A photo collage showing a metal-framed building, two men inside a warehouse looking at printed plans, and a generator on a construction site.

Construction Planning Roadmap for Warehouse and Distribution Centers

Growth in online shopping means that more retailers need dedicated eCommerce warehouse space. Commercial real estate experts anticipate needing an additional 160 million square feet of eCommerce-dedicated logistics space globally to support internet sales.

We created this construction roadmap to help you think through every phase of construction for a warehouse or distribution center. Each section includes a top-line description of that phase, tips to help you plan, and the equipment used. A little planning goes a long way toward ensuring you have what you need when you need it, so you can keep the project on schedule and within budget. 

Check out the guide and then contact Sunbelt Rentals to learn how we can help.

A person wearing a white helmet and reflective safety vest looking through a laser grade level to a construction site with a yellow crane.

Phase 1: Site Survey and Engineering

 

During the site survey and engineering, civil engineers and surveyors select a coordinate system and then stake out reference points and markers to guide the construction of everything that will be on the warehouse or distribution center site. The work starts with existing conditions, including the terrain, structures, and above- and below-ground infrastructure. If your structure includes multiple floors, you may also need horizontal control.

 

Construction Tip:

 

  • Utility terrain vehicles: If you’re using a UTV, decide in advance how you plan to power it — with gas, diesel, or electricity. If you choose electricity, make sure you know how you’ll charge the UTV before power is available on-site. Check out Sunbelt Rentals generator, hybrid, and battery energy solutions.

 

Equipment for Site Survey and Engineering Includes:

 

  • Dozers and attachments
  • Grade sticks
  • Laser-grade levels
  • Mini excavators
  • Tripods
  • Utility terrain vehicles
A man wearing a yellow construction helmet scooping dirt with a green Sunbelt Rentals excavator in front of a mountain vista.

Phase 2: Excavation, Grading, Erosion Control, and On-Site Mobilization

 

During excavation, grading, and erosion control, the excavation contractor and grading contractor work together with oversight from the general contractor to remove, add, shape, and compact soil and prepare it for the foundation. That could require a perfectly level base or one with a set slope. Once complete, the general contractor brings in the construction office trailer and on-site power and gets ready for pipe and utility line installation.

 

Construction Tips:

 

  • Solar-powered light towers: Easily light your site without the hassle of fuel or maintenance, and feel good about having no emissions, smell, or noise. You decide whether the towers turn on and off automatically at dusk and dawn or at a time of your choosing. Not enough sun in your location? Use a hybrid option that’s sometimes powered by diesel.
  • Fuel tanks: Fuel your own equipment instead of using a service with portable, double-walled fuel tanks. Available in several sizes with an environmentally friendly design and rugged, steel construction, these tanks give you extended runtimes for diesel-driven equipment.

 

Equipment for Excavation, Grading, Erosion Control, and On-Site Mobilization Includes:

 

  • Excavators
  • Generators
  • Ground protection
  • Hydroseeders
  • Light towers
  • Padfoot ride-on rollers
  • Plate compactors
  • Rock buckets
  • Skid steers
  • Smooth drum rollers
  • Straw blowers
  • Surveillance cameras
  • Tractors
  • Trench rollers
A man wearing a yellow safety vest over a red shirt digs a trench in sandy soil with a Sunbelt Rentals trencher.

Phase 3: Utility Installation

 

Utilities include power, gas, and water lines; underground cables; and sewage pipelines. First, the site utility contractor determines the exact location, depth, and layout of any existing infrastructure. Then they keep the worksite safe while overseeing electrical and plumbing contractors, who install additional underground utilities. The grading contractor ensures surfaces are level in preparation for pouring the foundation.

 

Construction Tips:

 

  • Trench box: Once you dig a trench to 4 feet or beyond, shield it with a trench box. At 20 feet or beyond, get input on excavation protective systems from a registered professional engineer. If the work area is highly trafficked, install safety rails. Inspect trenches daily before workers enter.
  • Positive shoring: If the work area includes other buildings or structures, include positive shoring, such as sheet piling and slide rails, to secure dirt and prevent movement.
  • Dewatering: Consider site conditions, especially if water is present. Dewatering or wellhead pumps can help draw water away from the excavation.
  • OSHA compliance: Consider turnkey services from Sunbelt Rentals for OSHA-compliant engineered solutions customized for your project.

