Design-Build a Laundry? Yes, If You’re Willing to Think Outside the Box

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Are you familiar with the design-build concept? Design-build is a method of project delivery, as described by the Design-Build Institute of America, in which one entity works under a single contract with the project owner to provide design and construction services.
Is it possible to design-build a laundry? Absolutely, if you’re able to think outside the box and forget traditional construction and systems-procurement methods.
The approach can be utilized when retrofitting systems, building new, or in support of an existing facility’s total systems replacement. Design-build processes can achieve faster, more complete results than conventional methods.
When I joined the Veterans Affairs (VA) forces back in 1977, I observed some rather proprietary efforts that virtually stopped every project on the books.
I remember traveling to a facility in upstate New York my first day on the job and walking into a room filled with 16 contractors, all of whom were responsible—in various capacities—for putting in four large washer-extractors and two dryers.
I had learned while accomplishing similar projects at Marine Corps installations that the VA (with more than 120 laundries at the time) was going about business incorrectly.
At the New York VA facility in question, we had to start over from scratch, causing great concern for my superiors in Washington. Knowing there were a few other projects on the board that represented small acquisitions, I had to educate myself and others about design-build almost immediately.
I had recently read an applicable U.S. Air Force procurement bulletin on the design and manufacturing of combat jet aircraft, plus I had managed a design-build-concept acquisition at a laundry built to support Marine, Navy and White House requirements at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
The concept I learned from the senior contracting officer at Quantico later became the method used to build and/or modernize more than 60 VA laundry operations, leading to the consolidation of more than 35 existing plants into new or virtually new facilities.SIMPLE BUT CHALLENGING
From a system or equipment perspective, the design-build process is simple but still challenging; a quality-assurance process is essential in policing the end result. Key design-build components of the equipment process include the following:

  • How much soiled linen will be entering the laundry, and how will it enter?
  • Are cart-washing processes required? If so, where should they be located, and how much energy will the systems use? Do you desire manual or automatic systems?
  • Will the soiled laundry be weighed? If so, how will it be weighed and how often?
  • Will the soiled laundry be conveyed and sorted? How much will be conveyed and sorted over a given time period?
  • Sorted textiles will be conveyed to a holding area. Where will they be stored, and how much storage area will be needed?
  • Stored textiles will be conveyed from the holding area to washing systems. These systems should be able to produce X amount of soiled textiles per hour; the textiles to be processed must be identified precisely.
    You may choose to describe a number of washing systems, but this takes away from the true design-build concept. If there are expectations to not tie all your laundry into one system, you may need to examine other needs, such as pony or larger-capacity washer extractors, etc.
  • Washing-system requirements must also address water consumption, energy-usage expectations and equipment controls in relation to other controls situated throughout the laundry operation.
  • Laundered textiles will be conveyed to either drying systems or finishing systems. You must identify the amount of textiles to be stored and transferred to each area and a suggested method of conveyance.

The next design-build aspect I’ll be exploring will include finishing, folding, storage, conveyance and delivery to shipping areas.


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