levels).

There are a lot of negatives that go along with standing for long periods of time though, such as fatigue and pain in your feet, legs and back, bad blood circulation and varicose veins. The best way to counter these negatives is by sitting, but if you use a standing desk, using an anti-fatigue mat can help reduce these symptoms. You can find many different models for different applications on FloorMat-Store.com, but for a general office type setting, you can’t really go wrong with a Tile Top mat; it is durable, inexpensive and has a simple design. If you can make the transition more comfortable, chances are less initial push-back will happen and the change will stick around long enough to reap the benefits.

By: Jared (www.floormat-store.com)

Our New Loading Dock Gate

Closed loading dock gate

Our new loading dock gate providing fall protection at your dock door.

 

I often receive calls from customers who are looking for a gate system to provide fall protection for their workers at bays when the garage / overhead door is open.  Today I have the pleasure of announcing a new gate in our portfolio designed for just such a situation:  The Loading Dock Gate.

opening the Loading Dock Gate

The Loading Dock Gate is designed to easily lift out of the way with one hand

The Loading Dock Gate meets OSHA Standard 1910.23(c) providing OSHA compliant railing for your personnel at loading dock bays, which can be quickly and easily pulled out of the way.  The gate has a 42” and 21” high railing with a counter balanced design to swing up vertically 90° out of the way with only one hand.  Its unique compact design folds up as it pivots up and out of the way without pinch points.  When you’re finished unloading and ready to protect the opening again, the slam proof dampening system keeps the gate from closing hard as it is lowered.  The Loading Dock Gate is designed to be adjustable to fit standard 8’ or 10’ loading docks, and requires a 155” to 179” clearance height, depending on the width, to cleanly swing out of the way.   Constructed from heavy gauge steel with a powder coat finish, the Loading Dock Gate is built to last through repetitive use.

Open Loading Dock Gate

The compact design of the Loading Dock Gate rises out of the way without pinch points

If the Loading Dock Gate looks like it would work for you, please let us know, and we’ll be happy to work up a quote for you.  We’re going to try to keep a stock of these on hand at the factory so we can quickly ship them out to you.

OSHA Changes Ladder Fall Protection Requirements (OSHA 1910.28)

OSHA is on fire! Breaking news! WOW!

Ok now that we’ve got that out of our system… We don’t usually have many changes out there when it comes to OSHA standards but there are some industry changing updates coming that will change a lot of things.

Cages will not be required on fixed ladders after mid November of 2018.

Caged ladders to be phased out for other fall protection options

Caged ladders to be phased out for other fall protection options in 2018

Currently, under OSHA standard 1910.27 cages are required on ladders where the climbs are over 20’h. In OSHA’s new standard (OSHA standard 1910.28) taking effect 11/19/2018, ladders will not be required to have fall protection until their height is over 24’ (24’-0-1/4” requires fall protection). OSHA will also be requiring ladders installed after 11/18/2018 to have fall protection in the form of a personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system (not a cage). If you have cages now, don’t worry, you will be grandfathered in for twenty years.

So, why the change? OSHA is aligning the fixed ladder standard to be more in line with the ANSI standard A14.3, which in 1979 changed its fall protection height requirement from 20’ to 24’.

Why are they telling us now when the rule won’t go into effect until 11/19/2018? OSHA wants to give the industry time to update products and procedures before they go fine crazy. You CAN now follow the new OSHA rule 1910.28 even though it is not in effect yet. You would not be meeting the current OSHA standard, but you would be in compliance with the future OSHA standard. OSHA would consider this a “de minimis violation”. De minimis violations are violations of standards which have no direct or immediate relationship to safety or health, and do not result in a citation, or penalty and need not be abated. 

How does this help you? Well, if your floor to floor height is between 20’ and 24’, you will no longer need to have a cage on your ladder. First off, this can save you LOTS of money. Why?  Not only is it easier to fabricate an uncaged ladder, but there is less steel involved in making the ladder, and also, due to the size a caged ladder takes up on a truck compared to an uncaged ladder, caged ladders can cost 2-4 times as much to ship than their uncaged counterparts.  Another advantage of losing the cage is that you decrease its visibility from the roadside. Without the large cage the ladder is tougher to see from a distance, increasing your buildings visual appeal as well as decreasing the chance that kids looking for a cool place to skateboard, copper thieves, and other people you don’t want on your roof will see the ladder as they pass.

