Unable to remain on the sidelines for long, Steve and Tracie returned to the market in 2007 purchasing an unfinished convenience store and extensively remodeling and modernizing it. Old customers were very happy to see Fast Eddy’s back and it proved once again to be very successful. Building upon this, Steve and Tracie, along with their son Zach who had now joined the management team, decided to develop a new chain, this time taking it up to an even higher level of quality, service, and selection than before. Their idea was to build the largest and most extravagant convenience stores ever constructed in the state of Idaho. Hiring local architect Roger Foster to design a distinctive new convenience store (C-store) building, the new chain would include multi-island Chevron gas pumps, drive-thru service, and car washes. Quick lubes would also be featured at some locations.
At the smaller sites, they opted to install dual roll-over car washes accompanied by two self-wash bays located in a separate small building in the rear of the C-stores. However at larger sites, Steve and Tracie decided to expand their concept to include developing the largest and highest quality car washes ever seen before in the state of Idaho. Existing washes in the Boise metro area were either old full-service types or large express models. After conducting a great deal of research they elected to build large up-scale “Flex” car washes. The Flex-type car wash concept was new to the Boise area and seemed ideal to meet the needs of this rapidly growing and economically diverse community. Their plans were to combine the car wash with a specialty quick lube configured to handle the largest RV’s on the road.
After meeting us at the 2010 ICA Show in Vegas, Steve decided to contract our company, Car-Wash-Architect.com, an architectural design firm specializing in full-size car wash projects, to create the design for this large new prototype Flex-wash and specialty quick lube. We had successfully designed a very large number of car washes throughout the southern part of the country, but this was the first one we designed for a primarily cold weather climate. It was also our largest and most complex car wash and lube design project to date.
Steve and Tracie’s interesting concept allowed our office to create an exciting new cold weather wash design that we had been contemplating for years, and on a larger scale than we ever anticipated. The end result was something our office came to term a “Super Flex-Plus”, a truly colossal project that required over 100 sheets of blueprints to detail exactly how to construct it. Our design philosophy has always been to create designs that are highly functional car washes with great traffic flow, but still possess outstanding street appeal to get the customers in the door, and do it all without breaking the bank. To illustrate exactly how we accomplished it, a complete synopsis of the design process of the project is explained in the sections that follow.
The area selected for the new project was in the City of Meridian, located just to the west of the city limits of Boise. As Idaho’s third-largest city and the state’s fastest-growing, it has seen an impressive 115% increase in population since the year 2000. Currently it has just over 75,000 residents and a surrounding metropolitan population of some 624,000. The climate is semi-arid with hot and dry summers with temperatures often exceeding 100°F, annual precipitation of less than 10 inches, and long cold winters with occasional light snowfall and strong winds. These long cold winters were a major determining factor that influenced final design.
The site selected by the owners was part of an undeveloped business park at the intersection of two busy roads directly adjacent to a major high school, thousands of homes and businesses, and one block off of I-84, the major interstate through the Boise area. Since the owners were the first to purchase property in this business park, size was only limited to the requirements of the design. The end result was a roughly ‘L’ shaped site with 550 feet of frontage along the main road, and 350 feet along the secondary street with a total of 3.85 acres. Adequate power, water and sewer were already installed along the main street. A total of 3 curb-cuts accessing the site already existed, along with 2 planned service roads connecting to the rest of the business park at the rear. We eliminated one of the curb cuts and adjusted the location of another to better accommodate the main access road through the site. The owners got approval to build a new right turn lane at the street intersection along with a deceleration lane into the main entrance of the property allowing easier access. The site was subdivided into two parcels allowing one each to be a separate business entity, as well as allowing 2 large pole signs to be installed.
SITE AND INTERNAL LAYOUTS
Our first attempt at the site layout for the overall project was originally reversed with the C-store on the corner and the car wash and lube to its left. However the owners wanted the car wash and lube to be the site’s main feature as well as to less impact the existing residential neighborhood residences across the street since the C-store’s operating hours are much later than the car wash and lube’s. It was decided early in the design process to combine the car wash and lube into one large building. After several layouts, the best solution for the site was to place the car wash stacking in the front, the building as close as possible to the street, the car wash tunnel next to the corner, the quick lube to the left with stacking behind the building, and the free vacuums spaces at the rear of the property (but still highly visible from the secondary street). This was done to maximize traffic flow and functionality of the design, as well as to minimize the required square footage of the property.