 

Equipment Used During Utility Installation Includes:

 

  • Air monitoring systems
  • Excavators
  • Grade sticks
  • Laser levels
  • Pipe lasers
  • Plate compactors
  • Rough terrain forklifts
  • Tampers for light compaction
  • Transit levels
  • Trench boxes
  • Trench rollers
  • Trenchers
  • Tripods
A person scoops dirt with a green Sunbelt  Rentals excavator.

Phase 4: Foundation and Slab

 

Every structure depends on the foundation or slab that supports it. The type of building, the variety of soil, the depth to bedrock, and the environmental risks such as wind or earthquakes are all critical factors in foundation design. Ultimately, a combination of concrete and steel below keeps the structure above stable.

 

Construction Tip:

 

  • Nighttime work: To avoid excessive heat or concrete trucks stuck in traffic, many concrete pours happen at night. Plan for light towers to make sure your site is well lit when it’s time to pour. Consider a solar light tower for environmental benefits and cost savings.

 

Equipment Used During Foundation and Slab Pouring Includes:

 

  • Air compressors
  • Climate control
  • Concrete buckets
  • Concrete vibrators
  • Dust containment
  • Finishing tools
  • Floor saws
  • Forklifts
  • Green concrete saws
  • Ground heaters
  • Light towers
  • Material buckets
  • Power concrete buggies
  • Rebar benders
  • Ride-on trowels
  • Skid steers
  • Vibratory trowels
  • Walk-behind trowels
Cement and rebar pilings jut out of the ground on a construction work site.

Phase 5: Structural Skeleton

 

Whether you’re building a steel, concrete, or wood structure, this phase of construction could involve many different activities. Steel contractors and ironworkers install posts, columns, beams, and base flooring. Concrete contractors use metal forms to hold concrete walls reinforced with rebar in place while they cure. Framing and roofing contractors ensure wall, ceiling, and roof assemblies meet fire ratings specified in the architectural plans.

 

Construction Tip:

 

  • Concrete structures: Keep the equipment you used in Phase 4 if you’re building a concrete structure.

 

Equipment Used During Framing and Roofing Includes:

 

  • Air compressors
  • Hand tools
  • Light towers
  • Manlifts
  • Mobile welders
  • Rough terrain scissor lifts
  • Scaffolding
  • Shooting boom forklifts
  • Straight mast forklifts
A man wearing a white construction helmet and yellow safety vest with Sunbelt Rentals printed on the back uses a probe to monitor an HVAC system.

Phase 6: Power, Plumbing, HVAC, and Fire Protection

 

Contractors install the building’s electrical and mechanical systems during this phase of construction. Electricians install wiring, panels, and appliances. Plumbers install piping for fixtures and appliances. The HVAC contractor installs air-conditioning, heating, and ventilation systems, which also require extensive wiring and piping. Fire protection systems are also installed during this phase. The building inspector reviews all of these systems to ensure they comply with the building code.

 

Construction Tips:

 

  • Pipe inspections: Use a pipe/conduit camera to inspect pipe and conduit for damage during the project.
  • Green options: In harsh environments or sites that are remote or restricted, the All-Electric 19' Scissor Lift offers a cleaner, greener, and more productive option. The electric drive and lifetime lithium-ion battery provide twice the drive speed, longer operating time, and faster charging. Plus, you can monitor, troubleshoot, and calibrate it remotely. Because it’s electric, there are no fuel spills and significantly less noise.

 

Equipment Used During Power, Plumbing, HVAC, and Fire Safety Installation Includes:

 

  • Air compressors
  • Air hammers
  • Air handlers
  • Backhoes
  • Boom lifts
  • Electric demo hammers
  • Forklifts
  • Greenlee equipment
  • Hand-powered and die crimpers
  • Hydrostatic test pumps
  • Mini excavators
  • PVC heaters
  • Pipe threaders
  • Portable pumps
  • Scissor lifts
  • Small tools
  • Trenchers
  • Victaulic groovers
Construction workers use scissor lifts to install things on a metal building.

Phase 7: Exterior Skin and Roofing

 

A team of contractors installs exterior cladding, which can include glass, metal, stucco, brick, and stone, before the exterior is painted. The roofing contractor installs the final layer of roofing material, such as modified bitumen or rubber, and roof accessories, such as solar panels, skylights, and green roof vegetation planters.

