Safety, according to Dave Whyatt, sales director of Easilift Loading Systems, is the most important concern among loading bay equipment operators and specifiers but environmental issues will rapidly catch up as life is going to get harder for warehouse operators.

The UK Government is determined to be the greenest ever administration, which will have profound implications for warehouse landlords and users. The Energy Act 2011, for example, means that after 2018 it will be unlawful to let buildings with F and G rated energy performance certificates so landlords should act now to avoid significant improvements costs in the future. However, landlords currently with D and E rated buildings should not get too complacent as falling warehouse values caused by tenants reluctant to agree leases on poor performing buildings will affect them as regulations get tougher.

It is not clear upon whose shoulders the warehouse upgrade costs will fall. Much will depend on the conditions in the lease. A standard service charge would most likely include provision for maintenance and repair issues but stretching this to include energy efficient improvements may be seen as a stretch too far. Warehouse operators, therefore, planning to take on new premises should clarify who will bear the costs of upgrades. Operators should be aware of tenant covenants that make them liable to comply with “legal requirements.”

Warehouses with F and G ratings typically use metal roller shutter doors which are already being shunned in new builds but how do loading bay issues affect energy performance and what can be done to improve energy ratings?

The Performance of Buildings Certificates and Inspections Regulations 2007 mean that all commercial buildings being built, sold or leased after October 1, 2008 will need an energy performance certificate, which offers an A to G rating based on anticipated output of the building. All commercial tenants will be obliged to allow energy assessors access for inspection purposes.

An A rating will be a very energy efficient property with lower running costs. The inspectors will recommend how the energy efficiency of a building could be improved. Fortunately, if considering new loading bay investments then leading door/shelter suppliers like Hormann, Sara, Stertil and Union Industries will offer free energy audits for the loading bay, which of all parts in a warehouse is likely to leak the most energy. Unfortunately, however, at present doors do not qualify for interest-free loans from the Carbon Trust. Yet there is no good reason why funding could not be extended to dock doors and level entry doors provided the users do not operate an open door policy.

Combined with legal constraints, soaring energy costs are also driving changes in door selection, says Hormann’s industrial director, Alan Jenkins, who is seeing operators incorporating cold store logistics into ambient storage. Consequently, Hormann has developed an insulated high speed spiral door, which could replace two door types, the rapid roll PVC roller doors and solid, slow-moving outer security doors. Another interface between vehicle and loading dock sometimes worth considering is the inflatable dock shelter which could cut energy losses because other interfaces are more likely to leak energy.

Energy issues in the loading bay are important and the clock is now ticking for those with F and G ratings.

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