Drew’s Car Wash

Drew’s Car Wash – Form Follows Function

Form follows function is a principle associated with 20th-century modernist architecture and industrial design which says that the shape of a building or object should primarily relate to its intended function or purpose. This principle is beautifully showcased in the recent design and construction of Drew’s Car Wash at Tower Point. The buildings longitudinal plan and modern architecture portray its intended function as a modern touch-free car wash that is inviting and intuitive to the customer.

Drew's Car Wash Architectural Rendering
Drew’s Car Wash Architectural Rendering – Rendering Copyright: Modernwash 2017
Drew's Car Wash Construction Progress_Frame
Drew’s Car Wash Construction Progress_Frame
Drew's Car Wash Canopy Construction Progress
Drew’s Car Wash Canopy Construction Progress

Drew’s Car Wash Location

The newest addition to the Drew’s Car Wash chain is located at 4442 SH6 South College Station, Texas (near the HEB at Tower Point).

Drew's Car Wash Location

Car Wash – Structural Design

The structural frame for the car wash consists of structural steel hollow structural sections (HSS) that are bolted together via hidden internal connections. The lateral frame consist of a steel moment frame in which lateral drift is controlled  by specifying the high-strength bolts to be pretensioned. Dudley Engineering provided the special inspections of the pretensioned bolts which were achieved via the turn-of-nut method.

Dudley Engineering also provided the structural design and renderings for the vacuum and ticket canopies. The design of the vacuum canopies is intended to provide shade for customer as they access the complimentary vacuums and towels. The front eave of the canopy drops down to conceal the vacuum hoses.

Car Wash Canopies – Wind Design

Design of the open-structure canopies presents challenges when designing for wind. Since the canopies are open, as opposed to an enclosed building in which wind is not able to pass through the structure, wind pressure is able to build up on both sides of the canopy roof. Positive pressure (toward the surface) is induced on the bottom of the roof while negative pressure (away from the surface) builds-up on top of the roof. The total combined pressure is substantial and must be resisted by the HSS beams and columns which are all rigidly connected to provide a complete and stable structural frame.

Drew's Car Wash Canopy Rendering Structural
Drew’s Car Wash Canopy Rendering Structural


Drew's Car Wash Canopy Structural Framing
Drew’s Car Wash Canopy Structural Framing
Drew's Car Wash Ticket Canopy_Structural
Drew’s Car Wash Ticket Canopy_Structural

Commercial Construction

Every commercial project brings forth its own set of unique challenges. Dudley Engineering has found success in meeting these challenges by consistently applying our core values and following a tried and true framework that guides us through the entire project life cycle. 

Dudley Engineering is well versed in the intricacies of small to large commercial projects. Below we discuss the phases of a typical commercial project life cycle from the perspective of a structural engineer. An illustration of this life cycle is included at the bottom.

Schematic Design

In schematic design (SDs), Dudley Engineering will

  • Collaborate with the architect and owner/developer to determine which structural frame is the best option for the project. Due to Dudley Engineering’s experience with all major structural framing systems and materials (structural steel, reinforced concrete, post-tensioned concrete, timber, cold-formed steel, conventional wood framing, engineered wood, metal building systems & CMU) we are able to view the project from a wider perspective. To contrast, larger structural engineering firms primarily only work with structural steel and reinforced concrete and thus will view all new projects from that paradigm, “the man who is good with a hammer tends to think everything is a nail” – Abraham Maslow.
  • In addition to structural design for new construction, Dudley Engineering also offers structural condition assessments for adaptive re-use and renovation project. Our structural condition assessments can identify issues with the primary structural frame as well as with the building envelope. For more information about specific projects in which structural condition assessment were performed view the following links. Assessing Fire DamageFirst Baptist Church Huntsville – Renovation


Design Development

At the start of Design Development (DD’s), a 3D finite-element structural analysis model will be created if it was not already created during SD’s. This model incorporates the primary structural framing members, design loads, environmental loads (wind and seismic) and support conditions. After analysis is complete, we will begin designing the individual components (columns, beams, shear walls, braces, etc.) of the structural frame utilizing the forces and reactions from the analysis model.

We will repeat the analysis – design loop iteratively until we reach an optimum solution that provides a clear and logical load path that is also economical. It is a common fallacy among inexperienced structural engineers to believe that the most economical solution will always be the least weight option. This fallacy is exacerbated due to the typical trend in the industry for structural engineering firms to defer segments of the structural design such as structural steel connections and cold-form steel framing. For example, if an engineer is not conscious of the structural steel connection design then they may be tempted to size a short-span girder with a smaller section than the long-span beam that it supports. When viewed in a vacuum, absent concerns for the connection design, this may seem like the most economical option since it is reducing the tonnage of the steel frame. However, to make the connection work, the long-span beam will need to be coped and stiffened in order to connect into the shallower girder. When viewed holistically, it is more economical to specify a deeper girder which will reduce fabrication time.

During DD’s, Dudley Engineering will also share typical and project-specific details with the general contractor (if on-board at this time) for feedback on constructability and cost/schedule impacts.


Construction Documents

Construction documents (CD’s) can take of many forms including 50%CD’s, 75%CD’s, 95% CD’s, etc. until eventually 100% CD’s are completed and are indicated “For Construction”. It is in this stage of the project that we make the finishing touches on details, connection material, miscellaneous steel, etc. all in an effort to provide the contractor will a complete set of construction documents that inform the contractor how to construct the structural components of the building in order to meet the needs of the owner as well as to protect public health, safety and general welfare. 

Construction Administration

During the construction administration (CA) phase, the design team reviews submittals, responds to RFI’s from the contractor, responds to comments from the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) and conducts observations and/or inspections of the construction progress.


Submittals are submitted by the contractor to the design team for the purpose of verifying that the contractor has correctly interpreted the construction documents. Submittals include: Shop drawings (e.g. structural steel erection and fabrication, reinforcement layout and cut sheets), Concrete Mix Design, Product Data (e.g. CMU Block Material). The design team reviews the submittals for general conformance with the construction documents and returns them indicated as either No Exceptions, Exceptions Notes, or Revise and Resubmit.


Commercial Construction Workflow for Structural Engineer
Commercial Construction Workflow for Structural Engineer

Rising Star in Structural Engineering

Drew Dudley, PE Honored as Rising Star in Structural Engineering by Civil + Structural Magazine

Drew Dudley, PE was honored as 1 of 13 recipients to receive the Rising Star in Structural Engineering award from Civl + Structural Magazine which recognizes professional 40 years old or younger working in the United States, who have shown exceptional technical capability, leadership ability, effective teaching or research, or public service benefiting the civil and structural engineering professions, their employers, project owners, and society.

Link to Civil + Structural Magazine Article