One of the fastest-growing sectors in the UK is logistics, which has seen phenomenal growth as more of us have turned to online shopping.
But the sector is not simply expanding, it’s also showing increased interest in adopting low-carbon technologies and renewable energy sources.
Much of this has to do with clients in retail and other sectors demanding that suppliers adopt sustainable business measures.
Other reasons are entirely practical – large warehouses are big energy users, so it makes sense to generate as much as possible on-site to reduce operational costs and to use energy as efficiently as possible.
Technologies are available that can help clients in the warehousing sector
Low carbon developments
A case in point is the recently-announced speculative ‘shed’ by Winvic for client Firethorn Trust.
This will be the largest warehouse facility of its kind in the country, taking up 42 acres of land near Ellesmere Port.
The massive site will include several storage units and just one of these will be 655,000 sq ft – the size of around ten football pitches.
Perhaps most importantly, the Ellesmere Port project will incorporate energy efficient and low-carbon technologies including LED lighting, electric vehicle charging points and photovoltaics. In addition, a local waste-to-energy facility will provide up to 25MV of power.
Another example of this burgeoning sector adopting a sustainable approach is the Peterborough logistics hub (another Firethorn Trust project, working with Glencar Construction).
This 500,000 sq ft centre will include 40,000 sq ft of photovoltaics and other low-carbon tech.
Solutions are available
With buildings on such a large scale, providing services such as cooling, heating and domestic hot water is a challenge – particularly if the technology has to be energy efficient and sustainable.
However, there are technologies available today that can help clients in the warehousing sector achieve just that.
One example is Hybrid VRF (HVRF) system, which is a 2-pipe heat recovery air conditioning system that uses water as the medium for carrying heating or cooling as required.
The benefit is that users can enjoy the advantages of a chiller in a system designed as traditional VRF air conditioning.
HVRF also uses low-GWP R32 refrigerant, and the hybrid system also requires less refrigerant. These two factors lower the overall carbon footprint of the system considerably.
Speed is of the essence when these warehousing facilities are planned and constructed. Another pressure point for designers and installers is space, which is a priority for business-critical functions such as storage and logistics. HVRF is quick, easy and flexible to design and install – making it an excellent solution for time-pressed projects.
Another approach that supports energy efficient warehouse operation is to harness heat recovery.
Cooling is a big user of energy in the warehousing sector, and often, the heat extracted from a space is simply ejected.
But with heat recovery, this energy can be harnessed to provide heating for use in other areas of the building.
The Integra chiller offers simultaneous heating and cooling. So while the system removes heat from one area of a building to cool it, the extracted heat can be used to supplement hot water provision, for example.
Pump up the heat
For warehouses that generate their own on-site electricity, then electric heat pumps offer an excellent sustainable solution for heating and hot water.
The commercial Ecodan range has been specially designed to meet the requirements of large projects, even producing hot water up to 90oC if required.
The warehousing sector is already a vital part of the UK economy, and it supports many other businesses with operationally-critical services.
Ensuring that these giant buildings function smoothly and sustainably is an important factor in their success. With the right technologies, building services can offer modern solutions that stand the test of sustainability and scale.
Dave Archer is National M&E Manager