It was decided early in the design process that the internal layout of the building would be divided up into 5 distinct sections with rooms grouped together to maximize the functionality and flow of the design, as well as to minimize the building envelop required. Starting at the far right, the first section is the Wash Tunnel. It was placed at the corner of the property to allow the maximum stacking possible and for the wash process to be easily seen from both streets. To the left of that is the Wash Customer Lobby and Equipment Room behind it along with numerous smaller associated rooms. Adjoining that to the left are 4 drive-thru lanes forming a huge internal Full-Service and Detailing area. On the other side to the left is the car wash/lube support area section. The finally section at the far left is the 3 Quick Lube Bays.
BUILDING FAÇADE DESIGN
Our consulting architect Roger Foster was the designer of the prototype for the owner’s new convenience store chain, one of which was also constructed at this site. The owners instructed us at Car-Wash-Architect.com to utilize the basic look and materials of this prototype so the two adjacent buildings would reinforce and complement each other. The challenge here was that the C-store was much smaller in scale than the new car wash/lube building, so it was a little difficult to get the proportions correct and maintain the appeal and interest Roger was able to achieve with his original design. However after a little trial and error it finally all came together, resulting in a large attractive building stretching some 175 feet in width and up to 146 feet in depth, and featuring four tall towers of 3 different interesting designs.
An effort was made to limit the number of long straight plain walls, so all of the walls pop in-and-out, and parapet heights go up-and-down in order to break the large rectangular building up and provide more interest and road appeal. Manufactured stone was utilized at the base of all of the exterior walls, and an oversized cornice molding was placed at the top of the parapet. The owners dictated that all of the overhead doors were to be of insulated glass so potential customers could see in day or night. Large custom-built metal sunshades were installed at all of the towers and many door and windows feature large striped canvas awnings over them. Colors inside and out are bright and contrasting with rich dark brown, sand yellow and deep pumpkin orange. The standing seam metal roofs on the towers were painted dark brown.
The end result was an outstanding architectural design that has proven to be extremely appealing to customers without sacrificing any functionality. Unquestionably eye-catching, the over-the-top design delivers a unique fresh appearance and strong corporate branding to readily identify the chain and its message of quality and service. Individual areas of the project will be further discussed in the sections that follow below.
PAY GATE SHELTER
The very attractive and colorfully Pay Gate Shelter is the icon of the facility. It sits right on the building setback line (25 feet) off on the property line on Overland Road. At over 30 feet in height and some 50 feet in width, its appearance is unique and distinctive. Clearly visible for over 1/2 mile in all directions as well as the nearby interstate highway, it acts as a giant bill-board for potential customers with large signage on both major facades. There are 3 stacking lanes with a capacity of approximately 20 cars. The owner selected POS equipment by DRB. Employees man the POS terminals to assist customers to speed up the process and to up-sell featured services. A warming room was placed in the design for the employees’ comfort.
The entrance to the large Wash Tunnel features a Loading Porch under the large 40 feet high tower with glass doors on both sides that can be opened in summertime and closed in winter to protect from the cold and often strong winds common to Idaho. Overall Tunnel length is 146’-4” with a 134’-6” long conveyor. Tunnel width is 19’-4” increasing up to 22’-0” at the entrance, exit and middle (where the windows are located). The drain trench is a new custom-design self-cleaning type specifically designed by Car-Wash-Architect.com for the project. The owners decided to equip the facility with top-of-the-line fully-electric wash equipment manufactured by MacNeil. Installation was by MacNeil’s local rep BUDDCO Distributors out of Salt Lake City. Extrutech plastic wall liner panels were utilized full-height on walls and entirely covering the ceiling as well giving the completed Tunnel a very clean and bright finished appearance. All lights installed in the Tunnel are highly efficient LED fixtures.
A large Equipment Room is located adjacent to the Tunnel. Since electric wash equipment was utilized, the room’s overall size was able to be reduced to a smaller size than that required for an equivalent hydraulic system. One of the Vacutech vacuum units was installed in the center of the space supplying the rear 2 rows of the internal vacuum drops. This unit is to be utilized only on weekends and other busy days. Space and plumbing for water reclaim equipment was provided but not installed, but 3 underground reclaim tanks and their associated plumbing system was (Note: Idaho has sufficient water resources at present and the city is installing a ‘grey-water’ line throughout the city. This will be connected to the site in the near future).
Due to the very cold weather during the long winters in Idaho, all after-care services are performed inside of the building in the very spacious Full-Service and Detailing Bay. This large space has a total area of more than 5,000 sq. ft. with 4 drive-thru lanes able to comfortably accommodate up to 16 cars at a time. In the farthest lane a Broadway Shiner machine was also installed. All of the 8 entry/exit doors of the space are 12 feet tall and of insulated glass allowing full view from the street of the activity within and are lit-up at night. Each designated space for vehicles has 2 vacuum drops and air lines hanging from the ceiling. Instead of paint, the floor was finished in very attractive porcelain tile that continues halfway up the walls. To keep employees comfortable, spot heaters are installed at each space. A low block wall was placed between 2 of the lanes for half of the length of the room to allow boat washing and detailing in the summers.
