The Stakeless Foundation for Big Box Retailer

Project benefits from machine control technology

By Jeff Winke

It is Canada’s largest bulk food retailer with more than 200 stores across the country. Established in 1982, Bulk Barn carries over 4,000 products. 

As their website claims, Bulk Barn offers “everything from soup to nuts, candy, snacks, baking and candy-making ingredients and supplies, cereals, grains, spices from the everyday to the exotic, dried fruits, nutritional vitamins and supplements, health and natural food products, pet food, plus everything you need to throw a great party.” For consumers, restaurant owners, and event planners, Bulk Barn is the place to go.

Recently, the Bulk Barn company broke ground and built a new corporate headquarters and massive distribution warehouse in the Toronto suburb of Aurora, Ontario.  

Maple Reinders of Mississauga, Ont. was the design-build general contractor on the project.  Another contractor performed the stripping and pre-grade work on the former agriculture site. They also completed the grading for the two building pads in preparation for the foundation work, which was finished by Cozza Bros. Excavating Ltd., based in Pickering, Ont. The shallow-trench foundation excavation work was a $500,000 (CAD) project.

Family-owned and run, Cozza Bros. was founded by the father of the two brothers, Luigi Cozza in 1969. The business includes his wife Angela, their two sons Rico and Tony and their daughter Cathy. The bulk of their commercial construction project work is within an hour’s drive of the suburban Toronto location. The company specializes in site prep, foundations and site services—such as installation work for sewer, water and utilities. The Bulk Barn foundation project is a natural fit for the company’s experience and operating mission.

“The Bulk Barn site was old farm land, so we were working with soft soil that was muddy from the wet weather we had had for several months prior to our start,” said Tony Cozza, co-owner of Cozza Bros. Excavating. “We also had a challenging timeline, since other subcontractors were dependent on us getting our part of the project done… and done accurately.”

Cozza Bros. had five of its approximately 20 total employees assigned to the project. Each of the two brothers had crews working on the project.

The project for Cozza Bros. was to excavate the foundations for the two structures being built on the 96,000 square-meter site.  Additionally, they completed grading for the buildings’ landscaping and parking lots. The approximate total amount of soil moved on the project was 30,000 cubic-meters, with 15,000 cubic-meters stockpiled for future developments in the area.

“The Topcon technology helped us save time and money, since we didn’t need surveyors—we didn’t need to set up one single survey stick or crosshairs anywhere on the site.”

Co-owner of Cozza Bros. Excavating, Tony Cozza


“Our task was to dig a linear perimeter foundation trench measuring exactly 1.2 meters deep and 0.6 meters wide for both buildings,” Cozza stated. “The Topcon technology helped us save time and money, since we didn’t need surveyors—we didn’t need to set up one single survey stick or crosshairs anywhere on the site.”

The distribution warehouse measures approximately 24,100 square meters and the office building is approximately 3,400 square meters. Structural retaining caissons were drilled by another contractor after the Cozza Bros. work was finished.

To complete their tasks, the company used its Caterpillar equipment, which includes Cat 345CL, Cat 336DL, Cat 314CLCR hydraulic excavators and Cat D6N, Cat D5K, Cat D6T track-type tractor bulldozers. All of these pieces are equipped with Topcon 3D machine control designed to improve productivity.

Cozza Bros. has owned Topcon equipment for four years and has received support and training from GeoShack Canada, Concord, Ont., an authorized Topcon dealer, that is located about a half-hour drive from the contractor’s offices.  GeoShack Canada has been instrumental with helping Cozza Brothers adopt the right technology and receive on-site training.

“I’m not computer oriented at all, so machine control was a bit intimidating at first,” said Cozza. “But the Topcon systems are user friendly—easy to learn and easy to use.”

On their hydraulic excavators, Cozza Bros. is running Topcon X63 3D GPS+ indicate excavator control systems which are designed to provide the operator with all the real time information needed to expedite excavation tasks. The excavator operator can "see" the machine's exact position in relation to the site, enabling precise positioning of the teeth of the bucket in relation to the finish design.

The dozers used on the site were equipped with Topcon 3D GPS+ machine control systems which features real time cut/fill mapping, allowing the Cozza Bros. machine operator to move the material once. 

Cozza Bros. also used Topcon GR-5 GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) receivers for both the base antenna and modular field rover. The GR5 is said by the manufacturer to provide state-of-the-art GNSS technology.

“We had very little rework on this project, thanks to the advantages of machine control,” Cozza said. “The color touch-screen control box displays blade position and the 3D site design.”

Cozza Bros. used Strada Survey Inc., Vaughan, Ontario, to build the 3D site model for the Bulk Barn project. All the Topcon-guided machines on the site had GPS/GNNS real-time access to the site model and the progress being made on the project. 

With the job completed on time, Cozza remembers how nice it was to not have to set survey stakes throughout the project. 

“The only way we were able to provide competitive pricing to win this Bulk Barn  job is because we knew that, with a small crew, we could be fast and accurate running machine control,” stated Cozza. “With our Topcon technology, we knew every time one of our machines touched dirt it was done with purpose and accuracy…you can’t ask for more.”

When asked how the project would have gone without the use of machine control technology, Cozza remarked: “More time, more manpower, and more Tylenol!

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