Warehouses, or distribution centers, are vital to consumer businesses that require a proper environment for short and long-term storage of materials and goods. Warehouse construction, since the 1980s, has exploded both in number and sizes; this is attributed much to an expansion in E-commerce. Warehouse sizes in the United States have also increased significantly in the last thirty years, from less than 10,000 square feet and an average height of 24-feet to 16,400 square feet and heights of more than 33 feet.
Modern-functional warehouses are not just bigger but also disaster-resistant, sustainable, and durable.
- A warehouse design must ensure the protection of the commodities from fire, rain, wind, and other outdoor elements.
- A sustainable warehouse is energy efficient, good for the environment, improves worker safety and comfort, and ultimately boosts a company’s financial performance.
- Furthermore, building a durable warehouse ensures the long-term integrity of a warehouse, which saves money on both maintenance and long-term repairs.
Check out these twelve tips for building a warehouse.
Building a Functional Warehouse
1. Warehouse Size
The size of a warehouse must accommodate the weight of the stored products, the handling equipment, the shipping and receiving operations and associated trucking, and the needs of the warehouse employees.
2. Flexible Design
Flexible design, when constructing a warehouse, is vital to accommodate future operations and storage requirements as a business’s goals change.
3. Warehouse Floors
- A concrete warehouse floor must carry wheel loads and resist the abrasion caused by the continual use of hard rubber and steel-wheeled forklift trucks.
- Moreover, a warehouse floor must be flat and level for safe operations of the high-lift equipment.
- To avoid slips and falls by employees, include non-slip surface treatments on floors.
Building a Disaster-Resistant Warehouse
4. Wind-Resistant Warehouse Construction
The lateral (horizontal) and uplift loads caused by hurricanes, storms, and tornadoes, attack the integrity of warehouses and can damage buildings with flying debris.
A wind resistant building design includes a continuous load path that protects a warehouse’s structural integrity by transferring the lateral forces that attack the walls and diaphragms (roof, floor, and shear walls) towards the foundation and into the ground. Wind resistant design also stops damage to the exterior of the warehouse from flying debris.
5. Flood-Resistant Warehouse Construction
Flood-resistant design of warehouse is crucial to the protection of the stored items and equipment, particularly in a high- or low-risk flood zone. For warehouses located in whole or in part of a flood hazard area, the building must be according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Flood Resistant Design and Construction, ASCE 24-141.
The warehouse walls are a vital component of flood-resistant design.
- Flood-resistant walls limit the transport of water to adjacent materials.
- Flood-resistant walls have high vapor permeability2 with the ability to drain and dry in two directions.
- Moreover, flood-resistant walls maintain their original dimension and strength before and after a flood.
6. Fire-Resistant Warehouse Construction
A warehouse must aim to limit the spread of fire and smoke during a fire emergency through passive fire-resistant construction. Passive fire protection includes firewalls, horizontal assemblies, smoke barriers, and fire partitions. Passive fire protection minimizes the spread of fire and smoke through vertical openings, like shafts. Importantly, passive fire-protection stops the collapse of a warehouse.
7. Earthquake-Resistant Warehouse Construction
Warehouses must remain standing and functional during and after an earthquake. Earthquake-resistant warehouses have shear walls that extend the full height of every side of the building. Long walls are more earthquake resistant than short walls, and solid walls are better than ones with doors and windows. Moreover, anchoring the shear walls to the foundation with steel reinforcing bars can protect against severe sideways (lateral) in-plane forces that push the top of the wall in one direction while the bottom remains stationary or is forced in the other direction (racking the wall).
Building a Sustainable Warehouse
8. Building an Energy-Efficient Warehouse
Energy-efficient warehouse construction aims to lessen energy use with a tight building envelope. Three essential elements of an energy-efficient warehouse include continuous insulation (CI), the application of an effective air- and moisture-barrier, and the use of high thermal mass products. CI and an air- and moisture-barrier prevents thermal bridging, increases the effective R-value and stops condensation. High thermal mass products absorb and store heat energy and help stabilize temperature shifts within the warehouse by slowing the rate of heat transfer.
9. Building a Warehouse with Quality Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
IAQ is critical to the health and productivity of warehouse workers. Building a warehouse with good IAQ requires controlled air- and moisture-resistance that stops moisture accumulation in the walls. Moisture in the walls can lead to unhealthy mold.
Also, the warehouse design should avoid the use of products with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs cause nose, eye, and throat irritations, headaches, nausea and damage to the liver, and kidney, and central nervous system.
10. Cost Efficiency when Building a Warehouse
The overall cost of warehouse construction must consider the value of the building and the amount of time and labor required to get the job done; therefore, opting for products or building systems that are time and labor efficient can considerably reduce building costs. Furthermore, choosing materials made from recycled products can save money and is good for the environment.
Building a Durable Warehouse
11. Termite-Resistant Warehouse Construction
Termite-resistance is vital for the long-term-structural integrity of a warehouse. Designers and builders of warehouses should select products that lack organic materials (wood), which termites like to eat.
12. Moisture-Resistant Warehouse Construction
A quality moisture-and air barrier stops moisture infiltration and is critical to the walls of a warehouse. Moisture accumulation can lead to wood-rot, which damages a warehouse’s integrity and can cost thousands of dollars in repair costs. Moisture accumulation also causes unhealthy mold.