In 2011, Kohl’s, a specialty department store headquartered in Menomonee Falls, Wis., racked up an impressive $1 billion in web sales. Predicting even greater online sales growth for 2012, the retail giant recently built its fourth distribution center dedicated solely to fulfilling purchases through its website.

The approximately 950,000-sq-ft facility — which is located in DeSoto, Texas, to serve customers in Central and Midwestern states — is large enough to hold a professional basketball arena yet was completed in less than a year.

“This project had an extremely tight deadline and called for some pretty complex electrical installations,” says Doug Garrett, project manager for the Dallas division of Austin, Texas-headquartered FSG Electric, the distribution center’s electrical contractor. “We were awarded the contract on Feb. 17, 2012, and we started work the very next day.”

Electrical installations performed by FSG Electric included the lighting control, voice and data, and fire alarm systems; three 5,000A distribution switchgear units; three 3,000A temporary generator connection cabinets; a 500kW backup diesel generator; and an 80kVA UPS for the IT room with full backup to the 500kW generator.

“The facility requires heavy power usage because it is completely climate controlled and contains a sophisticated automated packaging system as well as a 3-level, 270,000-sq-ft pick module to facilitate the storage and retrieval of merchandise,” notes Garrett. “This made the point of distribution critical. To address this, we installed one switchgear in the middle of the building and one at either end. At each distribution location, we set up an exterior 3,000A temporary generator connection cabinet so, in the event of a power outage, Kohl’s can bring in trailer-mounted portable generators, connect them, and never disrupt operations.”

According to Garrett, building automation played a key part of the project because Kohl’s intends the distribution center to attain LEED Silver certification. Energy-saving features include a sophisticated lighting control system along with the use of daylight harvesting in the open warehouse packaging areas.

“Racking aisles are served by the lighting control system and operated by individual row occupancy sensors,” explains Garrett. “The facility contains more than 50 lighting control panels and more than 1,000 row occupancy sensors.”

To save further energy, the warehouse is lit by 2,500 high-bay LED luminaires equipped with electronic dimming ballasts, while the pick module is illuminated by more than 2,600 T5 fluorescent luminaires. The facility’s 47,000-sq-ft of office space features T5 fluorescents as well.

As expected, a project of this scope presented the contractor with numerous challenges, starting with space restrictions.

“When we arrived on-site, we only had the first 200 ft of the building to work in,” Garrett recalls. “So we basically had to follow the roofers. As soon as a portion of the roof was installed, we were right there waiting to do our installations. Keep in mind that the last piece of roofing wasn’t put on until two weeks before we were scheduled to finish.”

In addition, the lack of a roof presented an issue when it came to one of the electrical rooms that housed some of the switchgear.

“Electrical Room 3, which is located on the east end of the building, had to be put in, but the roof wasn’t over that part of the facility yet, and we couldn’t chance getting the switchgear wet,” says Garrett. “The general contractor ended up installing a permanent roof over that electrical room, so it’s really like a building within a building.”

Other obstacles included a roof deck height of 40 ft, which required much of the electrical installation to be performed on 45-ft manlifts — necessitating as many as 40 lifts on-site at one time — along with a lack of power.

“Temporary or permanent power wasn’t available on-site until the end of May,” notes Garrett. “We fed the building and our trailer compound with a 500kW generator that ran 24/7.”

To keep the project on schedule, FSG Electric held “Plan of the Day” meetings each morning, used extensive prefabrication of materials and 3D modeling, and implemented an electronic time tracking system.

“This was the first project on which we used such a system,” says Garrett. “But with up to 85 workers on the job, we had to know where everyone was at all times.”

Given the tight deadline, large number of workers, and the requirement to work 40 ft off the ground, the contractor made employee safety a top priority.

“We had on-site safety personnel full-time from day one,” says Garrett. “We held safety meetings every morning, did a 10-min. stretch, and then went to work. Over the project’s duration, we experienced no lost time injuries, which  I consider an accomplishment but expected nothing less.”

FSG Electric finished its portion of the project on schedule, and the Kohl’s distribution center will begin shipping merchandise this month.