General Contracting

You heard it a million times as a kid: “Close the door or you’ll let the heat out!” These early attempts at teaching you responsibility have a very practical effect, so hopefully, you listened.

In the past few months, we’ve discussed where you should target maintenance and inspection for your commercial and industrial building or facility, with a focus on cold storage facilities. After decades of client projects, these are the most common areas we’ve seen building components fail and cause damage:

  • Vapor barriers
  • Condensation
  • Door Seals

Along with vapor barriers and areas of condensation, door seals cause owners the biggest headache. From creating temperature fluctuations in cold storage to increased energy bills in commercial businesses, most owners underestimate the impact of faulty door seals.

Door Seals

Why Door Seals Fail

Doors are placed where they are for a reason: an access port between two areas is needed. Their very nature means they often see a lot of use, and even doors that aren’t used that often can still have failing components.

Your most used doors, however, are the obvious point for the most common failures. Office building front doors, for instance, often cause building owners increased energy costs and are overlooked for thorough maintenance.

You can’t avoid wear on doors and their parts — a building is barraged from the moment it’s constructed. The sun damages buildings and UV light can penetrate deeply into components and cause wear and damage. Cleaning agents and cold temperatures can damage rubber and other materials used for door seals.

As the Certified Commercial Property Inspectors Association points out, preventive maintenance is the best way to avoid costly repairs, but “predictive maintenance” is also important. Predictive maintenance refers to repairs and maintenance performed because the building needs it, as areas of wear are discovered during an inspection.

Docking bays and loading dock doors in commercial distribution and manufacturing facilities often receive a lot of mileage without proper inspection and replacement. Particularly with cold storage facilities, leaking docking bays can be the first step in a product flow with more leaks than a sinking ship.

The main point, however, is that door seals fail for two basic reasons:

  • Unavoidable damage
  • Unrepaired damage

A proper building inspection and maintenance routine is vital for all buildings.


What Should You Look for During Building Inspection?

Every facility needs a good maintenance and inspection schedule, and commercial and industrial cold storage maintenance specifically should be done competently and place a high level of emphasis on leaking doors. Annual inspections should be the minimum for your facility.

Broken and cracked door seals are the most obvious problem and a visual inspection should be your start. Have you noticed higher than normal energy costs? Are you having frost form around freezer or cold storage doors?

Not all leaks are visible to the naked eye. In our professional inspections, we employ thermal imaging. You can read about it more in-depth here, and this example photo shows how we use thermal imaging to locate areas of heat transference.

Thermal Imaging

This image shows a pipe leaving a freezer room. The color should be more uniform, and blue areas are the coldest areas and are barely visible here. Looking at this image, we would know that this is a major weak point in the system because, at 92 degrees, it’s way too hot.


What Can Failing Door Seals Cause?

An improperly sealed door allows air to travel from one side of the door to the other — which, especially in climate-controlled and cold storage facilities, can have devastating effects. Commercial, retail, and office buildings should also be mindful of door leaks, however.

Leaking air is leaking money. The National Institute of Standards and Technology agrees that building envelope leaks waste utilities and creates larger energy bills. As you were warned when you were a kid, stop letting all the air out!


What Can You Do About Failing Door Seals?

Repair or replacement is your only option for faulty door seals. It’s not as easy as running down to the nearest home improvement store and buying some weather-stripping, though.

After thorough and careful inspection, the proper seals and materials need to be used. Our teams of experienced professionals use this time to choose materials that offer an improvement over the previous materials, if available.

When repairing door seals for clients, our teams also make sure the newly installed seals perform up to par. This extra layer of quality assurance keeps our clients’ energy bills low and their cold storage freezer room temperature stable.

We’re here to help. Our experienced crews can inspect your facility and our in-depth consultation helps you decide what repairs and maintenance your business needs.

If you need a partner for your next project or an expert consultation about your current facility, contact GALBRAITH today.








General Contracting

Horticulture depends on the weather — or at least it used to. Indoor grow facilities offer a new-age solution to one of agriculture’s biggest challenges. It was announced in January of 2022 that the world’s biggest indoor farming operation is planned for our home state of Pennsylvania.


They’ll be growing USDA certified organic, chemical-free produce and producing bass that meets stringent Best Aquaculture Practices requirements. They expect to massively reduce water and land usage in comparison to a traditional facility producing the same amount of produce, while also eliminating 1.7 million miles of supply chain transportation.


Agriculture has been a slow-to-automate industry, but more and more people are talking about indoor farming operations and grow facilities. What do they offer? What should you consider before building one?


  • Sustainable Farming
  • Climate-Controlled Farming Environment
  • Maximum Usable Space
  • Considerations: Locations, Energy Requirements



Sustainable Farming

Earth’s population recently reached an estimated 8 billion people this year and is expected to reach over 9 billion by 2050 — that’s a lot of mouths to feed. Farmers and commercial agricultural businesses are busy trying to find ways to maximize food production while maintaining a finite amount of resources. All while making the entire process more efficient.


Limited available farmland and increased demand have made some intrepid owners and construction companies look upward. The USDA believes vertical farming provides viable solutions for increasing food security across the US and they have established grants to provide for research into the method. Indoor farming offers can also offer massive benefits to the environment.


Indoor farming facilities are a sustainable solution for agricultural businesses. As Forbes points out, hydroponic growing has eliminated the need for soil. This reduces water and soil pollution and erosion and allows for more efficient use of the land that is available.


Hydroponic growing operations have also pioneered fertilizers that don’t leech into the foods and are made from pure, less harmful ingredients than previous fertilizers. In contrast, more traditional agricultural fertilizing methods have caused disastrous effects on the environment, including being one of the largest producers of air pollution.


Indoor farming provides a less damaging, sustainable solution. Indoor vertical farming has been shown to use up to 95% less water than traditional farming, 90% less land, and up to 80% more produce is grown for the same amount of area. Crops can also be grown and harvested all year — even a Pennsylvania winter won’t stop production. That brings us to the next point: climate control.


