In 2016, nearly 30 years after moving into a warehouse in Maplewood, Minnesota, Second Harvest Heartland’s leadership team was faced with a decision: find a bigger, better space or drastically scale down operations. According to Feeding America, one in 11 Minnesotans, including one in eight children, at risk of hunger, the latter was not an option, so the hunger-relief organization embarked on a years-long journey to find a new home. 

“We know that families, children and seniors are missing meals,” said David Laskey, director of food bank operations at Second Harvest Heartland. “While the volume of food, the amount of fresh food, and our efficiencies in dealing with the problem of hunger are growing, our space is not. Our 30-year-old facility simply could not take on more food to meet the needs of our community.”   

With food donations nearly tripled over the past nine years. Second Harvest Heartland needed not only a bigger space, but better and more efficient equipment — a newer fleet of trucks to more reliably deliver food across 59 counties in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, larger coolers to handle more donations of food, and a new temperature-controlled repacking room to offer a wider variety of food in smaller quantities to food pantries and meal programs.

To build or not to build 

To build from the ground up or to purchase and renovate an existing space? This is one of the first questions that arose from the decision to expand operations — but it wasn’t a choice the hunger-relief organization could make alone. They enlisted Minneapolis-based, PCL Construction, a longtime community partner of the organization.

“PCL had the experience and was able to partner with us to assess both land and existing building options while we were searching for Second Harvest Heartland’s new headquarters,” Laskey said.  “This in-depth work lead to the purchase of the Brooklyn Park facility we are currently renovating.”

Second Harvest Heartland broke ground in Brooklyn Park spring of 2019, after three years of work that included a capital campaign to secure needed funding. 

PCL used a parametric cost modeling system so the Second Harvest Heartland leadership team knew the cost to build the headquarters within a variance of only 2.5 percent.  This narrow variance helped the organization make data-driven, well-educated decisions about how to best utilize the state’s general obligation bond money and donor contributions from the capital campaign.  

“Being excellent stewards of the money we have is at the top of our minds all day, every day,” Laskey said. 

Creating a sustainable space

Sustainability is another thing on the top of Laskey’s mind. Beyond the organization’s primary goal of ending hunger in Minnesota, Second Harvest Heartland believes in the importance of sustaining the environment. 

“Remodeling an existing building is actually very sustainable when compared to building from the ground up, and we are equipping our new headquarters with energy-efficient features wherever we can afford to do so,” Laskey said. “A strong commitment to sustainable building practices is another reason we chose PCL.” 

PCL holds the view that sustainability touches everything during construction, said PCL’s project manager Mike Osowski. Sustainability was incorporated into every aspect of the project including the products, systems and construction means and methods from the onset of the project. 

To ensure the building is as sustainable as possible, PCL follows Minnesota’s B3 (buildings, benchmarks and beyond) guidelines, developed for and required of state-funded projects in Minnesota. The B3 tools and programs are designed to help make buildings more energy efficient and sustainable through a wide variety of programs and best practices. These include stormwater management to reduce runoff, protecting the wetlands adjacent to the site, soil management to reduce erosion and limit soil disturbance, sustainable landscape design to encourage pollinators and mitigate invasive species, as well as practices that address heat island reduction, transportation impacts, light pollution, renewable energy, indoor air quality and ventilation and more. 

Recognized as one of Engineering News-Records’ Top Green Contractors, PCL is proud of its environmental stewardship, said PCL project engineer and B3 champion Nick Friedl. 

“We hold a larger view of sustainability,” said Friedl. “One that touches on everything we do. Inherent in PCL’s sustainability model is the idea that the continued success of our organization relies on more than offering sustainable construction services.” Friedl recently attained accreditation from the International WELL Building Institute. 

“PCL has been our business partner every step of the way and they have been very willing to help us with extra professional evaluation work as we explore potential new business opportunities, such as a commercial kitchen and a hydroponics vertical growing operation,” said Laskey.

“The WELL Building Standard explores how design, operations and behaviors within the places where we live, work, learn, and play can be optimized to advance human health and well-being,” Friedl said. “The program is designed to work harmoniously with LEED and other international leading green building systems.”

Through the program, Friedl is able to improve construction processes to be more efficient and safer. For example, tracking air filters and their replacement helps improve air quality control throughout construction by removing dust and allergens.

As the new facility will nearly triple Second Harvest’s food storage, including 29,300 square-feet of temperature-controlled space to store and provide fresh produce and proteins, the building products need to be safe and long-lasting to ensure that the food stays fresh. The Indoor Air Quality Plan identified materials subject to absorption as well as exposure to mold spores prior to installation. Procedures were then put into place to protect these materials during construction reducing risk of mold as well as increasing the longevity of the products.

The team also came up with the idea of sealing off the duct work and HVAC systems during construction. Doing so protects the system from collecting dust and releasing it back into the facility once it is operational – which would reduce air quality directly where food being stored.

After construction ends, prior to Second Harvest moving in, PCL will provide a building flush out. Supplying 14,000 cubic feet of outdoor air per square foot of floor area through the HVAC system. The building flush-out will remove low quality air produced by off-gassing of newly installed materials, creating a better environment for food storage, volunteers and employees.

The partnership between PCL and Second Harvest Heartland goes beyond business. PCL employees have been volunteering for Second Harvest Heartland, sorting and packing food on a regular basis, for nearly a decade.

“We are grateful for our continued partnership with Second Harvest,” said Osowski. “It is great feeling to know the work we are doing here will not only help to feed those going hungry, but will help reduce food waste in our community - we are excited to have a hand in that.”

PCL Construction has been building manufacturing facilities, and relationships, in the Twin Cities for over 40 years. To learn more about how PCL’s commitment to sustainable construction call 952-882-9600 or watch us build at

See the full Minneapolis/St Paul Busniess Journal Article here.