Hello – I’m Grant Leum, the owner of Dockzilla Co. and manufacturer of the only Dock House concept in the U.S.
What is the Dockzilla Dock House?
The Dock House is a complete loading dock that integrates 3 critical loading dock components – 1) dock leveler, 2) environmentally-sealed door, and 3) trailer restraint, into a steel, house-like frame. These units are modular loading docks, which means they are installed entirely on the exterior of a manufacturing facility or warehouse. This design enables the Dock House to deliver significant financial and energy efficiencies, preserve floor space, and create solutions for many industries.
Today I’ll discuss these benefits and more. But first, here’s a little bit of background about me. My background is actually in architectural engineering. I joined a large material handling product manufacturer way back when and have been in the loading dock and materials handling industry ever since. Dockzilla Co. is at the forefront of engineering loading docks and forklift ramps from steel instead of concrete. Given the confines of concrete, we believe that steel loading dock configurations give today’s manufacturers, E-commerce, 3PL (3rd party logistics”, and other companies the flexibility they need to quickly build infrastructure and improve shipping velocity.
Successful European Loading Dock Hits the U.S.
Let’s start off with a look at the Dock House. This is a good picture at a consumer packaged goods company where we have the first nine of a 43 dock houses installed. The Dock House design has been around for probably about 50 years and is very popular in Europe, where it’s called a Load House. When European companies come across the pond, they now have a source in the U.S.
The main reasons why people select Dock Houses are:
They want to save the internal floor space inside the building
They want to keep the dust, bugs, and other contaminants out
They want the flexibility to detach, relocate, or re-attach their loading dock as needed
Dock House for Building Expansion or Adding Loading Docks
Here’s where the Dock House is a great opportunity for businesses that are planning an expansion or adding loading docks to a building. What we do instead of the traditional loading dock construction method of cutting a pit inside the building, we just build this little hut, a little dock-house, or load house and bolt all of the dock equipment to the outside. There are some very good reasons to do that. One of the main reasons is you take a look at what the inside of your building looks like, without having the dock equipment cut into the floor, it becomes much cleaner and you preserve tons of floor space.
1) You now have usable space all the way up to the doors because you don’t have to worry about cross-traffic. 2) And, you have a much better insulating factor because your interior door is installed from the ceiling to the concrete floor. So, you’re not going to let the energy escape through the deck and the weather seal of a traditional dock leveler, and you’re also going to have more usable square footage left inside the building.
U.S. Companies that are installing Dock Houses are taking all that construction that goes in to putting a dock pit to inside of the building, and enclosing it into a modular steel frame outside. The Dock House set up begins with a platform and a shelter that can accommodate a leveler, a dock lock, and an interior door. This complete configuration can be then bolted to any building in the U.S.
Why Dock House is Better than Pit Construction
If we have any concrete contractors on, the guy who does your pits, well, he’ll be very sad because that’s what we’re going to talk bad about. We’re not saying that you’d never want to do a concrete pit. There’ll be reasons why you don’t want to put a dock house in, but there are also a lot of reasons why you don’t want to cut a pit into an existing building.
For companies moving into spec warehouses, or adding loading docks to an existing facility, the modularity of the Dock House makes it easy to change the equipment, move their position, interchange them, and re-attach them to any exterior. Parcel dock ramps and dock to ground ramps provide access for vehicles and forklifts in and out of the building.
The bottom line is 3 main points.
These are prefabricated engineered dock solutions that are easy to install with less downtime or hassle of traditional pit leveler construction.
They are relocatable which makes them an asset of the business, so that when in you’re a leased facility, you can unbolt it and take it with you.
You can change it, if you have a planned expansion, for let’s say, it’s the building up in the top left corner and you’re going to blow that wall out and move it. Well, guess what? You can move all the stuff to side, do your construction and then bolt it back on. You’re not double dipping into the project and the expenses that you have and you have the flexibility to change your loading docks when needed.
When you look at some of the largest names in U.S. manufacturing, their loading dock configurations are constantly evolving to meet business demands. Ford Motor Company, Chrysler, BMW, often repurpose loading docks and the Dock House is an ideal solution.
