Wal-Mart Superstore

Boice Raidl Rhea Architects

General Contractor
Colcon Industries

Materials Manufacturer
Schuster’s Building Products/Miller Materials

Masonry Contractor
Holland & Fox Masonry

Lee Brick & Block

Half-high Units Save the Day
Ensures Successful Construction and Opening of a Louisville Wal-Mart Supercenter, Despite Natural Disasters

When Wal-Mart chose to open a large-scale Supercenter in Louisville, Ky., they were challenged to find a product that was strong, durable, stylish, and welcoming to customers—and it had to be cost-effective. Their desire to provide customers with an overall pleasant shopping experience included the important component of an aesthetically appealing storefront. Thus, Wal-Mart’s construction leadership team was tasked to find a suitable building material for bringing this company’s vision to life. Based on Wal-Mart’s construction goals, timeline, and budget, the perfect product for the project was a structural concrete masonry unit (CMU) that provides the rich look and beauty of brick with a simple, one-step installation process. After an intense review of half-high, brick-like CMUs, along with  investigating several other building materials, the leadership team concluded that this appealing and user-friendly product was the best choice for creating a sturdy and pleasant structure.

With the half-highs, Wal-Mart could achieve the appearance of traditional brick, while remaining on schedule for a fast approaching opening, and stay within predetermined budgets. The product has been proven to save time and money, alleviating the additional work of installing a structural back-up wall and a brick veneer. The half-highs variety and flexibility supplied Wal-Mart with the right combination of shape, size and color selection. Some important building attributes for Wal-Mart included the ability to easily obtain the concrete masonry units in the correct size and selecting an attractive and eye-catching shade for the block. They chose a blend with a varied color palette, which created a classic brick look, and because concrete brick is available in many sizes, the 8 x 4 x 16 inch (203 x 102 x 406 mm) blocks were easily acquired.

After selecting half-highs, a local manufacturer was chosen to provide product expertise and a knowledge regarding local building codes and standards to help Wal-Mart and the masonry contractors, successful and timely job completion with precise production techniques and speedy delivery from nearby Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Wal-Mart Supercenter was a 12-week installation project that called for nearly 120,000 units of half-high units, and required timely installation in order to meet the looming grand opening deadline. The manufacturer provided on-site and “in the office” technical support, and worked with the masons to educate them on product details and  installation specifics. Once the masons were up to speed on half-high’s easy, one-step installation process, they began putting the CMUs in place and the Wal-Mart building was on its way to completion. The masonry units were delivered regularly, in accordance with a predetermined schedule, to meet production deadlines. The project enjoyed a smooth and efficient construction of the store’s exterior, until tragedy struck.

A series of tornadoes barreled through nearby Indianapolis, Indiana, where the project’s half-highs were was being produced, and destroyed the plant. The extensive damage closed the plant, preventing production of the remaining units—more than 75,000 units short of completion.

Wal-Mart’s opening date for the store was firmly set. The grand  opening had been scheduled, and efficient budgets had been created around the precise time the store would open for business. The open date was a critical part of the timeline, and there was no room for variation. The store needed to open on time, no matter what, which required an immediate solution.

An action plan was easily created and implemented because the manufacturer had access to an extensive network of plants and suppliers throughout the United States and was able to outline a contingency plan with a half-high brick-like producer in Kansas City, Missouri to get Wal-Mart back on the road to timely completion.

The professionals from both plants banded together to create a suitable work schedule that ensured precise color and size matching. The impromtu plan hammered out new details for production and shipping procedures, and solidified alternative transportation needs. An identical product was produced by the second plant and easily integrated into their production schedule. Within one week of the incident, the color of the Wal-Mart brick was matched within industry standards, precisely replicated and quickly shipped to the construction site.

The manufacturer met with the masons and the general contractor to discuss the new details of the concrete brick production plan. They also worked with them to ensure that the product and the accompanying schedule met their needs, with precise accuracy and timeliness.

The Wal-Mart Supercenter opened on time because of the swift  esponse and ability of the second manufacturer to create the correct matching architectural units at a different location. This ensured that the original production facility’s destruction did not create new challenges for Wal-Mart’s building process. The extraordinary product matching was so profound that there was no visible or structural difference between the blocks that were created at the two different locations.

The client was satisfied with the product and service, and the Wal-Mart Supercenter opened successfully, without any publicity surrounding the structure’s architectural block delivery predicament. The half-high’s diverse traits and features, which encapsulate beauty, durability, and an easy, one-step installation process, gave Wal-Mart the ideal tools to create a distinct, aesthetically appealing building. The unique product’s rich brick appearance coupled with its structural durability provided Wal-Mart with a beautiful store that will stand up to the elements and provide its customers with a pleasant shopping environment for decades to come. CMD