All this being said, when OSHA’s standard mandated cages on climbs over 20’, A-Mezz still offered cages on ladders that only had a climb of 10’ or so and we will continue to offer cages for customers who prefer the added safety of a cage for those shorter climbs. We have gotten feedback from many customers who prefer having a ladder cage because that safety barrier is always in place. You can’t forget to bring a harness with a cage so safety is increased. It is the same argument that makes ladder safety gates so popular and efficient as opposed to ladder chains. Chains only work if the person before you closed them. Ladder safety gates are always in place, always swing closed and always protect you. The same goes for a fixed ladder cage which adds some protection for climbers regardless of whether they have a ladder harness or not.

Face Mounted Mezzanine Gates

Using both a face mounted and deck mouted horizontal sliding mezzanine gate to maximize usable opening space

Face mounted and deck mounted horizontal sliding mezzanine gates

When discussing mezzanine gate projects, a number of customers seem to have some confusion as to what is meant by face mounting a mezzanine gate.  I think in this post, I’ll go over the differences between deck mounting and face mounting and why you might want to mount your gate in such a way.

The vast majority of mezzanine gates are deck mounted.  This means that the gate system sits on top of the mezzanine deck back behind the rail.  Below are a few examples of the various gates we offer mounted to the deck of the mezzanine.
Deck mounted horizontal mezzanine gate

Deck mounted manual horizontal mezzanine gate behind existing hand rail

Stainless steel vertical mezzanine gate attached to the mezzanine deck

Deck mounted stainless steel vertical mezzanine gate.

Occasionally though, the gate is being used in an unusual situation where setting the gate on top of the mezzanine is not an option.  In these cases it might be better to mount the gate outside the mezzanine, attaching it to the face of the platform.  We would call this situation face mounted.
Face mounted mezzanine gate (older design electric horizontal gate)

Electric horizontal mezzanine gate face mounted to the deck

Not all of our mezzanine gates can be mounted to the face of the deck.    The most common gate that we would mount on the face of the mezzanine would be the horizontal sliding mezzanine gate.   As the gate needs to be tied back to your existing railing with clear passage in one direction approximately the length of the opening size plus two feet, pulling the gate outside the deck could help avoid interference with existing equipment up on the mezzanine deck.  In this case, a face mount track would need to be added and attached to the face of the mezzanine just below the opening to support the gate.
vertical electric face mounted mezzanine gate model

Vertical mezzanine gate mounted to the face of the mezzanine

Another gate that can be mounted to the face of the mezzanine is the vertical mezzanine gate.  The vertical mezzanine gate doesn’t take up much room on the deck of a mezzanine, so the applications where you would want to face mount are a bit more specific. Most commonly, this is done in situations where we are mounting an electric vertical mezzanine gate on the outside of a wall opening.  This would allow you to load and unload materials from the deck through a doorway while having a line of guard rail blocking the opening while the doors are open.  Another  situation where face mounting a vertical mezzanine gate might be advantageous, would be in situations where the left column (when viewed from below) would be against some obstruction such as a column.  The left column is the drive column and you’ll want to have it unobstructed just in case you need to access it.  By mounting the gate on the outside of the deck on a couple face mount brackets, the gate flips around placing the drive column on the right side.
Outside view from the bottom of pallet gate mounted around a door frame

Face mounted self closing pallet gate being used to guard a second story doorway.

Another gate that we can do as a face mounted unit would be the self closing pallet gate.  This is typically done in applications where the customer wants to mount the gate on a wall opening.  In such applications, we recommend you still have a second area for offloading the pallets from the deck.  While the self closing pallet gate is incredibly efficient at getting materials up onto the deck, offloading materials from the deck can be cumbersome due to the spring loaded hinges wanting to keep the gate closed.
If you ‘re trying to mount a gate in an unusual situation, perhaps mounting it to the face of the deck might help.  Give us a call, and we’ll be happy to work with you to try and find a solution.

Replacing old dock stairs

We were recently called out to a site with a dock access stair that had seen better days. It got a lot of use, but by the looks of it, had been neglected from a maintenance standpoint. Enamel paint is a great finish if it is maintained, but when left outside around the salt and high traffic to be found on a dock stair it won’t take long to rust without maintenance.