Dock House Design & Specs
As we take a look at an individual Dock House, the main concept again is a compact building that puts the dock equipment entirely on the outside. These can be built with any shelter, any dock leveler desired, an interior door, and trailer restraint. The standard, most popular unit is currently an 8 ft. long x 7 ft. wide unit. The leveler can be hydraulic, air, mechanical, whatever you want, whatever you need. We can also put in vertical levelers, which are currently a terrific solution for specific needs of food manufacturers and distributors.
The last piece of the equation is whether or not our customers want to put a door on the outside of the unit to create a vestibule, just like the ones you see on the front of buildings to manage hot/cold airflow? Some customers do, some customers don’t. It depends on their loading challenges.
How to Attach a Loading Dock House
Dockzilla Dock Houses, or load houses, arrive onsite, ready for installation in four main pieces. The leveler and steel face bumpers on the frame are incorporated into the unit at the factory, and the frame is shipped as one piece. The Dock House has fork pockets built in as part of our standard design, so you can move it around via forklift.
Dock House installation is generally complete in 2-3 days. The side walls are already pre-engineered and pre-fabricated, so you just lift and bolt those into place. They will end with a 9 foot wide by 10 foot tall door opening so you can then put the door on later, but the final piece is you lift roof and set it into place.
The physical construction of the dock houses is incredibly easy. You just lift it, set in place, bolted in. The roof then it is attached in two places just to give it a little bit of side sway resistance, so we don’t have to worry about it tipping over or moving. The good news to that is, we end up with a beefy enough structure that will handle any snow and wind loads.
Dock House Installation Means Business As Usual
A key feature for many businesses attaching the Loading Dock House at operating facilities is that the business operations are not interrupted at all. They are still making their donuts or whatever they do, while loading docks are being installed without concrete dust contaminating operations. So many businesses have had to contain the concrete dust involved in pit construction, and with Dock House installation being a completely exterior loading dock design, the dock door remains closed, eliminating concrete dust contamination.
You can either build a temporary shelter inside the building to keep the dust from getting anywhere, or you close the door. The unit is bolted to the wall and then it has two feet that are adjustable they get put onto the approach. We do work with you on every project to see if we need to put concrete piers in but it really is only supported in two points out from the building, and then we use a concrete dark face for support.
Our engineers can configure designs for unusual applications, buildings that have overhangs, pier docks, or a brick or wooden dock faces. How do we cover the Dock Houses?
If the customer is in a general unheated warehouse, we’ll then go with a 22 gauge corrugated steel kit that we have. It’s a very simple easy kit, and we ship you every screw, a few tubes of cork, and all the pieces to put this thing together.
The second option is going with a two inch insulated metal wall panel. This gives us about R14 insulating value, it’ll help control condensation side of the dock house, and again, will provide that Kit. This gets a little bit more spendy, because insulated panels are higher priced, but well worth it over the life of the unit.
The last option is a four inch insulated metal wall panel. If you’re in a freezer dock, or a cooler environment, this is the way you want to go. Because this will give you even more insulating value, because in these cases that insulating value and the energy is going to be the main driving for the customer.
If this is new construction, you just have the contractor do the siding and roofing and this will ensure the siding of the Dock House matches the building aesthetic perfectly. So the same siding that’s going on the building now wraps down and covers the dock house. We ship them exactly how you see in this picture, where it’s a nice structural skeleton. If there are any slight details we need to add in based on that siding contractor, we can add those as needed. We are recently completing an installation with a vertical dock leveler.
Again, when you look at verticals a lot of the standard installations inside the building are for drive through applications. What this allows you to do is back the truck up to the door, then open the door, and then open the truck doors inside of the dock bay. To do this we have to make the dock house a little bit bigger. So if the opening looks bigger it’s because it is. So on a drive-through application we need a 10 ft. wide door.
If you look at the front face of this dock house it’s 10 feet wide by 11 feet tall to be able to get that door on the outside of the seal on our new effective pit floor. We would then create an insulated vestibule that would allow us to have even better air control, and make sure we can even humidity control this little vestibule to make sure that we minimize frost that goes into the building once they open up the door.
