Mills Fleet Farm Distribution Center


With its construction, the Mills Fleet Farm distribution center provided Chippewa Falls, WI with 325 new jobs. The 1,125,000 square foot facility was Wisconsin’s ninth largest economic development project in 2017. The 72-acre site was chosen with expansion in mind as an additional 200,000 square feet can be added to the facility if a need should arise in the future.

As a design-build project with a quick turnaround, a plumbing contractor with internal design, engineering, and prefabrication capabilities was vital to the completion of this project. Ahern self-performed all of the pre-construction, design and engineering, produced and procured state approved documents, and completed the plumbing installation. BIM software was utilized to assure no interferences between the fire protection, plumbing, HVAC, and electrical trades and to further streamline construction. BIM also leveraged prefabrication allowing for fully prefabricated plumbing in the office and shipping areas. These prefabricated components allowed the plumbing installation to keep pace and not delay the daily installation of 70,000 square feet of roofing and 50,000 square feet of slab on grade concrete.

Every project has its own set of challenges and this project was no exception. The challenge here was the depth of the exterior storm drainage piping in relation to the exterior grade and the exterior building footings. The depth of the exterior storm piping needed to maintain sufficient depth for frost protection. It also could not go below the depth of a load-bearing footing when it entered the building to avoid load-bearing soil disturbance. Ahern worked with the civil and structural engineers to create thickened footings with structural steel sleeves at the thirty locations where the storm piping entered the building. The sleeves were fabricated internally in Ahern’s pipe fabrication shop. In doing so, the team was able to maintain frost protection, not disturb load-bearing soil, and avoid having to redesign the site utilities.

This project not only created jobs, but also had a positive impact on the environment with the installation of several energy-saving plumbing systems. Those systems included sensor flush valves, sensor faucets, and point of use instantaneous water heaters. Due to the large geographical footprint of the building, there are single sinks in several remote areas that require hot water. By using point of use instantaneous water heaters, the construction time and cost of a recirculation system are saved as well as the operational energy cost of a tank water heater.




  • Ahern's team averaged 14 years of industry experience

Budget Certainty

  • Final project cost was completed within the original budget

Quality Assurance

  • Passed Ahern's and the customer's quality control inspection


  • No OSHA recordable events and zero lost-time injuries


*photo credit: T-Bo Studio