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Carwash by design: Part III

October 11, 2010
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In this third and final installment of the first ever design contest hosted by Professional Carwashing & Detailing magazine, you will see the final four designs submitted by both carwash owners and distributors.

Robert Roman of the Clearwater, FL-based RJR Enterprises and Chuck Howard of Autobell Car Wash, Charlotte, NC, are still providing their opinions on the wash designs and their real-world applicability.

PC&D would like to request that you let us know which design of the 12 you thought was best. After compiling the information and consulting Roman and Howard, PC&D will announce an overall winner of this contest, who will receive a small prize for his effort in designing the perfect wash.

Please submit your selection for the best design to Stephanie Russo, managing editor of PC&D, at

A scaled to fit site
By Earl Weiss, Uptown car Wash

All dimensions of this entry are subject to some modification:

  • The tunnel building is 120 feet long by 25 feet wide;
  • The c-store is 35 feet wide;
  • The lube building is 25 feet wide and 80 feet long;
  • The conveyor detail building is 20 feet wide and 90 feet long;
  • The detail bays are 25 feet long.

All other areas follow this scale.

This allows at least 10 feet for any area where a single car passes and at least 20 feet if vehicles pass side by side.

The wash cashier area has the ability for a single cashier (A) or dual cashiers (A & B) using the McDonald’s drive thru system where the first cashier takes the order and money and the second hits the appropriate wash controller inputs.

This plan allows development in phases. The gas/tunnel/c-store could be constructed as the first phase with the lube building and detail building constructed later.

Factors to look out for
Unknown factors could severely impact this design, including:

  • Municipal landscape requirements;
  • Municipal on-site parking requirements;
  • Availability of site parking.

If more on-site parking is required, the width of the c-store and tunnel could be reduced by 16 feet to create angled parking at the south border of the property for employees. This would generate at least 15 spaces.

Alternately, instead of reducing the size of the tunnel/c-store, the lube building and detail building could each lose a bay to allow moving the tunnel/c-store building north to generate the same number of spaces.

Judges’ comments on Weiss

Chuck Howard:
I think we have too much building on this property for a pleasant buying experience for the customer. Add in set backs and landscape requirements, which most communities require, and the space gets even more congested.

Tight turns into the lube bays, parallel vacuum spaces, crowded gas islands and limited parking for the 4,200 square foot c-store all contribute to making this site uncomfortable for the average motorist to move around in.

Another weakness in this design is the lack of employee parking. Detailing and lube are labor intensive services and, if they are busy enough to justify the investment, they are going to need employee parking.

Maneuvering for delivery vehicles would be difficult on this crowded lot as well. I think this site would do better, from a volume standpoint, if you got rid of the gas and lube, made the c-store smaller, used parallel pay stations with gates and automatic pay terminals (rather than tandem pay stations) for the conveyor tunnel and relocate the conveyor detail to allow angled parking for the self serve vacuums.

This would open up the site so the carwashing activity would be more visible from the street and free up space for employee parking.

Eight amenities are enough to make this site perfect
By Bruce Summers, Superior

The design for the building is a two-door, self-serve, multi-bay carwash with a touch-less carwash, two pet wash bays and an office/retail space.

The reasoning for this design is that, with this layout, a 10-bay self-serve wash and ancillary outlets can be located on the site and still leave enough area for a sub-tenant in an adjacent building to provide additional rental income and cross-marketing.

Although access to the site requires relocation and reductions of the existing curb crossings, the new crossings provide better use of the site, giving well located parking and vacuum stations and intuitive traffic flow that naturally stages the vehicles in the stacking lanes.

The design of this building easily adapts itself to many architectural styles and themes.

In this design, the building has a sloped standing seam steel roof with a 50-year lifespan, large fascia and shadow lines, stucco on the upper portion of the walls and stone or brick work to give weight to the lower walls.

The structure of the building would be an insulated PVC stay-in place concrete form work such as Octaform®. There are numerous advantages to this type of wall system; it provides a water and fire resistant protective shell, insulation can be added prior to concrete placement and, because the form work stays in place, additional finishing is not needed but can be added if desired for design purposes.

Additional features of this building would include:

  1. Complementary undercarriage wash to each customer triggered by an under floor loop detector at the entrance to the self-serve wash bay door.
  2. High security lighting with 4 x 400 watt metal halide lights per wash bay and 8 x 400 watt lights in the drive isle.
  3. Self cleaning floors with a 7” slope on all four sides to the 5’ x 10’ x 6’ deep in-bay sump pit in each wash bay.
  4. High intensity digital signs to notify the self-serve customers if all the bays are full or to proceed at entrance door.
  5. Fog free environment and under floor heating.
  6. East wall of the touch-less wash bay to be 80 percent tempered glass with automatic cleaning using the RO recovered water from the wash bay and directional nozzles.
  7. Touch-less wash bay to be conveyorized and self loading with a capacity of 40 to 80 cars per hour.
  8. In-house cross-marketing schemes to include pet wash and lube/detail, self-serve and touch-less.

Outside cross-marketing partners could include the adjacent fast food restaurant and the health club.

Bruce Summers works at Superior Computer Drafting & Design Calgary, AB.

Judges’ comments on Summers

Robert Roman:
Summers recognized the need to have a multiple profit center operation to maximize the return from this site.

Summers moved one of the curb cuts, which I believe violates one of the conditions of the contest.

Without moving the curb cut, this design and layout would not be possible. I also believe the entrance to the enclosed self-service facility is too tight and entry would be difficult due to the narrow navigation lanes.

