Single-envelope technology is revolutionizing today’s warehouse construction, particularly for cold stores and distribution centres, but also for production facilities and data centres. Already, the use of composite panel construction is fast replacing traditional masonry and concrete, providing a lightweight and tremendously durable alternative, while offering improved thermal properties. Moreover, the single-envelope approach means build times are reduced, construction costs are lower and maintenance is easier. Compared to concrete, the carbon footprint is lower too.
The largest example of this design is in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, installed by ISD Solutions, the UK’s leading specialist in cold store design and construction, using 36,000m2 of composite panels; with a single ply fully adhered membrane, over a steel frame. Here the design reduced building costs by 20%, according to Davis Langdon and delivered up to 20% faster project completion.
Traditionally, cold storage warehouses have involved the construction of two buildings, one inside the other. It meant insulation between the shells and a roof void requiring fire prevention sprinkler systems; costly in terms of raw materials, time consuming to build and not particularly sustainable or thermally efficient.
For the Wisbech warehouse, there were demanding performance requirements, not least a one hour fire rating to one elevation and extremely high floor loadings from the racking system. A careful assessment of location, wind loadings and temperature cycles was required to ensure the design could safely accommodate normal shrinkage and expansion, as much as 40mm, and remain airtight.
According to Tony Wall, Managing Director of ISD Solutions, the improved air tightness allows the building to operate with a depleted oxygen atmosphere, down from 20% to 15%. “It’s a little bit like working at altitude – personnel can work as normal, but with reduced oxygen, fire cannot burn so there are further cost savings on fire prevention, sprinkler systems and consequently improved insurance premiums. Improved thermal efficiency also means minimal issues from frost and moisture and lower running costs.”
Currently the UK has just four large-scale frozen food warehouses – the two largest developed by ISD Solutions. With very significant advantages to the industry, both in terms of capital investment, life-time running costs and, due to the high bay design, a requirement for 4-5 times less land this is surely just the start? With more projects already underway and mounting interest from across the sector, it looks like single-envelope, thermally efficient, low carbon solutions herald the future for cold store warehouse design.
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