Amtrak’s locomotive service facility upgrade at its Seattle King Street Coach Yard was phase three of a multi-phase project designed to improve the capacity, efficiency and working conditions of the locomotive maintenance and repair shop for the venerable railroad company. The resulting $32 million, 330-foot-long, 55-foot-high facility was designed to work on locomotives used on Amtrak’s Cascades service, the Empire Builder, and Coast Starlight, as well as locomotives used on Sound Transit’s Sounder commuter service.
The upgrade, which took place in 2018-2019, was a game changer for Amtrak. The building allows Amtrak to service the trains in an enclosed environment and has a unique “pool pit” design that allows for easier access to perform maintenance necessary to keep the trains operating with a high rate of operation. “In the past, trains would have to be sent to a facility in Oakland, California, for complex repairs,” Cody Glasgow, project manager for the project’s general contractor, PCL Construction Services, Inc., said in a release. “This added efficiency of being able to work on the trains locally is a vast improvement and saves both time and money for Amtrak.”
Built to service locomotives and rail cars, the 31,000-square-foot maintenance shop houses a 55-ton overhead bridge crane (which is the piece that most interacts with the metal building portion of the project) and a 125-ton drop table that is used to switch out traction motors and locomotive axles on Amtrak train cars.
The design team needed to find an insulated panel solution that would not only satisfy the durability requirements to house the bridge crane and drop table, but one that would also meet strict local energy codes. Additionally, due to specific time and budget constraints of the project, in particular the fact that the construction was mainly taking place during the fall, Seattle’s rainy season, a quick, easy, and low-maintenance option was of the utmost importance to the success of the project.
TKDA (the project’s lead designer & civil & MEP engineer) worked with Amtrak to ensure all aspects of the timeline, budget, energy code standards and aesthetic integrity were met.
A big piece of the puzzle included the incorporation of MBCI insulated roof and wall panels, installed by contractor CHG Building Systems, which specializes in steel erection, metal buildings and seismic retrofitting. Specifically, MBCI CFR, 42” width, 24-gauge in Slate Gray were used for the roof and MBCI 7.2 Insul-Rib™, 22-gauge in Slate Gray were the panels of choice for the walls.
Insulated metal panels such as those used here are quick and easy to install, and require less maintenance than other options. Rather than using a standard liner panel and insulation (bat insulation), the use of MBCI insulated panels allowed for the building to be put up quicker and also with less chance of rain stoppage.
Additionally, to reduce both artificial lighting and lighting costs from electrical consumption, 29 large translucent panels were installed on three sides of the pre-engineered metal structure in conjunction with the MBCI metal wall panels in order to maximize daylighting. The design team modified the translucent panel portion of the wall to match up with the insulated metal panels in order to keep everything in plane and to avoid any structural issues. This simplified the structural connections needed for the inside of the building by basically dovetailing it all together.
Gabriel Carhill, AIA, NCARB, Senior Registered Architect with TKDA explains that because of Seattle’s climate and the energy code requirements, the firm looked at a variety of different panels and different approaches for the pre-engineered metal building to try and achieve not only the energy efficiency portion of it, but also the durability and maintenance aspect.
He says, “Amtrak runs locomotives inside of that facility, so there’s a lot of exhaust and fume inside. Many of the activities that happen inside involve welding and off gases of exhaust, black smoke and such. So, in looking through all the systems, we’ve had issues in the past with locomotive shops or similar environment where the scrim layer on insulation or the typical metal panel assembly is damaged or in some cases ignites, depending on the activity. With that in mind, we looked at our options for insulated metal panels, and in this case, MBCI was one of the only manufacturers that had the requisite roof panels to meet local energy code.
He continues, “We needed that higher thickness insulated metal panel for the roof that nobody else seemed to have available other than MBCI. We’ve also used MBCI panels on a variety of other locomotive projects in the past. It gave us a heavier gauge inside liner panel and allowed for maintenance where they can pressure wash, clean the building and do periodic upkeep without interference. It also allowed us to push the insulation to a completely exterior insulation situation in order to meet the energy code for Seattle.”
As for the 7.2 Insul-Rib™ wall panel, the main driving factors were aesthetics and insulation. Carhill explains, “Even though it’s an industrial yard, the goal was to try and color match the previous building that had gone up on the property. Additionally, it maps like a fairly close rib profile. The insulated panel also keeps it from having a vinyl or insulated layer on the inside, or having to do a sandwich composite.”
The MBCI 7.2 Insul-Rib™ panel is a unique panel that is simply not available from other metal building manufacturers as it has a heavier gauge than is available elsewhere. According to Carhill, this is of particular importance due to the industrial equipment in the facility, namely vehicles, forklifts, heavy machinery, etc. The heavy 22-gauge wall panel prevents against damage that could otherwise occur from the impact of a forklift or other piece of heavy equipment. “It allows for a degree of abuse that won’t lead to permanent damage in the way that a lot of the liner panel systems or some of the other insulated metal panels would,” he says.
The successful project garnered several prestigious awards, including Engineering News-Record (ENR) Northwest’s Best Projects 2019 Award of Merit in the Airport/Transit category.
Performance, durability and design flexibility of the MBCI insulated panels gave the design team and contractor the peace of mind they needed to complete this high-profile project for an even more high-profile client, giving Amtrak the ability to keep their trains running safely and this project on track.
Roof: CFR in Slate Gray
Wall: 7.2 Insul-Rib™ in Slate Gray
Location: Seattle, WA
Lead Designer & Civil & MEP Engineer: TKDA
General Contractor: PCL Construction Services Inc.
Metal Panel Installer: CHG Building Systems