Climate Controlled Farming Environment

Since humans began cultivating food, farmers have talked about the weather. When people began farming, about 12,000 years ago, society completely changed. Horticulture prompted people to develop long-lasting settlements, cities, kingdoms, and countries.


A “bad year” for weather could kill thousands, like the Megadrought of 1540 in Europe. Northern Italy went without rain for 200 days, and other European locations experienced the same lack of precipitation.


Across Europe rivers dried up, farmers’ fields developed cracks so big people could get stuck in them, and wildfires raged across the land. People honestly thought it was the End Times and with good cause — estimates mark that half a million people died across Europe during the 1540 Megadrought.


A climate-controlled horticultural facility avoids cold snaps, heat waves, and destructive insect plagues. Innovations in LED lighting efficiency are also being driven by the surge in indoor farming. It’s just a fact, 24-hour, perfectly climate-controlled temperatures offer the highest yields with far lower environmental impact.



Maximum Usable Space

While all vertical farms are “indoor farms,” not all indoor farms are vertical farms. Vertical farms seek to fully maximize available space by growing upwards, but even non-vertical indoor farming operations can create more produce than traditional methods. That’s due to hydroponic growing, climate-controlled environments, and more efficient use of even flat space.


Indoor vertical farming in particular is estimated to produce about 10 acres worth of produce in about 1 and ¼ acres of land. This maximizes production in otherwise very limited spaces or greatly increases the production of the land already being used for farming.


It’s estimated that about 50% of Earth’s habitable land is taken up by farmland. Imagine how much more food could be grown, and how many resources would be saved, if a fraction of that farmland were converted to indoor farms.



Considerations: Locations, Energy Requirements

One of the largest draws for indoor farming is the tremendously reduced travel for time-sensitive produce. This reduces vehicle emissions and demands on other parts of society’s infrastructure. Building an indoor farm close to urban areas also provides a fresh, cost-effective option to bring healthier food to more people. Indoor farms can also be constructed on established farms to further maximize their production. There are limits that must be considered, however.


Opponents of indoor farming site the massive energy required for these operations as a downside. Depending on the crop being grown, up to 16 hours of lighting is often necessary for maximum growth. While LED lighting options are increasingly efficient, that is still a lot of necessary energy — sometimes well over 50% of the entire facility’s energy bill. And that’s only lighting.


Indoor farms benefit from highly technical, advanced equipment. Systems are available that can even detect when a crop is ready to harvest and can automatically begin doing so. HVAC systems to provide ventilation and maintain temperatures and water recycling systems are just the beginning.


Some companies look to green energy sources for a solution to this issue. In fact, the Pennsylvania-planned largest indoor farm in the world will be run with 100% renewable energy sources. Solar power, hydropower, and wind turbines offer alternative energy sources. Some indoor horticulture facilities also use a mix of natural sunlight and only turn the lights on when the sun fails.



Indoor Farming is the Future of Farming

Innovations continue to drive efficiency into indoor farming. The Diffusion of Innovation theory forecasts a greater adaptation of this revolutionary method, especially as demand increases but supply stagnates.


Planning and building a successful, profitable, efficient indoor farming operation requires a team of knowledgeable, adaptable, and experienced architects, contractors, and suppliers. We find that owners often need guidance as to what components to use like choosing factory-insulated metal panels rather than saving money on a cheaper option.


At GALBRAITH, we welcome the chance to help you create an amazing grow facility that will forge the path for other undaunted pioneers. Contact us for more information or a consultation.



General Contracting

Remember some of your earliest science classes in school?  Earth’s water cycle is a complicated process that contains all three forms of water: liquid, solid, and gas. While water in all forms is a constant consideration in construction, it can cause disastrous effects in a building if left unchecked.

In the past, we discussed the top 3 areas most cold storage facilities, and most buildings really, have issues. This time we’re going to go in-depth about one of water’s most damaging processes: condensation. We’ll discuss a few important, and interesting, topics including:

  • What is condensation and how does it affect a building?
  • What areas are most commonly affected?
  • What can you do about condensation in your facility?

What is Condensation and How Does It Affect a Building?

Water moves in many forms through every building. Cold storage buildings and facilities are more vulnerable to water, just due to having areas where cold air inevitably meets warmer air. Every building needs to be designed and constructed for proper water flow: from a wood-framed residential house to the largest pre-engineered metal buildings.

When constructing a building, vapor barriers remain one of the most effective means of controlling the movement of water in its gaseous state. Condensation, however, is the process of water “condensing” from water vapor into liquid water, and a vapor barrier can’t be your only defense.

Water condenses in two ways, both of which can occur in the deep cracks and crevices of your building. First, water vapor is heated water, so when it meets an area of colder temperatures and cools down, the molecules slow their movement and form back into liquid water droplets. This is called the “dew point.”

Second, just like oversaturated ground, the air can be full of enough water molecules that it simply cannot accept anymore. When that happens in a cloud it rains. When it happens in your building it “rains” in places you don’t want it to! Cold storage facilities in particular have many junctures where an area with one temperature meets another. Incorrect, faulty, or insufficient water control will lead to building damage, rot, and bacterial and mold growth.

Most Often Affected Areas of a Building

The Air Infiltration and Ventilation Center lists the 5 sources of moisture in a commercial or industrial building as moisture intrusion, moisture created in the building itself, vapor diffusion, air leaks, and capillarity. “Capillarity” describes the phenomenon you see on some buildings that seem to always be wet around the foundation. Water tension and the natural porosity of construction materials allow water to seep in on the foundations of these buildings, but it doesn’t stop there.