In Europe this application is the number one driver for dock houses. This is the way that the majority of docks are built in Europe. This was done as a pure drive-through. We installed our hinge steps on both sides of the vertical leveler, the unit stores straight up and down like it normally does. They’re wrapping it with a four inch insulated panel and we’ve film insulated not only the underside of all the steel, but as well as this front door frame that the shelters going to install on.
Modularity in Action
Because of the fact that the vertical level was bigger than the door opening that they had on the building; well, guess what? We had to extend this platform by about three feet to give the operator room to walk-in, walk around, down and open the truck doors. On every single job we do; whether it’s a simple wheel riser, or if it’s a dock house like this, our engineers work on the entire application with you and for you.
When all is said and done, at Dean Foods on these two freezer docks, they ended up with a very nice installation, with a clip shelters, rotating hook restraints to a vertical levelers and a nice building that they have an air curtain installed on. They have been in two insulated doors and the ability to close this area off and dehumidify it, to keep that frost out of there.
At a major European luxury auto manufacturing company located in the U.S., we installed 39 dock houses with airbag levelers, a mixture of hydraulic levelers, different shelters, BBR restraints, really matching whatever their equipment spec was, but in a modular steel frame. The reason that they had for going to dock houses is, because this wall that you see in the picture is going to disappear somewhere down the road. It could be three years, it could be five years, and it could be 10 years. They’re going to unbolt the dock houses, move a loft to the side, do the expansion and then bolt the dock equipment right back on. They maintained the vestibule, they maintain modularity and you know what, when they get done maybe get what they want to do is put 20 docks on the new expansion, and put the other 19 at a different building.
One of the opportunities that we look at is this building that you see, it’s a spec warehouse. Nice bright white building that has five loading docks. Because in the spec warehouse manager, or the building owner’s eyes, these are loading docks. They’ve got doors on the outside of the building. Again, it’s all a matter of perspective. Do we think this is a loading dock? No, not quite, but could you load a truck with it? I guess you probably could. They’ve got bumpers, they’ve got a hole in the building; sure, you’ve got a dock. Well, one of the main reasons why they build buildings like this, is because there’s a simple rule in real estate, that if you build the docks they will be wrong for whoever comes in.
If you build them with a heavy indestructible dock, then the person who moves in is going to be using handcarts and they’re going to complain about the bump on the thick dock plate. If you try and go light, then will be warehouse specialists whose rolling paper roll in and out of a warehouse, and the customer or the leasing agents and brokers can just never win.
When you attach a Dock House to a spec warehouse, when the customer’s five-year lease is up and he moves away, he can either take the dock houses and ramp with them. Or, the landlord can just move them to a different tenant who might need a loading dock. It’s a modularity aspect, it allows you to add and subtract product at the time of lease, and in fact there are financing options available, so they could even build that on a monthly basis to the head customers lease.
When you look at that example of a Spec warehouse, it’s not just the loading dock equipment. It’s going to be ramps that get from the building outside if they want to bring their vans inside, or get their forklift outside for doing loading. It could be a parcel ramp like you see here with McKesson truck on it. Because let’s say they’re renting the space for a 3PL, or because they’re an Amazon last mile delivery station, that’s going to have Uber drivers and pickup trucks and vans.
Dock House Delivers Efficiencies
When you reduce the overall building size, you’re reducing the amount of heating that they need to do, you’re going to reduce a taxable square footage of the building. If you follow LEED certification or have heard about the IECC, this is a building code that tells contractors and architects they need to be energy efficient when designing and constructing a new building. The dock house is a perfect product to deliver on energy efficiencies.
How much energy is wasted through dock pit? We’re in here in Minnesota, where the nights are cold and the days are even worse, it’s a lot. So if you want to have a challenge, what we do is on some of these days where it’s below zero go over and put your hand on top of the deck plate of a dock leveler, and just see if you can hold it there for 60 seconds. It’s cold. The main reason is, dock levelers are made out of quarter inch steel plate. There’s no “R value” or insulating value on a dock plate, and it is actually radiating the heat from the building out to the outside.
