Blog of Axel Lane

There are 22 blog entries within the category of Axel Lane

A View from the Top
May 24th, 2011 | View Post

The boom crane fully extended on the property
In an effort to get an idea of just what the view from the top of the building might look like, Preston and I rented a cherry picker for the day (technically called a Boom Crane) and took some panorama pictures from the potential footprint of the building. In the winter time it’s usually pretty easy to see parts of downtown Austin through the trees, namely since the leaves die off. In the summer, however, it’s a bit more difficult as the foliage is much thicker.

The entire boom crane was designed to be a tow-able trailer, so it wasn’t particularly difficult getting it out there. Once you have it in the place you want it, it has to be disconnected from the trailer hitch and then set (this is really the only time-consuming piece of getting it going). To set it up, there is a controller that slowly lowers the hydraulic legs on all four corners. As they start to settle on the ground, a computer senses to ensure that the machine is properly balanced. From there, you just climb into the basket and start hoisting it up in the air - one part of the crane at a time. I’d estimate it takes a little over one minute to get all the way up.

Looking down from the basket 34? in the air

I rented the machine from my usual heavy equipment rental facility, Rent-Equip, up in North Austin. They’re always incredibly helpful and friendly and were even willing to refund my full-day rental when I only wound up using it for 4 hours (what they constitute a half-day). The four-hour rental was $100.00; the full day would (including overnight) would have cost $150.00.

Although I am not afraid of heights at all (I fly planes!), it turns out that I am terrified of being in a small metal basket 35 feet above the ground in heavy varying winds. This was exacerbated by the fact that the boom was setup on dirt, making me think it was that much less stable. Preston by stark contrast, was happy as all could be spinning around in it fully extended.

You can see from the pics on the right what the apparatus looks like fully extended. It may not look all that high, but I can assure you that once you’re up in the air, it feels pretty high.

The top of the building itself will only be used for mechanical purposes (air conditioning, additional solar hookups, water collection, and etc.), but it’s nice to see such a view nevertheless!

A panorama from the top of the crane. If you click on the image you can get a good feel for what it’s like up there looking towards the city!

Potential Exterior Look of Building
May 22nd, 2011 | View Post
We’re still working on dozens of facets with respect to the look and feel of the building, but this is an image depicting more or less the exterior facade of the warehouse space. It’s very simple and clean, but is actually a meshed type of metal surface. Not only is this material lightweight, but it will greatly help us to control light, particularly on the westerly face of the warehouse.

Again, not set in stone, but this is the type of thing that we are considering.

Commercial Architect Selected
April 14th, 2011 | View Post
So I’ve talked to a bunch of different people about various design ideas, and was fortunate enough to have a friend who works at Cotera-Reed in Austin. As of today, we’re going to be using them as the architectural firm in charge of designing and overseeing the construction of the Axel Warehouse.

They are a fantastic firm with a super impressive resume. Most people in Austin will recognize their work as they designed Austin City Hall (in addition to a number of other local landmarks). You can see some of their projects on their website:

Civil Engineering Firm Selected
March 25th, 2011 | View Post
As of today, we have selected Nobel Surveying and Engineering Works, LLC to be our civil engineer for the Axel project. This firm came highly recommended to Preston Graham (my general contractor and president of Fig & Co. Builders). We had a few different meetings with the founder of Nobel and had his firm run a few different site-plan ideas for us - really just to get an idea what we’re looking at.

To those not familiar with this process, the civil engineering firm is required by the City of Austin for commercial development projects. They will design and oversee dozens of city-required outlets such as water hookups, parking lots, erosion control, landscaping requirements, impervious cover laws, and on and on.

The civil engineering part of commercial development in Austin can unfortunately be a very expensive piece of the puzzle. The sad part as a resident of Austin and small-business owner, is that the civil engineering cost structure of a million dollar building is roughly the same as a small facility like ours. Nevertheless, it is a required component if we’re going to move forward.

We are hoping that they will be able to design our property in such a way that the City of Austin will not require us to have water retention ponds, but that remains to be seen.

The three images above show three different concepts for how a simple warehouse could be constructed on the land. In particular, they consider the amount and type of impervious cover that would be needed (given parking requirements, sidewalk requirements, and etc.) and figure how large the retention ponds theoretically would be.

The plan will now be to alter the building in such a way so that we can avoid those requirements.
Grass on the Field
February 27th, 2011 | View Post
Less than two months after the property was professionally leveled and cleared, we are already starting to see a layer of grass come in. In the evening sun, it really makes the property look warm and inviting. In my opinion, it looks much more like a public park than an industrial compound. I still have no idea just how we’ll be landscaping the property. I’m not particularly in love with the traditional grasses that are so common to the south and central Texas regions. On the other hand, it may prove to be far too expensive to cover the property in any type of greenery, regardless of how nice it is.

To put it into some perspective, an average suburban home sits about 1/4 acre piece of land. 1/4 acre of land is equivalent to a little less than 11,000 sq ft. If you figure that the footprint of the suburban home is roughly 1,500 sq ft, another 2,000 sq ft for a garage and driveway, and finally another 1,000 sq ft for exterior walkways, paved patios, and so on, you’re really only left to cover about 6,500 sq ft of property (and that doesn’t even account for mulching, tree beds, and other similar landscaping amenities).

By contrast, the Axel Project sits on roughly 62,000 sq ft of land. The footprint will take up about 5,000 sq ft, and the remaining paved areas taking up about 7,000, still leaving about 40,000 sq ft of land needing to be landscaped. That’s the equivalent of about SIX suburban lots.

Geotechnical Engineer Reports Great News!
January 7th, 2011 | View Post

The Geotechnical Report was one of the reports that I was very nervous about. We hired Holt Engineering to carry out the work, and they definitely provided us with a quick turn-around.

Basically what these guys do are setup a giant pile-driver in select locations on the subject tract (namely where the building will be), and bore into the ground. Depending on what they find, they’ll go anywhere from 10-30 feet down. It might not sound like a big deal, but they collect this tube of soil (its length is equal to the depth they bore) and then they analyze it in a lab.

Basically they’re looking to see what kind of material the ground is comprised of. Because this property is situated in east Austin, there was a fear that it might be softer clay instead of solid bedrock. Thankfully that was not at all the case and as it turns out, Axel has a very solid and shallow bedrock formation below it.

This is FANTASTIC news because the ground composition could significantly impact the cost of the foundation. The softer the ground is, the more money that has to be invested into the foundation to keep it from shifting. Not only that, but because the warehouse will have the weight spread out with steel beams, a softer ground would mean that deep pilings could be necessary at all major load points. These two factors alone could change the foundation costs from say $4.00 / sq ft to $10.00+ / sq ft. That’s a pretty significant price difference when you’re talking about having a foundation of 5,000 sq ft.

Included below are the soil reports we were provided.