The changing seasons can also create unforeseen condensation issues and roofs are one of the most problematic areas of any building. Snow drifts, torrential rain, heavy winds, and the constant barrage of the sun eventually wear down even the Butler Manufacturing MR-24®

— with over 50 years of proven in-place performance.

Also, areas where heat exchange occur are obvious culprits. Doorways, windows, the walls between cold-storage areas and the rest of a building, and the roofs and walls of any climate-controlled building. Even non-climate-controlled buildings can accumulate lots of condensation!

What Can You Do About Condensation in Your Building

● Building Maintenance
● Vapor Barriers
● Ventilation
● Insulation

Building Maintenance

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: your first line of defense is building maintenance. A knowledgeable contractor, like GALBRAITH Pre-Design, can inspect your building for issues — regardless of who built it.

Sometimes, however, proper maintenance is missed or skipped, or an untrained eye failed to see an area of concern. Whatever the cause, condensation begins forming: creating pooling water, draining water, dripping water, and all sorts of other unsightly and destructive water collection problems.

For instance, we discussed how unknown issues can cause damage to your new metal roof. While some of our roofing systems have decades of guaranteed performance, you should still consistently check them to assure that performance. One good inspection can save you thousands in repair costs.

Vapor Barriers

Vapor barriers, as discussed, work to control the movement of water through a building, but they can also become worn or damaged, and then fail. They need to be repaired or replaced by a competent contractor.

Vapor barriers are located inside your roof and walls, so they’re not easily spotted as being problem areas. At GALBRAITH, we use special cameras to pinpoint areas of temperature changes and find where heat and cold loss is happening. A good inspector combines this technique with construction knowledge and reliably locates any issues.


Proper ventilation is another method for controlling water movement in commercial and industrial structures. Keeping water and air moving, hopefully to a designated place rather than within your walls, creates the best possible outcome for your building.

Designing your facility, whether a cold-storage structure or not, should include careful attention to ventilation. Strategically placed, well-operating ventilation systems can’t reverse previous damage, but they can prevent further or future damage.


We often think of insulation as just a way to keep heat or cold air inside, but it does so much more. Energy Star agrees that proper insulation lowers energy costs, and it also keeps ventilation systems, interior structures, and areas of heat exchange from temperature fluctuations that lead to condensation.

Ventilation systems without proper insulation collect condensation, which leads to far more disastrous effects. Water pooling can create bacterial growth, including black mold. Your building’s roof is the most common area of concern for insulation and other issues, but the entire building should be inspected at regular intervals.

As we showed in our article on repairing metal roofs, insulation and water problems that are not properly corrected can result in even bigger issues.  As a Butler Builder, GALBRAITH can repair or completely replace your old, leaking roof, and this is the perfect opportunity to add new, efficient, and thick insulation to control your condensation problems from the top down.

What can you do about condensation in your facility?

You don’t have to scrap a facility and build an entirely new one! Water damage can often be repaired, and your condensation issue may not have even caused too much damage yet. Early intervention is your best bet, as it’s only going to get more expensive to fix later on.

For example, GALBRAITH was contacted to repair the water damage on this building.

Condensation Damage            Condensation Damage

Using our expertise, we removed and repaired any damaged areas. We then went about reconstructing the client’s facility in a way to avoid future water damage in the same area.

Condensation Mediated

A professional and experienced contractor can assess your home, commercial building, pre-engineered metal building, or whatever other type of facility you may have. Make sure to ask about the contractor’s experience and certifications, but don’t put off necessary maintenance and inspections!

Need a building inspection or maintenance? Contact GALBRAITH at (717) 776-6337 or

General Contracting

What word pops to mind when you think about the past few years? Unprecedented was the buzzword for a while. Volatile definitely applies, and while there are probably a few more colorful words you’d choose, interesting is a good middle ground.


Industries experienced disruptions in staffing and supply lines that we haven’t seen in decades. Through the tumultuous changing tides, construction companies held their ground. Your business did as well, and you need to start a new construction project soon.


Even after all we’ve experienced as a society, there’s a new storm looming on the horizon — and, like interesting, it also starts with an “i.”


Inflation and its effects are gaining traction in the news, in polite conversation, and probably in your bank account. And it’s breeding panic. You can’t stop business, however, and your business may still be growing, or need a new location, or you just need major renovations. What can you do to support your business and not give in to the hysteria?


Well, you’re in the right place. We’ve got some tips to help you get through this, but first, let’s look at exactly what’s going on in construction.



How Inflation is Affecting Construction


In February of this year, the Associated General Contractors of America reported that the producer price index for construction was an amazingly high 19.6% for 2021. That means contractors paid 19.6% more for construction materials in 2021 than in the previous year.


To put that in perspective, 2019 had actually seen a 1.8% drop in prices, and 2020 only saw a 4.4% increase. In contrast, Deloitte, one of the biggest accounting firms in the world, notes a strong 2022 for construction companies and a great outlook for 2023. Construction projects are steadily increasing in number, despite the increase in supply prices.


That makes sense. Your business is growing, or your old building needs renovations or a new roof — the need for construction continues, regardless of product prices. How can you prepare for inflation’s effect on your next healthcare, commercial, industrial, food processing, or any other type of construction project?


  • Planning Early
  • Be Adaptable and Versatile
  • Use Sustainably Sourced, Energy-Efficient Building Components


Planning Early

If you fail to plan, you should plan to fail. Some people act on the spur of the moment: they realize their business needs a general contractor and they want the work completed yesterday. We can move mountains and make amazing things happen (and safely, too), but quickly is often a thing of the past.


Anticipating your business needs and contacting your trusted construction company early has several benefits:

  • A higher chance of securing your ideal materials
  • We can forecast construction issues
  • Your construction team can plan project purchases when the timing is best


Rarely does an owner or client come to us with a blank check for a construction project. Value engineering uses all our years of experience, up-to-date industry knowledge, and an experienced team to create the best outcome.


