One important thing to remember when looking at a department store or warehouse for adaptive re-use is the need to work around column spacing. The small columns that occur in orderly rows spaced every 30 – 50 feet, probably cannot be disturbed without great expense since they support the roof.
Most architects or build-to-suit contractors will simply attempt to lay out the complex around them, hiding as many columns as possible in walls, or boxing them in drywall to make them fit in with the interior design scheme.
If a column must be removed, hire a structural engineer to design a new way to support that area of the roof. Columns, although they may appear to be independent of each other, actually form a highly complex engineered system for transferring the weight of the roof and all weight that may lay upon it, down to the footings buried under the floor of your structure.
Removing a single column without compensating for the load elsewhere could lead to structural failure in times of great stress such as a heavy snowstorm, torrential rains, or severe winds.
Conversely, if your adaptive re-use design plans require that additional weight be placed on the roof, such as additional air conditioning units, use an engineer’s services since the existing column system was not designed to support the weight of the new HVAC equipment.
The engineer’s services are not going to be terribly expensive. A competent engineer will find a safe and low cost way of supporting additional roof load.
By Stephen Ferrandi, Director, KLNB Regious Properties
Stephen Ferrandi is the Director of KLNB Religious Properties, a real estate firm serving religious clients in Maryland, D.C., Pennsylvania, and Virginia. He is one of the top experts in land development in the region. Mr. Ferrandi frequently contributes real estate related articles to both print and online publications.