Cold Storage Facilities: Three Design Concepts to Keep Temperatures and Operating Costs Down

Cold storage distribution facilities are a unique segment within the industrial real estate market.  Due to the temperature sensitive products they handle, their operating and maintenance costs run higher than their non-refrigerated counterparts. Cold-stored products require strict temperature ranges. A well designed cold storage facility incorporates features and construction techniques that increase operating efficiencies and reduce maintenance costs. Ware Malcomb Principal Cameron Trefry shares three design concepts that maximize the real estate value of this distinctive building type.

#1: Higher Clear Heights Deliver Higher Real Estate Value

Depending on your market, square footage can be expensive and serve as a limiting factor in your decision making.  In new construction, typical warehouse clear heights range from 36 to 40 foot clear, but we recommend increasing warehouse clearance heights in cold storage buildings. Higher clear heights not only increase your storage capacity to maximize square footage, but also increase efficiency with refrigeration. The refrigeration efficiencies with higher clear heights involve the source distribution of the cold air starting at the roof and moving downward to cool the entire area.

Ware Malcomb designed a build-to-suit, cold storage distribution center for an international food company in Illinois.  The facility features a 98,085 square-foot freezer warehouse with a 72’ clear height. With the raised clear ceiling height, the facility was designed to accommodate 21,000 pallets of frozen product utilizing a very narrow aisle racking layout with manned fork trucks.

#2:  Thicker Insulated Panels Increase Energy Efficiencies

Insulated panels keep warehouses cool by trapping cold air in and keeping warm air out.  Increasing the thickness of the panels improves the energy efficiency of the refrigeration system.  A 6” panel thickness is recommended for freezer warehouses while 4” panels will suffice for refrigeration systems. 

Another Ware Malcomb project in Illinois designed for an international refrigerated warehousing company achieved LEED Gold and utilizes 6” insulated panels in their 223,000 SF warehouse. The facility consists of three rooms with multi-temperature abilities.  The 6” panels let the warehouse maintain temperatures down to -10 °F and a blast freezer section of the building offers temperatures as low as -40°F. Blast freezers are utilized to bring recently processed products at ambient temperatures down to freezing quickly to prevent the spread of bacteria. Products can typically stay in the blast freezers for a period of 24-48 hours and then are moved into conventional freezers to make room for new, ambient-temperature products coming into the facility.

#3: Shrinkage-Compensating Concrete Floor Panels Reduce Joint Maintenance

Flooring is an important decision when designing a cold storage facility as it will affect energy efficiency and must be capable of withstanding extreme temperatures.  Maintenance is very costly for cold storage facilities and repairs may stop operations resulting in a loss of refrigeration and revenue. Traditional concrete slabs require control joint spacing of 12-15 feet, which increases areas for potential damage to the slab due to fork truck traffic. Shrinkage-compensating concrete is a better choice because it limits the overall number of control joints. The continuous pours of shrinkage-compensating concrete in dimensions of 60-100 feet reduce the amount of control joints and lessen opportunities for damage. This type of flooring has higher material and installation costs but offers operational and maintenance savings in the long-run.    

Golden State Food’s Regional Headquarters and Logistics Center in McCook, Illinois is a state-of-the-art distribution center and achieved LEED Gold certification. The 165,000 square-foot build-to-suit facility utilizes shrinkage compensating concrete. This type of concrete eliminates the control joints and therefore minimizes maintenance costs.  Overall the project achieved a 40% reduction in total energy usage as compared to standard warehouse buildings of comparable size.

Ware Malcomb understands the nuances of designing efficient cold storage facilities. Higher clearance heights, increased building envelope R-values, and specialized concrete slab installations are critical in the operations and maintenance of cold storage facilities.  Consider these three concepts to increase operating efficiencies, reduce maintenance costs and maximize real estate value. 

Since 1972, Ware Malcomb continues to be a leader in industrial design utilizing the latest trends and technologies that enhance facility operations and maximize value for clients.  We are committed to innovate and push the limits of design and sustainability.  To view our industrial portfolio, please visit our website.