You can’t rush greatness, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and contacting your construction team early will help you plan and prepare for a successful and satisfying building experience.


Be Adaptable and Versatile

As we talked about in our blog, 10 Most Popular Green Building Techniques, a good construction company will know about materials and ideas you may not have considered before (take a look at mycelium in the list for an example of a truly interesting building innovation). Being “adaptable and versatile” goes further than that though.


Constantly fluctuating supplies are just a part of life — this is where you need to select a construction company you can trust. Your contracted builder has industry connections and knowledge that help them prepare and plan for an ever-changing situation.


For example, GALBRAITH’s decades of construction experience means we’ve been working with suppliers, subcontractors, and other construction professionals for years, sometimes decades. We will be able to give you honest, accurate, and data-driven recommendations and timelines.


Maybe you’ve dreamed of a certain type of mechanized hangar door, but the supplier just isn’t able to fill your order. We leverage our relationships and knowledge to find the next best option. With our reputation at stake, you know we’re giving you an honest assessment.


Use Sustainably Sourced, Energy-Efficient Building Components

The materials used in your project, how they are sourced, and their current prices greatly affect the overall cost of construction. Inflation is affecting all areas of life, and 90% of a building’s costs happen after construction is complete. You and your contractor can plan ahead to help your business face these challenges.


Wood is a traditional construction material, and some proponents claim that it is a safe, sustainable building material. As Time reports, however, the over-reliance on wood in the U.S. has led to supremely high lumber prices and young forests that are unable to remove as much carbon as the harvested mature forests they replaced.


That stands in stark contrast to steel buildings. The recycling rate of structural steel is over 98%, and 95% of the water used in making steel is also recycled. Steel can be recycled over and over. Also, over the past 30 years, the steel industry has worked hard to reduce emissions and its carbon footprint by over 30%.


Builders used to cite steel’s higher initial cost as a reason to consider wood, but that cost difference has closed, and steel prices are continuing to drop. Regardless of that, there is still operating maintenance and costs to consider.


Steel buildings and building systems do not get termites, do not warp and change with water damage, and won’t rot. A metal roofing system, like the Butler® MR-24® for example, can even have over 50 years of consistent performance.


Steel building systems are also extremely energy-efficient — green building is important for your maintenance costs down the line. Choosing finishes that increase UV reflection can decrease the amount of energy it takes to cool a building by up to 30%. This is exceedingly important as, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, energy prices will continue to rise.


Why Choose GALBRAITH Pre-Design, Inc.?


At GALBRAITH, we focus on sustainable construction. Our experienced project managers guide each job under their watch to the highest levels of quality, safety, and client satisfaction.


From food processing to our expert concrete division, we have developed systems and a team that provides the absolute best outcome for our clients. We’ve built in 18 different states, and continuously work to maintain specific certifications for specialized healthcare facilities, food handling regulations, safety, and others to offer our clients the absolute best in services.










General Contracting

Founded in 1790, generations of Newville, Pennsylvania citizens have watched the Big Spring Creek bubble along the outskirts of the town. The native and diverse animals and plant life supported by these clear waters make it obvious why the original settlers stopped in this verdant corner of the Cumberland Valley. The historic borough remains a close community and as they prepare for the changing season construction begins on a vacant lot nestled along Big Spring Creek.

Some months ago, GALBRAITH was contacted by a client we’ve worked with many times, and they had a unique request: to construct an efficient municipal building for the borough to posthumously receive. The owners of a beautiful creek-side lot turned down several previous private offers to buy the land. They wanted it to serve a greater purpose. They wanted the land to provide something for the community that held a special spot in their heart.

Community construction projects are more than contracts. These special construction projects create buildings that serve our communities and nourish their civic, educational, and even spiritual needs. We always welcome the opportunity to complete such important projects and Allan Galbraith, President, and Co-Owner of Galbraith/Pre-Design Inc. said, “are very pleased to have these kinds of partnering relationships with our customers.”


Sourcewell can help your non profit organization!

The beautiful First Evangelical Lutheran Church during construction.


While this altruistic municipal construction project is not totally unheard of, it’s not common. Many government, educational, and non-profit organizations must complete construction projects with very limited budgets.

The RFP process can be long and does not always find the highest quality option for a construction project budget. Non-profits typically struggle with:

  • The RFP process
  • The bidding process
  • Limited options for local construction companies

How can you assure that you get the highest quality construction services for the best price?


Sourcewell: Contracts and Procurement for Construction

The traditional RFP, or request-for-proposal, process doesn’t always produce the best results. Not all commercial or industrial construction companies that are serving your area will respond and pricing can vary greatly. That’s where Sourcewell comes in.

Sourcewell streamlines the procurement process for government, municipal, educational, and non-profit construction clients. Churches, city departments, and even credit unions can utilize the program. Connecting construction contractors with Sourcewell members, the program successfully utilizes modern technology to provide the best outcome for these clients.

But how do they do it?


How Sourcewell Makes Non-Profit Construction Easy

As Sourcewell members, you can avoid the bidding process altogether, while still meeting all the requirements for the RFP process.

Sourcewell has established a cooperative purchasing program to help non-profit vendors locate contracts for supplies, construction, and other services. A “cooperative purchasing program” joins buyers and providers through a purchasing agreement. Sourcewell members can search contracts to find the goods and services they require and view the rates or prices that have already been established.

Sourcewell also assures that you meet all the requirements of your RFP competitive solicitations process. Through a simplified bid process, Sourcewell’s procurement teams handle your RFPs, advertise them, and make sure that all proper steps are taken. Their RFPs are guaranteed to meet or exceed the standards needed. They make sure it’s done right: saving you time and effort.

This video gives a good idea of how quickly and easily the process works with Sourcewell.


Getting Started With Sourcewell

So you are in charge of procurement for a non-profit organization, a government agency, or an educational system or organization and you want to take advantage of the amazingly easy Sourcewell cooperative purchasing program. Where do you start?

