Fred Meyer 

Masonry Gives Fred Meyer the Right Image


Fred Meyer,  North Spokane, Washington

Sienna Architecture Company, Portland, Washington

General Contractor
Vandervert Construction Inc.

Masonry Contractor
Spilker Masonry Company

Fred Meyer, Inc., a Portland, Oregonbased retail chain that has over 800 stores, tested the new design in its Wandermere store in North Spokane. Executives at Fred Meyer Inc. wanted a new, prototypical store design that could be built quickly and economically, yet would project a soft, aesthetically pleasing image.

The test was an unqualified success, according to Fred Meyer officials. By using concrete masonry units instead of concrete tilt-up construction, the company shaved eight weeks off of its typical construction schedule. In addition, total construction costs on the Wandermere store were more than $1 million lower than the cost of previous tilt-up projects.

Speed of construction—Why is masonry so much faster?

According to Tim Stulc, Vandervert Construction Inc.’s Project Manager for the Wandermere store, it’s because work on the masonry walls can go on simultaneously with other construction activities. That’s not the case with how the concrete tilt-up jobs were designed, he says. And he should know: Vandervert has built three stores for Fred Meyer, one out of concrete tilt-up and two out of masonry, including the 158,000-square-foot (14,700 square meters) Wandermere store.

“With tilt-up,” Stulc explains, “prior to pouring (floor) slabs, all of the plumbing and electrical underground work must be completed. This is typically a three-week activity, which needs to occur prior to starting slab pours and commencement of the tilt-up operation.” With masonry construction, masons can start building walls as soon as the footings are in, he says. Pouring of the floor slabs and other work, such as underslab work and steel erections, can be done at the same time. In the case of the Wandermere store, the concrete masonry walls were finished in 24 days, says Mike Spilker, Vice President of Spilker Masonry Co., the masonry contractor on the project.

Speeding up construction by eight weeks translates into big savings for Fred Meyer. “To be open eight weeks faster means considerable dollars to the company,” says John Dortch, Prototype Administrator at Fred Meyer. The use of concrete masonry in Fred Meyer’s new store format wasn’t an accident—it was the result of many months of intense design development. Using CMU to soften the “big box” look of previous Fred Meyer stores appeals to customers as well as to the communities in which the stores are located. Terry Krause, an architect with Portland’s Sienna Architecture Co., who headed up the Fred Meyer Wandermere project, explains that masonry has a rich, high-quality image that’s simply not found in concrete tilt-up construction. In addition, the texture and scale of concrete masonry is a better fit with the neighborhoods in which Fred Meyer wants to locate.

More and more, communities demand attractive buildings that blend harmoniously with surrounding neighborhoods as a condition of development.  asonry structures make it easier to win approval from building design committees, as well as customers, Krause contends.

Flexibility now and in the future

The Fred Meyer prototype at Wandermere used earthtone colors and large, curved entry forms to project the new, softer image from a distance as well as close-up. Having that kind of design flexibility was very appealing, Dortch says. What’s more, by using concrete masonry construction, Fred Meyer can use a number of design options for any possible future additions to its basic store format, he says.

The bottom line is, Fred Meyer officials say, that by using masonry construction, they get a structure that’s faster and more economical to build, and looks better than concrete tilt-up. CMD


Constructing Dry Single Wythe Walls

For any single wythe construction, particular care should be taken to prevent water from entering the interior of the building. Dry concrete masonry walls are attained when both the design and construction address water movement into, through and out of the wall. Considerations include potential sources of water, unit and mortar characteristics, crack control, workmanship, mortar joint tooling, flashing and weeps, sealants, and water repellents. For single wythe masonry, an integral water repellent in both the units and mortar, as well as a compatible post-applied surface water repellent are recommended. Figure 1 shows a proprietary flashing system that collects and directs water to the exterior of the wall and out weep holes, without compromising the bond at mortar joints in the face shells (see TEK 19-4A: Flashing Strategies for Concrete Masonry Walls for recommended flashing locations). There are a number of generic and proprietary, flashing, drainage, weep, mortar dropping control, and rain screen systems available.

Single wythe flashing details using conventional flashing are included in 19-4A: Flashing Strategies for Concrete Masonry Walls. Solid grouted single wythe walls tend to be less susceptible than ungrouted or partially grouted walls to moisture penetration, since voids and cavities where moisture can collect are absent. As a result, solid grouted walls do not require flashing and weeps, although they do require other moisture control provisions, such as sealants and water repellents. For partially grouted walls, flashing should be placed in ungrouted cells.