When John Miller - the owner and president of Big Creek Construction in Lorena, TX - started dreaming up designs for his company's new production and operation headquarters, he had two specific goals in mind: 1) He wanted the entire operation to be energy efficient and cost effective; 2) He wanted the facility to be aesthetically pleasing.
A few years later, Miller believes he has achieved exactly what he set out to do. "A lot of people have come down here and looked at our new place because it is so innovative," says Miller. "This is something that I have been wanting to do for years - and I finally did it. I built a place that is pleasing to the eye, and it's very work-efficient, too."
Efficiency by design
The innovative new facility for Big Creek Construction started with a 185-acre tract of undeveloped farmland southwest of Waco. The property's size and close proximity to Interstate 35 made it ideally suited to become the home for all of Big Creek Construction's operations, which include about 350 employees, an HMA production facility, and four paving crews.
"We decided to put our whole complex in there, from the asphalt plant to our maintenance shops to our offices, plus facilities for our pre-cast concrete operation," says Miller.
The front 35 acres were transformed into a park for exotic wildlife. That's where Miller keeps 15 axis deer, seven blackbuck antelope, six red deer, and the two water buffalo that are named George and Gracie after George Burns and Gracie Allen.
In an effort to make the property aesthetically pleasing, Big Creek Construction also planted a number of oak trees on the property. Miller's concern for making the property pleasing to the eye was not only for the benefit of visitors and staff members.
It was also an effort to be a good neighbor. Out of consideration for the residential properties that are situated behind the HMA production facility, Big Creek Construction built a 20-foot berm on the hilltop to block sound and to keep the plant and its storage silos out of the neighbors' sight lines.
"The berm cuts off most of the noise for our neighbors, which they really appreciate when we are working at night," Miller says. "We try to be good neighbors."
When drawing plans for the plant and all of its associated buildings and structures, Miller took a close look at the lay of the land and used its geologic features to his advantage.
About 15 feet of dirt and rock were cut out of an already low-lying area to provide the foundation for the HMA plant. The cold feed bins were positioned with their openings even with the top of that cut. The stockpiles were then placed on the elevated area just beyond the cold-feed bins.
"With this arrangement, all of the materials stockpiles are close to the cold-feed bins. In addition, the aggregates and RAP sit on solid rock that has a 6% to 10% grade. So the stockpiles drain really well to keep the moisture down in our materials," says Miller.
That layout cuts down on drying time required for aggregates and RAP, and it also saves on fuel and wear-and-tear on the front-end loaders that put material into the cold-feed bins.
"The loaders that handle both the virgin material and the RAP do not need to go up a ramp to get to the cold-feed bins. Instead, they come downhill loaded with material to the cold-feed bins and then go back uphill empty to the stockpiles," explains Miller. "It reduces equipment maintenance and saves a little bit of fuel, too."
Other built-in features in the HMA production facility's layout were designed with personnel in mind. The control house, for example, sits 14 feet above the ground, providing a clear view of the entire facility for the operator.
The plant's laboratory, situated near the truck load-out area, is also elevated to allow lab personnel to walk out and easily collect quality control/quality assurance samples from the top of the departing trucks.