First, the program is free. There is no liability or obligation at all to you. Sourcewell’s application process is all online and your organization may even already be a member. After you are signed up, you search for existing contracts with Sourcewell providers, like GALBRAITH.

We operate under contract #021215-BSC, as our partnership with Butler Manufacturing allows us to work under the contract for their sister company, BlueScope Construction.





After you are registered, you search for contracts that suit your needs, like BlueScope’s (located here). You can view products and services, contract documents, and contact information.


Why Choose Galbraith

As the leading commercial and municipal builder serving Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic, we offer Sourcewell members high-quality commercial construction and institutional construction services they might otherwise not find. The cooperative purchasing program lets a Sourcewell member choose our services and get started with their project in record time.

60 years of successful commercial construction and institutional construction projects gave us the experience to create superior buildings for our clients. Our online portfolio shows you a few of the projects we’ve completed for churches and municipal organizations.


Newville District Court


Working in more than 10 states, we are well-versed in local laws and regulations in many different places. GALBRAITH team members also hold specialized certifications for working on specialized projects such as medical, healthcare, and food processing facilities.

GALBRAITH is known across the country for our meticulous, professional approach to construction. The “GALBRAITH Difference” creates a reliable budget, and our proactive approach to projects helps us see problems before they become problems. Our experienced teams can be working on your project in record time thanks to Sourcewell’s purchasing program.

Contact us for a free consultation or for more information on how to contract us for a Sourcewell project.

General Contracting

The Beginnings of Aviation Construction


Blustery winds sweep across the rolling dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The constant winds — a necessary evil for the Wright Brothers’ first flights in 1903 — created strong air currents, blew sand around everywhere, and harbored often intense weather conditions.  While the brothers chose the area for its naturally occurring wind and wide, open spaces, the environment created big issues for their newly constructed airplane.


As the old saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.”  The air currents so needed for testing also moved and damaged the airplane, and the sand and climate of the beach affected the ash and muslin the plane was constructed with. They needed a place to store their plane safely.


The Wright Brothers’ hangar in 1903 – Photo: Library of Congress


This precipitated the first documented aviation construction project and is vastly different from today’s massive steel building systems. Who knew that this small, wooden structure housed the future of human flight? After the Wright Brothers’ successful flight, aviation began growing.


The Rise of Hangar Construction


The World Wars of the early 20th Century brought quick and amazing advancements to airplane hangar design and construction. From portable canvas hangars to the iconic arched Quonset hut, military construction has fueled more than innovation in flight. Hangars started with pretty basic construction, like this  WWI hangar reproduction.


In his article “Building Airpower: American Air Service Construction in the Great War” for The Military Engineer, Andrew Billman notes the first Allied airfields in 1917 France were full of canvas hangars but the military had already changed that in 1918. Their aircraft production facility in Romorantin, France even had the military’s “first steel warehouses… with steel frames covered by corrugated iron sheeting.”


As more people began to purchase and operate airplanes, small, local airports cropped up all over the United States. The U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission claims that by 1912, the United States had 20 airfields (including a converted country club). This great example of the Larson Brothers Airport in Milwaukee shows the early wood buildings used as hangars. In 1928, Peter Bernard founded the Rockland Airport in New York, and possibly one of the first flying clubs: The Aero Club.


Commercial aviation also took flight, creating demand for increasingly larger open-bay aviation construction projects.  These photos of the opening of the United Airport in Burbank, California include military planes and some amazing shots of the beautiful steel and concrete hangars to the left.


Photo: The Huntington


The beginnings of steel building systems in aviation construction are somewhat vague. Most reports claim that world-renowned pilot Louis Bleriot had a hand in it. Famous for the first flight across the English Channel, Bleriot supposedly crash-landed on a farm in France during a test flight. Needing a place to store his plane, he wheeled it into a steel barn nearby and noticed how the steel structure was an ideal size for an aviation hangar. He supposedly contacted the company after his ordeal ended to order his own steel building system.


Regardless of the dubious beginnings, it’s easy to see why steel construction, and pre-engineered steel building systems, in particular, are proven perfectly suited to aviation construction.


Steel Building Systems for Aviation Construction


The requirements for a hangar are more than “lots of space.” Tall ceilings, protection from the elements, large easily-operated bay doors, and climate control are just the short list. In some cases, like Hangar One (one of the world’s tallest freestanding structures), the structures can be so large and tall that they have their own clouds and a microclimate.


This pre-engineered building systems by our partner Butler Manufacturing shows some of the size and sheer volume allowed when using a PEMB.


Creating a wall that can support hangar doors isn’t an easy feat. Decades of research and development created customizable and reliable aviation hangar construction plans. The hangar doors above, for example, required over 400 feet of clear-span space. This was simply not possible in the past. In this 1940 article “Monolithic Concrete Construction for Hangars” for The Military Engineer, the discuss the massive proportions of “the widest span monolithic structure of the time”: the Hershey Sports Arena that measured 245 feet by 356 feet (you can view it at this link).


Using steel for such large construction, especially a pre-engineered building system also saves time and money when building a hangar. In fact, for the Navy facility Butler reports that a PEMB saved them 25% over the nearest conventional building method. Creating less waste and arriving ready to be checked and installed, a PEMB offers the best solution for most aviation construction projects.


If you’d like a consultation for your existing structure, or are considering starting a new aviation construction project, contact GALBRAITH for a consultation.






General Contracting

Vapor Barriers


Between 55% and 78% of the human body is water, 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, and the water you’re drinking may actually be melted ice from Earth’s last Ice Age. The food everyone eats is dependent upon the water cycle of our planet, and agriculture uses the largest percentage of available freshwater as well as precipitation. Without evaporation, condensation, and precipitation, human life simply would not be possible. Water affects so much of our lives, and construction is no different. Failing to correctly control moisture in any building can cost you more than money.


