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Greening Big Warehouses
Hana Loftus, 28 Jul 06

adnams_wine_shop.jpg Must be Friday -- today appears to have become an all day Worldchanging editorial happy hour and here's yet another piece about brewing...

I have to declare an interest: the guy who commissioned this project is my father. But it also happens to be one of the most radical and interesting projects in UK green building this year, if not (I dare to say) the most radical.

Here’s the story; a small regional brewer in a small pretty coastal town starts outgrowing its warehousing capacity. Plus, it’s not that great for the small town to have all those delivery trucks moving in and out all day. They’d seen this one coming and bought a disused gravel pit outside town a few years ago, getting planning permission to build a big warehouse to relocate their operations.

This small brewer has made a name for itself in the social and environmental responsibility stakes. I won’t list all their awards (there’s a limit to my bragging) but there have been a fair few. However, when it came to building this new warehouse, it wasn’t like they had spare cash to spend on building a bright green building just for the sake of it. The brewing market is fiercely competitive at the moment; they’ve been borrowing and investing capital steadily over the last few years to upgrade other parts of their estate; there’s a limit to what a company with a turnover of a few million can afford to do.

So they commission their architects (a large, commercial practice) to cost two options: the absolutely standard steel facility that will meet their needs, and the greenest possible building with all the bells and whistles; and also to estimate the energy costs of the two. If they can make the sums add up, they will go with the green option. If not, tough.

Here’s the surprise; the full-on eco version cost only 15% more than the standard. At the time it was first costed (2004), it would save them £23,000 per year in energy bills, enough to justify the investment. It opens in two weeks, and at this years energy costs, will save them £49,000 per year. Payback for the extra cost: around a decade, even if prices rise no further.

So what’s so special about it? The longest timber glue laminated structural beams ever used in the UK – 60m long - imported by sea to a port only 15 miles away, from sustainable Scandinavian forests. All the walls made of lime and locally grown hemp blocks, finished with roughcast lime render and lime and clay paint, with twice the thermal performance of traditional construction, and saving an estimated 450 tons of CO2 in the making. The largest green roof in the UK, at 0.6 hectares. Solar hot water heaters, no heating or cooling, rainwater collection and recycling, sustainable drainage, no asphalt, tree-planting, habitat creation; you name it, it’s there.

I’m proud of my father, of course. But what makes me so excited about this project is that it demonstrates that this approach is actually commercially viable on the toughest terms. It is all the evidence needed for other industrial clients to understand that it can work – and it’s opening on time, on budget. The board took the risk of persuading the banks and shareholders that it would work out, and I’m really happy that, for once, a green building proves that there really doesn’t need to be any risk. The whole green building industry is also grateful – now they have a real case study to back up what they have been saying for years.

So what are they doing with the site they’ve vacated in the center of the small pretty town? Building new housing on it; and pushing the boundaries of commercial greening again, of course. Watch this space.

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Question for you: how is product being moved around the warehouse? traditional forktrucks running on diesel? electric forktrucks? conveyors? overhead monorail?

Always amazed me after visiting a central warehouse for a grocery store chain here in midwestern U.S. how many forktrucks were used and how much diesel fumes there were in the building.

Posted by: Rayne on 28 Jul 06

A ten year payback is not really impressive in the business world. There are however other factors that should be taken into account besides energy savings alone.

Probably the most important would be increased sales. People like me will support companies that want to be green. Even a small percentage in sales can make the energy savings look small.

Increased staff retention is likely another strong factor: people that work for companies they believe in tend to stick around longer. Absenteeism might also be affected.

Maintenance costs for this structure would have to be looked at as well. The ROI (return on investment) calculation figures for light-bulbs are the perfect example: not having to pay someone to keep replacing those bulbs saves more than the energy costs.

Adding all those together probably yields a much better ROI, with a payback in under half the time.

Oh, let your dad know I'm very impressed :)

Posted by: Daniel Haran on 28 Jul 06

Rayne, you'r absolutely right: and they also put effort into making sure there were no fumes inside, with air-lock loading bays that also serve to keep the temperature stable. Their forklifts are electric (I think).

Daniel, you're also right about the staffing implications. Adnams have also won awards for their stafff development and so on and have very low turnover of staff. The design of building also minimises the potential for work injuiries through reducing manual lifting as well as through providing the best levels of lighting and ventilation.

Posted by: Hana Loftus on 29 Jul 06



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