Building the sustainable distribution centre of the future
According to the World Green Building Council, the construction sector has the greatest potential of any industry to reduce its emissions and achieve net zero carbon. Warehouse facilities are a prime example of buildings that have numerous opportunities to go green through sustainable design and the use of renewable energy.
And projects like Firethorn Trust's new distribution centre in Leighton Buzzard are leading the way. The project has already achieved UK Green Building Council accreditation for its net-zero carbon construction. The finished centre will bring vital investment and economic growth to the area, but also keeps sustainability, wellbeing and productivity front of mind.
The high-quality warehousing solution will incorporate cutting edge renewable technology and provide worker welfare facilities alongside outdoor space. So how can the industry build more sustainable warehouses?
One of the biggest contributors to a warehouse's energy demands, lighting is essential to everyday operations. Switching to long-lasting, energy saving LEDs can significantly reduce consumption and reduce operational costs. But sustainable warehousing needs to go further, for example by implementing sensors to monitor energy usage.
These range from submeters on machinery and appliances to motion sensor lights in bathrooms and corridors. Sensors make it easy to reduce costs and energy use without disruption and can be retrofitted to older buildings. Upgrading insulation is another easy win to reduce the carbon footprint of any building. And new vehicle purchasing decisions including vans and forklifts should always prioritise electric vehicles and incorporate charging points in warehouse design.
But it's not just energy usage that determines the sustainability of a warehouse. Materials used in construction and finishing can have an environmental impact. For instance, the use of natural finishes including wood and non-toxic paints can have a positive impact on the air quality within a warehouse. And making the interior of a building more comfortable can have a direct impact on productivity.
Reuse and recycle
Other easy wins when increasing the sustainability of a warehouse include reducing or using more efficient packaging and recycling after use. Reduce, reuse and recycle may have become something of a meaningless mantra but its implementation is a proven way to create a more sustainable business. For example, pallets and other materials can be reused to reduce waste.
A sustainable skin
Sustainability isn't confined to the interior of a warehouse. Its skin can be important as a way to generate electricity through solar panels or by housing a rainwater harvesting and management system. A green roof, strategically planted trees and cool or reflective roofing can all contribute to sustainability.
Redeveloping brownfield sites can be of important benefit to communities as sites are cleaned up and regenerated after years of environmental contamination. Location is an important factor in sustainability, when roads and utilities are already present reducing the need to create new infrastructure. And reduced journey times result in reduced emissions and faster deliveries.
Why green warehousing matters
According to the WGBC, buildings are directly responsible for 38% of all emissions worldwide. With Cop26 fast approaching, sustainability is more important than ever to build the resilience the environment needs to resist the effects of climate change. As the warehousing sector continues to boom and create value for local economies, it has an unparalleled opportunity to be innovative and lead the way in green construction as we build back better.