As we attempt to domesticate our planet, our construction comes at direct odds with the environment we live in. We can’t escape the water cycle, but we have to find ways to engineer around it, and water is a factor in every single project. Builder Online notes that incorrect moisture control not only causes structural damage to buildings, but secondary issues like mold and accidents create litigation nightmares for building owners. An experienced commercial or industrial contractor knows can safeguard a project from catastrophic failure.


An expert contractor knows which building components, based on the location and climate of your construction site, are right for your project. Design elements like the slope of the roof or the angle of the walls will directly affect how moisture collects and is moved through your structure. One component is present in both the roofs, walls, and possibly floors, of a modern construction project. The unsung hero of construction is a leading force in controlling how moisture is moved through a building: the vapor barrier.


As we discussed last time, vapor barriers are one of the most common areas of fault and energy loss in a building. What is this pivotal and ingenious innovation? And what does it do?



What is a Vapor Barrier?


A thin membrane rests between the layers of a building’s construction. Measured by its permeability and created with a wide variety of materials, a vapor barrier doesn’t control the movement of air but attempts to control and divert the movement of vapor.


Chosen with factors like exterior material in mind, a vapor barrier for a building with brick will differ from a metal building system, for instance, or a steel building with factory-insulated metal panels.  Choosing the correct material is important, and a contractor has to understand which materials to choose for your climate and business.


Vapor barriers are one of the top places we see issues in a commercial or industrial building and an even bigger issue for cold-storage structures.


Why It’s Important


From the top of the roof to under the floor, almost every inch of a modern commercial, industrial, retail, and residential construction project must be thought about in terms of moisture control. In “Moisture Control Guidance For Building Design, Construction and Maintenance”, the Environmental Protection Agency agrees and adds that most of the issues are the direct result of flaws in the original building design or construction and subsequent failures of proper maintenance.


Unchecked moisture issues lead to mold and bacterial growth, and the pooling of water can create rot, mildew, and safety hazards. Water appears in solid form (like ice) as liquid water, and as vapor, and diverting solid and liquid water is more straightforward. Pipes and sloped roofs help deal with the places water can collect, but vapor can pass unseen.


Vapor prefers to move from warm parts of a building to colder areas, whether that is a cold-storage area, the exterior of the building, or an office. Unfortunately for building maintenance managers, cooling of vapor causes condensation: liquid water. The enemy.


This is where a good contractor can choose a tool that will help change the vapor movement in a facility. The knowledge to create the proper airflow, as correct ventilation will help divert unwanted vapor, is gained through knowledge and education. For example, at GALBRAITH, we use thermal imaging to see where vapor, heat, and cold are collecting and traveling. Using this evidence to guide our projects takes the guesswork out of construction.


Installing, inspecting, repairing, and replacing vapor barriers isn’t easy. For decades we’ve perfected our methods for diagnosing issues with vapor barriers and other building maintenance problems. For a consultation of your current location or to design a new commercial or industrial construction project, contact GALBRAITH today.

Cold Storage Vapor Barrier

General Contracting

One-third of the food produced on the Earth goes to waste every year and the USDA estimates that figure to be 30-40% in the US. Some of this waste is caused by normal issues that cold storage facility operators struggle with: energy is escaping their building and causing temperature fluctuations or a component fails. Anyone managing a cold storage facility has nightmares about catastrophic failures, but what about the dollars leaking from your building every day?

As spring and summer progress and ambient temperatures rise these issues become more expensive to ignore. Proper building maintenance can keep your facility moving products along the cold chain, but some facilities are hundreds of thousands of square feet. Where do you even start looking

A few critical components tend to fail most often. A cold storage expert can point you in the right direction, and a roof inspection and/or replacement is always a great place to start. In over 60 years of cold storage construction work, however, we’ve begun using thermal imaging for our inspections and can point out our top 3 areas building owners should check for cold storage issues:

  1. Condensation
  2. Vapor Barriers
  3. Door Seals


Condensation is one of the biggest enemies of any cold storage operation. First, condensation creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and other dangerous microbes to grow and flourish. Though a tremendous concern for food safety, non-food handling cold storage facilities should still avoid condensation not just to decrease energy usage and costs. Issues like black mold can affect you and your employees and can be caused by a single unresolved condensation issue.

Next, temperature fluctuations during the cold chain cause millions of pounds of food to be wasted and millions of dollars in revenue lost from building damage. Condensation can cause water to pool, leading to rotting walls and floors and huge renovation costs.

Avoiding and combating condensation can take a few forms. Proper ventilation and insulation will help keep a cold storage facility at the ideal temperature. Thorough inspections by knowledgeable professionals identify current or possible issues. Using their consultations, installing, or revamping, ventilation systems and installing and upgrading insulation can correct some issues created from an older facility, or a less-than-ideal initial construction. Sometimes, if the problem is too severe, construction will be required.

The EPA notes, that most “moisture problems can be traced to poor decisions in design, construction or maintenance,” so a proactive approach to construction and building maintenance is the first step in avoiding all building repair issues. Building inspections and quick attention to condensation spots avoid costly repairs.

At GALBRAITH, during our building inspections, we utilize thermal imaging to seek out problem areas. This image shows a pipe exiting the roof above a freezer. In these photos, blue represents the colder areas and yellow to pink for warmer areas.

In this case, the cold is exiting the freezer due to incorrect insulation and energy is being lost outside. This is the beginning of a dangerous cycle, as it causes condensation on the pipe which then turns to frost. Ambient heat from the environment is causing the pipe to warm as well, and this area of condensation/frost and incorrect insulation was a critically weak point in this freezer unit.

Vapor Barriers

Condensation is the biggest issue that should be monitored during cold storage building maintenance, and your building’s vapor barrier is a logical next step. Issues with a vapor barrier tend to be the second most common problems we see in cold storage facilities, and this unsung hero of insulated roofing and wall systems often does not get the attention it needs to operate at maximum efficiency.