This stair had the painted stair tread nosings all rusted away to a brittle, porous edge. The stringers and support columns all had given way to rust beyond what was fixable with a repair job.

Dock stairs in need of replacement

Dock stairs in need of replacement

The most economical solution for our customer was to have a replacement set of stairs fabricated and hot dipped galvanized. The cost of repair – cutting the current stairs apart, brush/blasting the existing rust out, cutting steel to weld into deteriorated sections, grinding and painting the product –  all in the field would have taken much more time than having replacement stairs fabricated in the shop and brought out to the site. Furthermore we didn’t want to put a “Band-Aid” on the existing stairs by repairing them, knowing the customer wanted to have something in place to forget about. Fabricating a new stair with a hot dipped galvanized would greatly increase the lifespan of the stairs. There is no touch-up painting required and galvanized products can last 5x as long as painted steel.

 

A-Mezz did a site visit to verify conditions and get the existing stair’s measurements. During the visit it was determined that the floor wasn’t completely level. We made the support columns slotted to allow for minor adjustment in the field. This will be more user friendly than making the stair flat and requiring shimming. We didn’t want to fabricate each leg a different length should they one day move it to a new location or have the floor surface refinished in the future.

 

A-Mezz fabricated and pre-assembled as much of the stair and landing as possible in the shop to minimize the time on site with door access out of service as this was a busy dock entrance door. The existing stairs were demo’d and the new stairs were installed in all one morning.

A-Mezz galvanized steel replacement dock stairs

A-Mezz galvanized steel replacement dock stairs

The customer’s new dock stairs will have a long service life due to the hot dipped galvanized finish. The stairs will be able to tackle snow and ice easily with the bar grating treads, and look attractive for years to come – all at a price that was less than repair.

Fixed Ladder Installation – the process from start to finish

A customer called asking for a safe and secure means of accessing their roof and us to do a fixed ladder installation. They have a building that has multiple tenants and didn’t want to have to go through the tenants’ space every time roof access was needed, so an interior ladder and roof hatch combination was off the table. This happens more often than not either because they don’t have a good location inside to mount the ladder or they don’t want to make a hole in their roof.

We went out for a preliminary site visit to verify what the job would entail. The location that was chosen to mount that ladder at was flat from floor to roof. There were no gutters so we would not have to worry about having to either start and stop the gutter and add another down spout, or add a step across platform at the top of the ladder to keep within OSHA’s requirement of a maximum step across a distance of 12”.

Installation site for caged ladder

Installation site for caged ladder

There was a slight parapet at the top of the wall so we set up the extension ladders to verify that the parapet was under 14”high so we would not need to have a crossover ladder with return on the back. We did elect to modify the walk through handrail to remove the return down to the roof to allow more flexibility with installation. Using the self supported walk through handrail allowed a proper fit regardless of the parapet thickness.

Materials were fabricated and shipped to the jobsite where the installation crew attached the lower and upper ladder sections together with the supplied brackets. Next, the ladder was hooked up and elevated into place by a forklift boom. By securing the ladder a little lower than the top, but well past the weight ½ way point, we were able to safely use a shorter, readily available lift and avoid the added cost of additional machine rental.

Lifting the fixed ladder into position

Lifting the fixed ladder into position

The ladder was also outfitted with the LG6 6’ security ladder rung guard to prevent unauthorized access to the ladder. Once hoisted into place, ½” sleeve anchors were inserted into holes drilled into the block and turned until expanded properly, securing the ladder to the wall. For this ladder 18 anchors were used, distributing the 650# ladder and 300# capacity load to well below the tension and shear values for sleeve anchors with the recommended 1-7/8” minimum embedment and a 4:1 (25%) safety factor. Installation was completed in just one morning by a crew of two.

