In any construction project, big or small, time is money. Smart executives know how to save both without sacrificing quality. A switch in the products used to manage stormwater in a recent project in Florida saved both time and money—and produced big savings for the owner of a national convenience store chain.

“This is the most comprehensive install we’ve ever done,’’ says Scott Tonitis of Elite Development Services, who estimated a $500,000 savings for the business owner. “There were a lot of obstacles, but in the end, the owner was very pleased that we were able to get it done and save him a lot of time and money.”

Tonitis and his team were charged with installing the stormwater management system for Wawa, a 24-hour convenience store that is being constructed in Sarasota, Florida. The store is expected to open in October. Gates Construction serves as the general contractor for the Philadelphia-area based chain, which opened its first Florida store in 2012. Wawa has more than 700 stores, mostly in mid-Atlantic states, and is expanding aggressively in Florida. More than 200 Wawas are expected to be open in Florida by 2022.

Several challenges faced Elite Development Services as it dug into the Sarasota project. The topography, existing landscaping, unknown encumbrances, and joint tenant on the parcel created unique problems in designing and constructing the stormwater management system. “It was a very labor-intensive project,’’ says Tonitis, who has worked in the construction business since 1985.


Groundwater at the site sat close to the surface, and several ponds at the location also needed to be filled in to create enough parking for Wawa customers. When crews started to dig lines to install the system, even more problems emerged.

Underground electrical vaults and fire suppression piping and fittings also forced Tonitis and his team to adjust the system as they encountered the encumbrances, many of which they did not discover until they started to construct the stormwater management lines.

“There were a lot of existing landscaping, trees, and utility valve vaults. We knew about some of them,’’ Tonitis says. “Others we did not. We had to go around them and modify the system as we went. We installed the system according to the engineer’s requirements for water storage, but we had to get creative in how we solved it.”

The original plan included the use of concrete products to steer water away from the property. When Tonitis discovered the site issues, he recommended the design engineer consider using plastic stormwater chambers manufactured by CULTEC.

“Instead of removing the issues, we were able to work around them,’’ Tonitis says. “We would not have been able to do that if we had been working with concrete structures. We did not lose any days because we used the CULTEC system. We snapped the system together and worked around the issues that we found. It’s an easy system to put together.”


The system redesign also saved considerable time. CULTEC’s products were available immediately, whereas cement products needed to be constructed and transported, which would have taken several months. The plastic chambers also allowed for more flexibility in the overall design.

“Concrete vault systems are expensive,’’ says Dan Gera, a technical specialist for CULTEC. “Once a system is designed with concrete, the cost savings have to be so great that the developer will go back to the developer to redesign the system. We give the consultant as much information as we can to make it a plug and play system. We don’t take credit for the design.

We pride ourselves on giving them as much information as possible.”

The parcel for the new convenience store shares space with a long-time tenant, a furniture store. The store needed to remain open during construction, which dramatically reduced the imprint in which Tonitis and his team could store and utilize the equipment. The stackability of the CULTEC chambers helped keep the footprint on which construction teams worked tight and the area clear for shoppers at the furniture store.

Despite the challenges the stormwater management team faced, the redesigned system added up to sizable savings for Wawa. “The concrete vault system was about two and a half times more costly than the CULTEC system, and the CULTEC system would save about 50 percent on labor costs,’’ Tonitis says. “I told the owner we could save about a half million dollars by using the plastic chambers. He was thrilled.”


Elite Development eventually installed one of the most elaborate systems Tonitis has ever encountered. With support from a computer-assisted program on CULTEC’s website, Bohler Engineering designed a complex system that included 21 sections of various sizes. Most stormwater systems are long, linear systems that are stitched together with feed connections. The design that was installed in the Sarasota location required a detailed map that carries stormwater away from the property in smaller, bite-size positions.

The systems include 1,023 Recharger 180HD chambers. They measure 7.33 feet and are 36 inches wide. They offer 163 gallons of storage. The mid-size chamber is typically used for installations with depth restrictions or when a larger infiltrative area is needed. In all, Elite Development laid down 116 rows to manage nearly 23,900 cubic square feet. The system was topped with 2,178 tons of crushed stone.

The new Sarasota Wawa is expected to open in October 2018. The first Wawa opened in 1964 in Folsom, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. The business ranked 34th in the Forbes list of private companies in 2015 with total revenues of $9.68 billion. Wawa employs more than 30,000 workers in more than 700 stores and offers fresh, made-to-order sandwiches and drink, beverages, coffee, and soups. Many also offer fuel services and surcharge-free ATMs.

“There were a lot of obstacles,’’ Tonitis says. “But in the end, the owner was very pleased that we were able to get it done and save him a lot of time and money.”


About the Author:

Thomas Renner, an award-winning journalist based in Connecticut, writes frequently on construction, building, and other trades.

Modern Contractor Solutions, September2018
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