Why You Should Partner with a Qualified Structural Prime for Your Distribution Center Design

As published in the Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Journal.

As with any building type, the design and construction of a distribution center requires a myriad of design professionals and contractors. From site design, through architectural, structural and M/E/P, to racking, process and logistics, there are several aspects to keep in mind. A successful distribution center requires input from all the above.

Unlike most other building types, however, distribution centers require the structure to take a much more prominent role in the overall building design. Distribution centers are large, highly-functional buildings, with a lot of wall, a lot of floor and a lot of structural design leading the way.

At Providence Engineering, we have been designing distribution centers for more than 25 years. We work across the United States and Canada, with Owners, Developers, Architects, Engineers and Contractors. With the design of millions of square feet behind us, we’ve learned a lot about how to design, build and deliver a distribution center that exceeds expectations.

Floor Slabs

Whether you are developing a speculative or a build-to-suit distribution center, a flat, level and durable floor slab is an integral part of your project. Automated racking and picking equipment is becoming more common, building heights are increasing and greater client expectations are all contributing to the demand for better floor slabs.

The Providence team has recently designed several slabs with extended joint spacing or even joint free slabs. Slabs with these qualities used to be reserved for the highest-end or most specialized build-to-suit projects. However, these high-end floor slabs are now becoming more common for both speculative and build-to-suit warehouses.

The team at Providence can help determine the appropriate slab for your project. We can guide you through the details of floor slab design, as well as through the various construction and market forces that will influence your choice of floor slab.

To say that slabs is our specialty is an understatement. Our staff includes voting members on the American Concrete Institute (ACI) committees that develop the nationwide standards for floor slabs, including Construction of Floor Slabs, Design of Slabs-on-Ground and Shrinkage-Compensating Concrete.


The Providence team also has years of experience in tilt-wall design and an in-house engineer who is a member of the ACI Tilt-Up Concrete Construction Committee. These load-bearing exterior wall panels provide the perimeter envelope and structural support for many distribution centers. They have been the standard for many decades. However, we are also seeing a change in tilt-wall design and construction.

Due to changing energy code, Concrete Insulated Sandwich Panels have grown in popularity in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. These tilt-wall sandwich panels provide a good solution in some applications, but they are not the right solution for all projects. Providence’s depth of tilt-wall experience enables us to help our clients make the right decision regarding tilt-wall options…and then follow-up our recommendation with the structural or complete building design service as appropriate.

Structural Steel

Our engineers understand how to design and build a distribution center that will remain competitive in the marketplace. For build-to-suit clients, we design our structural steel column grid and column spacing to accommodate their particular storage-racking requirements. For clients developing speculative warehouses, we design a structural steel column grid and column spacing that will accommodate a large variety of potential tenants and racking systems. We also ensure that our building height accounts for the clear height requirements of today’s modern racking systems.

One of our in-house engineers is a member of multiple American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) committees, including Chair of the Design Technical Committee. With our in-house expertise, you can rest assured that our structural steel design will allow your distribution center to remain competitive in the marketplace for many years.

At Providence Engineering, we believe that the best projects begin with lessons learned from past projects. That’s why we are continually building upon our deep experience in the planning, design, and construction of distribution centers by welcoming the adoption of new technology and innovative techniques.

We recognize the challenges of the marketplace in which our clients operate, and we strive every day to be a partner who faces those challenges as our own. Our mission is to provide reliable solutions that are constructible, affordable and timely, and results in our being both the Engineer of Choice and your Prime Design Partner for Distribution Centers.