Oliveira Contracting – Spring Street Salt Shed

When people think of road salt storage facilities, they usually picture large domes or giant sheds that, while sturdy and functional, are anything but architecturally noteworthy. The recently completed Spring Street Salt Shed in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood, however, is proving to be just as much of a head-turner as many of the city’s distinctive structures.

The 69-foot-high, 6,300-square-foot shed stands out for its design – which, appropriate to its function, resembles a giant salt grain. The $20 million building will store 5,000 tons of de-icing salt used by the New York City Department of Sanitation in Lower Manhattan. General contractor Oliveira Contracting Inc. of Albertson, N.Y., completed the building in October after nearly a year-and-a-half of work. The city’s Department of Design and Construction oversaw the project in conjunction with construction manager Turner Construction. 

“This design is really one of a kind in the state, and especially in the city,” Oliveira Contracting General Superintendent Larry Oliveira says. “During construction, we had scaffolding towers all around the perimeter, so no one really knew what this was going to like. Now that we’ve stripped the scaffolding down, everyone stops by to take a picture and wonders how we did it.”

For Oliveira Contracting, the answer to the question of how the building was made is not a simple one. “This project was definitely an extremely large challenge,” Project Superintendent Dennis Sanders says. 

The project was something of a “trial by fire” for Sanders, who joined the company in early 2014. The Spring Street salt shed was his first large-scale project with Oliveira Contracting, he notes.

Puzzle Solvers 

The building’s unique shape was the brainchild of Dattner Architects of New York City, who created a 3-D computer model of the building. This model became the basis for a first-of-its-kind concrete formwork system. “The walls of the building were very difficult to make,” Oliveira says. “Normally standard concrete walls are straight up and down, whether they’re 20, 40 or 60 feet high; the labor on those types of walls are much less labor intensive than on this project, because of all the angles.”

Oliveira and Sanders developed the formwork after “a lot of phone calls,” Sanders says. “This job took 11 hours of my day every day; when I went to sleep, I was still thinking about it,” he adds. “(Oliveira) and I would constantly bounce ideas off of each other, since we nor anyone else had ever done anything like this. Maybe this was a little crazy, but we had to think outside the box.” Project Manager Joel Martins was also closely involved.

Albany, N.Y.-based manufacturer Shelter Enterprises, Inc. (SEI) produced roughly 400 8-foot by 8-foot, six-foot thick, 2,500-pound pieces of polystyrene foam that were cut into different shapes based on the architectural model. Sanders frequently traveled between New York City and Albany to meet with the manufacturer to adjust the height and thickness of the high-density polystyrene pieces, as well as examine the pieces before they were shipped to the site.

Crews placed the foam pieces into the building’s steel frame with cranes. Placement was determined by a number on the back of each piece that corresponded with a grid system Oliveira Contracting developed based on the 3-D model. “We put this together like pieces in a puzzle,” Sanders adds.

Oliveira says the polystyrene forms were critical in order to achieve the building’s desired look. “We were originally going to use another form system, but once we started looking into it, I felt that using wood wouldn’t give the building the finish the client was looking for because of the angles involved,” he notes.

The company created mockups prior to any work being performed on site, Oliveira says. 

Strong Foundations

The building’s location next to the Holland Tunnel also proved challenging. Oliveira Contracting subcontractor Hayward Baker, Inc. drilled 120 caissons up to 112 feet deep to support the building, and regularly monitored the vibrations created during drilling to prevent problems within the tunnel and below adjacent buildings. “This was a tough task,” Larry Oliveira notes. 

Once the piles were in place, Oliveira Contracting placed the building’s foundation. Shoring frames were erected around the outside of the building. “This was the backbone of the project,” Sanders says. “As we poured pieces of wall it gave strength to the system as we erected upwards. Once the shoring was erected and braced, we then secured the foam panels to beams that were secured to the shoring system.”

Crews adjusted the panels to ensure they were level, and then installed architectural cones and revel strips inside and between them. After this step, crews would install and inspect rebar cages.

After the concrete was placed and cured, the polystyrene panels were stripped away, leaving the concrete in the desired shape. “We were 99.9 percent achievable on the design,” he adds. “If you take the picture from the architect’s brochure and compare it to what’s physically out there, it looks like an exact copy.”

Oliveira Contracting self-performed the entire concrete placement for the project. Harmac Rebar fabricated the rebar used for the foundation, walls, and slab, a combination of Ulma Form Works, which provided the formwork systems for the inside walls and Shelter Enterprise which provided the polystyrene foam for the outside walls, Engineered Devices Corp. (EDC) provided the shoring system, and Nycon Supply Corp. supplied the concrete for the entire project.

Carmelina and Larry Oliveira credits these vendors as well as subcontractors and other partners with the project’s success. Oliveira Contracting met weekly with the Department of Design and Construction, the Department of Sanitation, Turner Construction and Dattner Architects as the project progressed. “A general never wins a war without good soldiers,” he says. “Everybody that was involved, from the owners down to the subcontractors, was in the game, like a perfect team. We don’t look at ourselves as the heroes of the project; we look at the whole team that helped put this project together.”

Dedicated to Quality

A team mentality has been at the center of Oliveira Contracting’s projects since Carmelina Oliveira, the company’s president, founded it in 2003. Carmelina and Larry Oliveira have more than 30 years of experience in construction. 

Oliveira Contracting is a certified woman-owned business enterprise (WBE) specializing in heavy civil projects including excavation/backfill, site improvements, structural concrete, architectural concrete and roadways construction. “We like to do the sort of projects that not every contractor can take on,” Carmelina Oliveira says. “We like the challenge, and in the end we get results.”

The family-owned business has extended to a second generation of the Oliveira family. Their son, Andrew, is a controller at the company, and their second son, Joey, is a field project manager. 

The company’s portfolio includes several projects for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), including the rehabilitation of the Bleecker Street subway complex and replacement of escalators in the Bowery, East Broadway and Whitehall subway stations in New York City.  

Ongoing projects include architectural finishes on Liberty Park, part of the new World Trade Center complex. The company is also performing heavy civil work related to the MTA’s Second Avenue subway project. This work includes installing two cast-in-place ventilation buildings with architectural concrete walls from sidewalk to roof level.

Larry Oliveira says the company takes pride in all of its projects. “I’m not the type of guy to say that we’re the only ones in town who can do these sorts of projects because we’re not, but I’m always coming up with new ideas, means and methods to complete our projects successfully,” he says. 

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