Given the amount of build-outs involved with this design, I do not believe that this business model would be capable of maximizing the revenue potential of this location and site.

This is really not a self-service market.

Chuck Howard:
Summers has a unique combination of services including a dog wash.

This is definitely a cold weather operation with the self-serve all inside the building; however, maneuvering inside of a building and backing out of wash bays creates problems for customers and the operator.

Maneuvering on the site in general could be a problem for some drivers, especially with the tight turns leaving the lube detail bays.

Parking for the dog wash could be a problem since people may try to park as close to the door as possible.

I do like the concept and the building is attractive.

Self-service bays and an in-bay auto perfect this location
By Russ Keller, RECLAIM

The first thing to look at is the customer base. They earn 75K per year and live in 175K dwellings. This means a lot of discretionary income for nice cars.

Eighty thousand living in a three-mile radius doesn’t seem possible; I will take that as a typo and go with 8,000, which is huge, living in small single-family homes that must be pretty well clustered together.

The demographics show this area is very congested by the number of lanes in each direction and the 110,000 cars per day driving by.

This wash must have a high capacity in terms of cars per minute with good ingress and egress. This excludes any full-service tunnel carwash, and leaves only high capacity in bay automatics and self serve.

I propose a four or five bay self-service with two in-bay automatics capable of offering a high throughput and a choice of friction (for an arguably better wash) and touch free for speed.

This allows 24/7 operations in this high-density location.

The layout incorporates both entrances for easy ingress and egress to roads A and B allowing for plenty of space to maneuver in this high-volume location.

The high car counts demand lots of room or we stand the risk of parking lot mishaps. My goal is to give lots of room to allow many cars easy access, with good visibility.

For street visibility there is a lighted rotating sign informing customers we are open day or night. This rotating sign would be easily visible from any direction.

Of course this carwash would incorporate a state-of-the-art water reclamation system, so we don’t get stuck with high water bills or exceedingly high impact fees when it comes to permitting.

Our layout shows the in-ground tanking and water piping legend for the reclaim system — handy applying for permits.

Two natural areas grace the property with a large canopied tree in the back southwest corner, out of traffic, allowing a safe shaded space.

A colorful planted and grassy area in front incorporates a pleasant radius; the curve helps direct traffic in and around the lot.

Not shown on the drawing are directional arrows and lines to be painted on the pavement. Traffic flows from back (vacuum side) to the front, or west to east.

Operationally, the carwash will have tiny CCD cameras set-up and integrated to the wash management system so the owner can watch happenings at the wash while at the pool bar. A vac-it-up system will keep the coins out of the accessible areas and a weep/anti-freeze system will keep it running in cold weather.

Architecturally, the wash should be very appealing and maintenance free. This means brick or natural stone and a metal roof.

Large cast architectural pieces help to set the building apart from the ordinary car beaters found in many c-stores and help convey the perception of quality allowing for a higher price point than the run of the mill. To be successful, the wash must be attractive incorporate quality components and have a experienced contractor and subs construct the wash, as water has a hard time flowing uphill.

Russ Keller works for RECLAIM Filters and Systems, Inc.

Judges’ comments on Keller

Robert Roman:
In terms of a self-service carwash with multiple in-bay automatics, Keller’s basic design is good.

Keller’s major design flaw is that he did not recognize or account for the huge market potential of this location as a carwash site.

Moreover, Keller’s logic is wrong with respect to his assumption that in-bay automatics and wand-bays would have greater throughput capacity and better ingress and egress characteristics than a conveyor.

Chuck Howard:
Keller demonstrates a more traditional self serve layout. It should work well but I would like to see the vacuums on the street side if possible.

I don’t like the dumpster enclosure on the street; if cars enter the bays from the road B side, they will have a hard time getting from the automatic bays to the angled vacuums.

There is no bypass lane around the automatic bays so backing out of the vacuum lanes leaves an uncomfortable exit for the customer.

Flex-Serve makes an ideal site
By Verdecia Luis, Wash Owner

This property is designed to be a Flex-Serve carwash location.

The tunnel is facing the street that has the most exposure in order to help bring in more business. 

The tunnel is 100 feet long and will have glass windows to the street (Road A). The conveyor length is 120 feet and it will feature a rear wheel push. 

There are two gated entries for access to the carwash. The payment will be processed automatically. 

This site will also offer free vacuuming for its customers and the extra services will take place in an near the wash and will have a lobby area for customers to sit while waiting for their cars to be finished. 

There is only one ingress and egress from the property; that is on road B because it has the least amount of traffic.

Judges’ comments on Luis

Robert Roman:
Luis recognized the market potential of the site. In terms of designing a Flex-Serve carwash operation, I believe that Luis got it about 75 percent right.

The conveyor is too long. As a result, it will be very difficult for customers to exit the wash bay without making a three point turn.

The express after-care facility is too small to accommodate a four bay wide layout.

The turning radius for entering the property along Road B is too severe.

Luis eliminated one of the curb cuts, which violates one of the conditions of the contest.

Chuck Howard:
Luis had a nice Flex-Serve offering but I don’t like that the carwash building blocks the view from road A.

Only one driveway could be a handicap under certain conditions and the traffic patterns on the lot are complicated; if you miss your turn into the conveyor, it’s going to be difficult to return.

An unfamiliar customer might even try to go into the exit end of the tunnel.

I think the lack of curb cuts and the complicated traffic patterns may hurt the volume potential of the site. Free vacuum access seems to be unrestricted; anyone, customer or not, may use them.