 

Construction Tip:

 

  • Boom lift weight capacity: ANSI A92 requires platform load sense to monitor total weight. Lifts will not let operators move or place loads that exceed the rated platform capacity. So, when you’re selecting a boom lift or mobile elevating work platform, consider the total weight of everything you’ll put in the basket. Although you might previously have used a machine rated for 500 pounds, you may now need greater capacity.

 

Equipment Used During Exterior Skin and Roof Installation Includes:

 

  • Boom lifts
  • Brick and block saws
  • Carry deck cranes
  • Cold and hot pressure washers
  • Dust containment
  • Forklifts
  • Mast climbers
  • Mortar mixers
  • Paint sprayers
  • Scaffolding
  • Scissor lifts
  • Water trailers
Two construction workers wearing reflective safety vests and yellow safety helmets look at a paper construction plan in a hallway of a building that’s under construction.

Phase 8: Interior Build-Out

 

With the building’s shell completed, interior finishing contractors paint, as well as install insulation, drywall, trim, flooring, and ceiling panels. Meanwhile, electricians and plumbers complete the wiring, plumbing, lighting, and bathroom fixtures. Interior build-out also includes controls and thermostats for the HVAC equipment and mechanicals for the elevators.

 

Construction Tip:

 

  • Air quality: Maintain healthy air inside the structure while interior finishing crews work with an air scrubber that filters dust and contaminants.

 

Equipment Used During Interior Build-Out Includes:

 

  • Air scrubbers
  • Air tools and air compressors
  • Cooling, heating, and dehumidification
  • Drywall lifts
  • Electric boom lifts
  • Electric scissor lifts
  • Fans
  • Floor cleaners
  • Material handlers
  • Paint rollers
  • Rolling and stationary scaffolding
  • Tile saws
Two construction workers wearing white helmets and reflective safety vests looking at a tablet computer in front of a Sunbelt Rentals generator inside a partially finished building.

Phase 9: Commissioning and Landscaping

 

During building commissioning, the general contractor ensures that all building systems perform according to the design intent and the building is delivered according to requirements laid out during the design phase. Commissioning often includes fine-tuning systems to ensure better energy efficiency and lower operations and maintenance costs.

Landscaping contributes to aesthetics, increases value and environmental health, and helps control erosion. Landscaping can also save on costs to heat and cool a building. Installation may include paving, masonry, irrigation, planting, water features, shade structures, retaining walls, and seasonal displays.

 

Construction Tip:

 

 

Equipment Used During Commissioning and Landscaping Includes: 

 

  • Air compressors
  • Chillers
  • Cutoff saws
  • Forklifts
  • Ground protection
  • Hydroseeders
  • Hydrostatic test pumps
  • Load banks
  • Mini excavators
  • Mini track loaders
  • Mortar mixers
  • Pumps
  • Skid steer attachments
  • Skid steers
  • Straw blowers
  • Stump grinders
  • Tractors
  • Trenchers
  • Water trailers
  • Wood chippers
A man wearing a reflective safety vest and green helmet drives a pavement sweeper from Sunbelt Rentals, while another man uses an excavator to smooth a nearby dirt area.

Phase 10: Paving, Signage, and Facilities Maintenance

 

A construction project typically wraps up with the paving of driveways, parking lots, and sidewalks, as well as slabs for equipment. Crews add signage to serve both aesthetic and functional needs inside and outside. And finally, the owner must arrange for facilities maintenance over the long term.

 

Construction Tip:

 

  • Tap for tools: The Sunbelt Rentals app, available in the Apple App Store and Google Play, makes it easy to research, reserve, and rent the equipment you need from the palm of your hand.

 

Equipment Used During Paving, Signage Installation, and Facilities Maintenance Includes:

 

  • Air compressors
  • Compactors
  • Drum rollers
  • Floor buffers
  • Floor cleaners
  • Forklifts
  • Manlifts
  • Mini excavators
  • Scissor lifts
  • Skid steer attachments
  • Skid steers
  • Towable manlifts
  • Trenchers
  • Water trucks
  • Wheel loaders

Contact Sunbelt Rentals to learn how we can help you plan your next warehouse or distribution center build.