A vapor barrier is any material that is installed in roofing and walls to prevent moisture diffusion. Used in all types of construction, they must be carefully monitored to assure that they not only prevent moisture diffusion, but they allow correct drying to avoid any of the other issues caused by excessive moisture.

This thermal image shows an area of a recent project where a freezer wall met a normal building wall without a proper vapor barrier. The massive fluctuation in temperature, up to 109°F, creates an area of massive energy loss. Such a simple-to-install component will solve this cold storage owner’s problem perfectly.

This image from a 2017 project shows the vapor barrier installation during a roof replacement. At GALBRAITH, we select the perfect material for each application and our accurate and correct installation procedures limit the areas failures can occur. Inspecting this area is also best done by a professional that understands where moisture can collect, how the building was constructed, and what to look for when leaks are suspected.

Door Seals

Doorways exist for the same reason they are the weakest point in a cold storage operation: they are meant to be opened. Just like every mother, yelling to her kids on a hot summer day to “shut the door and stop letting all the cool air out,” keeping doorways properly closed and sealed is key to keeping energy usage and costs low. This is especially true for a cold storage facility.

The frost collecting around this doorway was a tell-tale sign of a failing door seal. A freezer operating correctly creates negative pressure inside, pulling vapor from anywhere it can. In this case, it’s pulling it through a failing door seal and creating the frost built up around the edge of the doorway.

Wrapping Up

Condensation and failing vapor barriers and doorways present the largest problems for cold storage facility owners. Keeping in accordance with increasingly strict energy requirements also keeps your cold storage facility operating at the most efficient level. Costly fixes now save even more costly fixes later, and, as the EPA noted, many issues are caused by a lack of proper building maintenance.

Knowing where to look is key to deciding your next course of action and contacting a professional for a consultation will assure that you avoid these simple and common cold storage facility issues.

GALBRAITH’s extensive cold storage facility knowledge lets us quickly identify and correct our clients’ issues. If you need a partner for your next project or an expert consultation about your current facility, contact GALBRAITH today.

General Contracting

Cold Storage


The term “disruptive strategic innovation” describes the behavior that thrust businesses like Southwest Airlines and Amazon towards massive success; it’s a strategic move to go against the tide and create a new way to operate within an industry. Sometimes other types of disruption speed up these industry revolutions, however. Necessity recently combined with innovation and pushed us out of grocery stores, onto our phones, and into the world of electronic grocery commerce.


Now, a particular opportunity awaits those with a little industry insight: cold storage facilities are exponentially increasing in demand, and now is the time to start construction.


But what exactly is going on? Why are people talking about cold storage facilities, and, most importantly, how can you get a headstart on construction?


What’s Happening In Cold Storage?

Imagine for a moment, the day when your refrigerator, which is becoming increasingly smart, orders your groceries. Later that afternoon, a service drone pops by and conveniently places the groceries inside your fridge — you never waste another moment shopping. This utopia of free time is closer than you think.


What was the last thing you bought online? When was the last time you ordered groceries on your phone (also known as “m-commerce”)  and maybe even got them delivered? According to industry-leading publication Winsight Grocery Business, the E-commerce grocery business expects to see a 21% increase in sales in 2022. MarketWatch agrees and predicts a 23% increase into 2025.


Saying the pandemic is the only cause of this impending construction boom would be half the story, but it is a large part of the story. In an interview with Winsight, thermal energy management technology expert James Bell remarks that “everyone who wasn’t digital had to become digital so people could do online shopping.” Up-and-coming businesses creating well-planned apps suddenly got more attention, and more traffic than they could handle.


Services like Instacart were already growing as society was slowly beginning to adopt these innovative and time-saving options. Time is the greatest commodity, and ultimately
“buying time” is shown to create higher levels of reported happiness. The industry was enjoying steady growth, but then things changed. As noted in Real Assets Adviser, the catalyst of the pandemic grew the industry demand tenfold almost overnight. While demand skyrocketed, suppliers were left bumbling with too few cold storage facilities, or existing facilities in need of repair or renovation.


The Future of Grocery Stores?

Interestingly, the industry expert being interviewed also poses an idea of the grocery store of the future, reminiscent of our own earlier automated dream: a traditional shop where customers can hand-pick fresh vegetables and fruit, or their favorite deli counter selection, but that’s about it. Research into buying habits showed that we prefer to purchase “fresh” groceries ourselves, but prefer to shop for the center aisle groceries, like canned vegetables, flour, and paper towels, through an automated service or app. This is expected to create smaller automated distribution centers behind or near grocery stores to fill consumers’ entire grocery orders — with a beautiful store-front of curated meats and veggies for your browsing pleasure.


This quaint and idyllic future grocery store will require a massive supply chain of cold storage facilities — both large and small — and cold storage distributors have so many more concerns than those dealing with traditional dry goods.  Any failure of a cold storage facility can result in not only losses of revenue, but a public health crisis. How can you avoid these business catastrophes?


How To Build A High-Quality Cold Storage Facility

The best and easiest way to assure your cold storage facility will efficiently and safely operate is to hire a team of experts to design and build the facility. These professionals understand how to create safe workflows in large-scale cold storage facilities and what type of regulations, permits, and codes you will need to adhere to. They can even assist with site selection.


For instance, did you know that minimizing movement for both workers and product is ideal in a facility? This decreases the chance of an accident by creating a controlled area for workers to operate. Learning all the “nuts and bolts” of cold storage facility design and construction takes decades to master, and choosing a design-build firm or experienced general contractor is critical. Successfully navigating the perilous seas of permits and codes can affect how quickly you can start and complete your construction project.