So even though you may cut the front off with a PitMaster and keep the wind from blowing in, that steel plate is going to have the same outdoor temperature as the rest of the outside of the building.
With regard to the International Building Code that talks about energy efficiency, the Dock House interior door creates a seal for a better air containment system at the building edge, plus, we can also create a vestibule. When you walk into the front door at most industrial buildings there’s usually a vestibule created between the front door and a second, inside door, to keep the air from shuttling back and forth directly outside because it gets cold. The Dock House delivers this concept, but this time on the back of the building.
Dock House Efficiencies in Cold or Hot Climates
To put Dock House energy savings to the test, we worked with an energy consultant, a third party company called Energy Insights, which works help customers get energy rebates. We asked them this question:
If we installed an 8’ x 7’ dock pit here in Minnesota, what would energy efficiency be, and how much could we possibly save by not cutting a pit and installing a Dock House modular loading dock entirely on the outside of the building? Per Energy Insights, the annual savings is around $2,500 per year, per dock pit, by the energy that you’re not going to waste pouring out of that dock. Again, this isn’t a mean thing this is just the reality of when you have a cold environment.
The same is true if you consider dock pits in a warm weather climate. If I’m in Texas and I have cooler dock that needs to be maintained at 32 degrees, you going to the same kind of story, it’s just going to be in reverse. Where you’re your cooling costs are going to be high is based on how warm it is outside.
New Construction: Gaining Benefits at the Loading Dock
For customers who are working with an architect, we can help reduce the overall square footage of the new building. If you take an average of a 13 ft. door centerline times eight foot long dock leveler; that’s the area of the building that is virtually wasted when a pit is created inside a building to accommodate a traditional loading dock. Once you get in between dock levelers there’s not a lot you can do, because of the cross-traffic. You might have one leveler that’s down, one leveler that’s up, and you can’t use that area.
If you go to a Dock House instead of a pit leveler, the inside area really becomes usable, right up to the doors. Essentially, without the Dock House you’re wasting around a 100 sq. ft. per dock position. That math adds up in a hurry. If you have 10 docks in a 1,000 sq. ft. building, that’s a real number that translates to the costs to build that building. It could be 50 bucks, it could be $200 per sq. ft., but it’s a real number.
I’m going to shift over a little bit into the existing buildings, because it’s a different story if you’re trying to add a dock to an existing building. This customer is already in operation, so they’ll have that building up to capacity. Growing businesses that need to add docks are usually full and don’t usually have a lot of extra space. With Dock House, everything is attached on the exterior, so you won’t have to relocate the racking that’s inside the building or disrupt ongoing activity.
You’re not haveing to change your operations, you’re going to just put that modular loading dock on the outside and we’re going to create a vestibule, so you’re going to get some other benefits as well. We’re not going to have the mess inside you’re building that you would if we came in and busted up.
Silica Contamination: One of the hot topics right now is OSHA and silica hazards. There are a number of companies that will not allow you to cut pits, there are companies who want to make sure that just from a safety and security standpoint.
Construction Teams Inside: The Dock House eliminates having the concrete construction teams inside their buildings for a week or so. It keeps everybody outside, keeps all that work outside. Then, look at how long it takes you to cut a pit and coordinate with the concrete construction team to come out bust up the floor form and get the pit steel installed. Then, throw in 5-7 of concrete “cure time” before you can come back in and get back to work. And once the seventh day arrives, the crew comes back in to install the equipment – this is a much longer, drawn out process. Typically a Dock House complete with electrical shelter, trailer restraint installation, etc. takes around 2-3 days.
With a Dock House, you show up with the equipment and you bolt it on, and within a couple days you’ve got a loading dock that’s usable. As we look at it, the story is a little bit different from a new construction to an existing building, but it really breaks into the same three points.
The modularity of the Dock House enables you to save the square footage inside of a building, it’s going to be more energy efficient, and you can create the vestibule that’s going to make your energy better as well as reduce the square footage.
Again thank you for taking a little bit of time out to listen to me talk. I appreciate the opportunity to share modular and portable loading dock information and hope you’ll call us at 1-800-637-3036 or email: [email protected] with any questions.