Completed installation of fixed ladder

Completed fixed ladder installation

Installation of the Mezzanine’s IBC Stairs

 

Finished L-shaped external IBC stair

Installed external IBC staircase

Previously, I had written a blog post briefly discussing how to put one of our mezzanines together. It had a lot of good photos taken during the installation, so I was able to go through section by section what was done.  There was one particular area I didn’t get to to over in much detail though; the stairs.  While with the previous system that I wrote about, the customer designed and fabricated their own staircase, I recently received a fantastic series of photos from the installation of another system; this time with partially installed stairs included.

installing the IBC stair

Setting up the stairs

The IBC stairs for or mezzanine systems ship in knock down form and need to be installed in the field.  When installing them, you’ll want to lay the stringers on the floor about 3’ apart with the closed face of the stringers inward.  The diamond tread stair treads consist of a closed back riser and stair tread weldment.  Starting with the top tread and riser, you’ll need to bolt the the tread to the stringer fastening it on the inside of the tread.  Only hand tighten the bolts at this time, then work your way down positioning the riser of the next tread behind the flat weldment of the nose on the tread above.  After all the treads have been attached to the stringers (hand snug) you’ll need to install the bottom riser using self tapping screws.  You’ll then need to hoist the stairs up to the mezzanine deck.  Making sure that the dimension from the top of the deck to the top tread is equal to the dimension between the other treads, you’ll need to field drill the the attachment holes using a 9/16” drill and attach it to the mezzanine system.  You’ll also need to install the top tread plate on top of the mezzanine deck closing off the riser from your first tread.  From the underside, you’ll need to tighten up all the bolts and attach the risers to the back of the above tread’s nose via a couple self tapping screws.  Afterwards you’ll need to anchor the stairs to the ground.

 

Now all that’s left is to finish off the handrail.  The hoops that form the 21” and 36” handrails and handrail extensions come already welded to the stringers.  On each of the uprights, you’ll need to attach an elbow assembly via self tapping screws.  This will provide you with the saddles to support the outer 42” handrail.  You’ll need to take a piece of guardrail pipe for each side, and lay them flush against the saddles, fixing them in place with self tapping screws once again.  As the top line of rail will be longer than the stair run, you’ll want to drop a plumb line from the bottom edge of the rail to the edge of the mezzanine deck and again to the front edge of the bottom stair tread, cutting the pipe square.  Finally, you’ll need to install a plastic plug cap in the openings of the top rail to finish it off.  

Mezzanine Supported Modular Office

Mezzanine with modular office above

Mezzanine supported modular office with a two-wall modular building below

Whether you’re running out of room on the plant floor or need to oversee production, mezzanines are commonly employed to support and elevate modular buildings.  Recently we received some great photos back on a project we completed last month for a mezzanine supported modular office that I thought you might like to see.  The customer was located right here in Northeast Ohio.  They were putting in a new line on the plant floor and needed to tear down some offices they had in order to make room.   There wasn’t enough space to relocate the offices elsewhere on the plant floor, so they decided to utilize some of their unused overhead space.

Side view of mezzanine and modular office.

A 9’ high mezzanine supported modular office with an 8’ high modular wall system below.

When thinking on putting in a mezzanine supported modular building, it’s important to consider just how much space is available.  Remember that with typical column spans in low seismic areas, you’ll probably lose 1’3” to 1’5” for the mezzanine itself.  If you plan on having people move through the area you will need to maintain a minimum of 7’ for clearance.  The modular building panels are typically 8’ or 9’ tall, and unless you are planning on supporting them by the structure above, you will probably want about a foot more in order to install the roof deck to the panels which helps form the membrane that holds the system together.   In this particular case the customer’s mezzanine had a clearance height of 8’7” with a 9’10” top of deck.  This provided us enough room to install a modular office above (9’ tall panels, 9’3-1/8” overall height, 8’6” clearance height) and an 8’ high (8’3-1/8” overall with a 7’6” clear ceiling height) modular wall system below.

inside modular building

Four wall modular office above the mezzanine with customer provided/ installed floor covering

While designing these mezzanine supported modular offices, we’re often asked if we can utilize the adjacent existing walls.  While this is commonly done on the main floor of a facility, unfortunately we cannot do this up on top of the mezzanine deck.   There will always be some movement and vibrations on top of an elevated structure and because of this the structure would need to be a four wall system and not tie into the adjacent walls.  In this particular care, we put in a four wall system above the mezzanine deck as well as a two wall system below the deck to create an enclosed pass way between the production floor, the front offices beyond the cinder block wall, and the production floor entrance way to the outside.

inside view of two wall modular wall system

Two wall modular wall system below the mezzanine

It took our installers 6 work days to unload and install (both mechanical and electrical) the 24’x10’ mezzanine, the 24’x10’ 4-wall modular office above, and the 9’x22’9” two wall modular wall system below, and we had yet another very happy customer.