However, cold storage facility construction poses an amazing opportunity and challenge for an experienced design-build firm. We at GALBRAITH love a good challenge and use our own resourceful innovation, fueled by decades of industry knowledge, to craft building solutions.


For instance, we had to completely fabricate a way to open an existing facility without exposing it to the environment. We engineered two units out of insulated metal panels and hoisted them gently to the roof of the existing freezer facility. Inside these sealed units, we created the access ports needed without the client sacrificing a shut-down of the entire unit!


We enjoy creating innovative solutions and can solve any issue that arises during construction. If you’re looking for a partner on your next cold storage project, contact GALBRAITH today.

General Contracting

An epiphany struck you for a new business in an untapped niche. It’s too good to ignore and you set up a meeting with your local design-build firm, hoping to strike while the iron is hot. Settling into the comfortable chair in their office, you ask the first question on your mind: “How quickly can you start building?”

You want a project that started yesterday, and you’ve researched the fastest construction methods. Pre-engineered metal buildings offer an attractively quick build time, and you chose a design-build contractor to make it even faster and more cost-effective. While delayed gratification often results in a better outcome, it’s an elusive skill, and you’re not here for that.

So, with your funding secured and your rough sketch on the back of a napkin, you smile across at the builder. He smiles back and says, “I get asked that question often, and these are the top…”



How long will it take? When do I get to hold the shovel and take a photo? Excitement is natural, and expected, at the onset of a large project. These considerations are essential to a realistic perspective of the current construction environment, but this is not a complete list:

  1. Design time
  2. Permitting time
  3. Time of year/weather constraints
  4. Long lead time material/equipment deliveries
  5. Subcontractors’ availability

Design Time

Automation improves many aspects of life, but building design is not necessarily one of them, and choosing a pre-engineered metal building still requires a design professional. Luckily, this is another area a design-build contractor speeds up the process. In the traditional method, an owner employs a design professional for the plans, then needs to secure a separate contractor. Imagine how much extra work is involved when a plan, inevitably, doesn’t go as originally designed. The change orders quickly add up and can slow a project to a debilitating halt.

In contrast, a will help you decide on a layout within the constraints of your budget, timeframe, and site needs. This is when your dreams and ideas start to take form. Whether you envision a sparkling, window wall and lush, pothos-filled lobby or an insulated metal-paneled cold storage food processing facility, the design team actively plans the project with you.

A design-build firm harnesses the wide berth of skills offered by experienced construction professionals, while keeping it all “under one roof.” Instead of going back and forth between businesses, communicating on several different schedules, your design-build contractor will be with you the whole way, seamlessly communicating with their established team.

Once the layout of your next project is decided, your build team acquires a set of plans to accommodate that layout. All plans are prepared by licensed design professionals and are meticulously reviewed and approved by your team before any work is started. Finally, with these plans in hand and a solid crew behind you, you can trudge through the quagmire of permits.

Or, if you’re not using a design-build contractor, are you still trying to find a construction manager?


Permitting Time

Permits vary widely from one state to another, and through various localities within each state. A seasoned builder can confidently guide you through these processes. Wielding knowledge and connections to know (or find out) what is needed at every turn, they provide an edge in what can be an exceptionally long game. To add to the terror, an inexperienced contractor can lead to missing permits or incorrectly filed paperwork that completely stops forward progress.

What types of permits are usually needed? Zoning permits and their requirements, like these examples from Philadelphia and Ferguson, PA, are what first pops to mind. In truth, there are so, so many types, like:

  1. Special exceptions
  2. Stormwater management
  3. Department of Environmental Protection permits
  4. Foundation permits
  5. Structural component permits
  6. Energy code permits
  7. Americans with Disability Act Accessibility permits
  8. Separate plumbing, HVAC, Electrical, permits

And this is not an all-inclusive list. As you can imagine, it’s also best if an experienced hand is coordinating all these permits with construction schedules. One failure here, like a game of Jenga, causes a domino effect of lost time.


Seasonal weather constraints

For conventional or pre-engineered construction, you cannot build in a lightning storm, a blizzard, or a hurricane. This makes construction during certain seasons particularly challenging in much of the world. So, what can you do to minimize weather constraints on your next project?

As Metal Construction News notes, “metal buildings… have shorter construction durations because of their ability to be erected in less-than-ideal weather conditions.” Pre-engineered metal building components arrive ready to assemble, rather than being fabricated on-site like with conventional steel construction. Pre-punched assembly holes and components tested and designed to fit together assure speedy building erection, but the weather can still slow movement.

Though pre-engineered metal buildings can offer quicker build times in some scenarios, the next consideration can quickly remove any gains in your timeline. How can you start if you don’t have your supplies?


Long lead time, material/equipment deliveries

Two waves are about to crash in the sea of building construction. One wave carries the high demand for steel and its slowly increasing supply going into 2022, and the other wave bears a backlog of projects and newly energized future owners waiting to begin.

Deliveries of everything from toilet paper to construction equipment and machinery are slower than normally expected. Much like that package you’ve been waiting for, expected delivery dates are also sometimes changed. Prudently preparing for these possibilities can affect the entire timeline of a project in today’s environment.


Subcontractors’ availability

Masters of masonry, concrete and cement craftsmen, and woodworking virtuosos often work as independent subcontractors — the finest skilled at their craft also have full schedules. Long standing contractors build relationships with these artisans, though this does not always assure availability.

While the demand for skilled tradesmen has been high for some time, a lack of people entering these fields has further stressed the issue. Planning around the availability of subcontractors and optimizing these schedules to coincide with your start date needs to be integrated into the larger project plan.



Deciding your start date requires consideration of several crucial factors. Preparing yourself for a reasonable outcome, rather than expecting to jump right in, can properly align your expectations. Regardless of the context, correctly aligned expectations lead to an easier build for you.

If you are interested in a consultation for an upcoming project, please give us a call at 717-776-6337. We would love to help.