Once customers park their vehicles, they can proceed into the large and very comfortable Customer Lobby accessed via a door inside the Full-Service and Detailing Bay. With an area of more than 800 sq. ft., the spacious over-sized Lobby is full-tiled with padded oversized comfortable chairs and tables, multiple large TV monitors, 2 restrooms and a refreshment center. Huge windows face both the Wash Tunnel and the Full-Service and Detailing Bay allowing unimpeded visual access across the entire length and breadth of the Car Wash, enhancing the spaciousness and interest for of the facility for customers. Free high speed wireless internet connection is provided with a long very attractive built-in granite computer counter facing all of the action in the Full-Service and Detailing Bay. There are also 2 custom-made water-guns for kids to spray down the cars as they pass by installed in the Tunnel windows.
On the other side of the Full-Service and Detailing Bay at the middle and rear of the building is the car wash/lube service support section. The primary Vacutech vacuum unit is installed in a small room here servicing the front 2 rows of drops in the car wash and the drops in the quick lube bays. Next to it a corridor connects the car wash to the quick lube parts of the building. Due to the size of the staff, a good-sized Employee Break Room was included in the design along with men’s and women’s employee restrooms. Its large size also allows it to be utilized for meetings and training purposes. Behind it is a large Towel Cleaning room equipped with several large extractor and dryer units, and racks for towel and detail chemical storage. In the far rear of the building is a large 2-story Storage Room.
The specialty up-scale Quick Lube features 3 over-sized Oil Change Bays and a full-size Basement below to allow easy quick access to all types of vehicles. Again instead of paint, the floor of the Bays was finished in very attractive porcelain tile that continues halfway up the walls. The poured concrete deck over steel decking under the floor was increased to 50 ton capacity to handle the largest RV’s on the road (this is double the capacity required to handle normal sized vehicles). The 2 outer Bays had their entry and exit doors increased to 14 feet in height again to accommodate even the tallest RV’s on the road. Each of the 3 bays have 2 vacuum drops hanging from the ceiling above. To keep employees comfortable, spot heaters are installed at key locations. A heavy-duty small elevator is built-in to one corner of the Bays to allow heavy equipment and supplies to be lifted from the Lube Basement below.
During the lube process customers exit their vehicles and relax in the large fully-tiled Lube Lobby. It features high ceilings, large TV monitor, a restroom, and numerous large windows to see all of the activity in the Oil Change Bays and Full-Service and Detailing area of the car wash, as well as outside, allowing the room to appear much more spacious than it is. A large Cashier area adjoins the Lobby with an enclosed office for the lube manager behind it. There is more than adequate stacking with 12 vehicle capacity at the entry, and 3 at the exit. All oil change equipment was purchased and installed by Devon.
At the rear of the site are 22 free-vacuums spaces for customers designed in a way that allows access only for vehicles directly exiting the Wash Tunnel. All of the spaces have the unique curved Vacutech Arch Stanchion Systems installed on 12 foot wide parking spaces angled at a 60 degree angle to allow easy access and one-way traffic. The Stanchions were all custom-painted the owners’ signature pumpkin orange color. Two Vacutech vacuum units service the spaces, 11 per side, each in its own small enclosed structure (to protect them from the cold windy winters) that match and complement the main building perfectly. Each of the small vacuum structures has a built-in vending machine for car care products.
The Russell Corporation was selected to do the construction. One of the largest and best contactors in Idaho, they proved to be an excellent choice and were able to complete the project in a tight 6 month timeframe, even with unseasonable rainy weather that delayed construction efforts at key phases of the project. The owners led efforts to design unique signage that worked perfectly to complement the buildings, and to brand and highlight the featured services. All of the beautiful interior finishes were also selected by the owners.
The completed facility finally opened its doors in early January of this year. Impressive to behold, it has proved to be very appealing to customers new and old alike with substantial street presence, excellent traffic flow, great organization of spaces, and a unique very attractive and colorful facade. This incredible new addition to Fast Eddy’s rapidly growing chain brings a level of service and comfort to local residents that they have never experience before in any other car wash or lube in the region. The owners plan to open several more of these large Flex washes and lubes in the future in the Boise metropolitan area.
Christopher Crawford is with Car-Wash-Architect.com. He will be writing additional articles in upcoming issues concerning designing and constructing new car washes, as well as renovating existing ones. You can visit his company’s website for more information about the services they offer, or call them at (561) 212-3364.