5 Budget Factors to Consider When Designing Cold Storage Warehouses

The need for cold storage facilities is greater than ever. Product integrity and fresh products are in demand as Millennials become major players in the consumer market. This generation of buyers favor healthier, fresher and higher quality products that have a shorter shelf life — meaning an efficient distribution network is crucial to serve these consumers.

But how can you design your warehouse cost-effectively?

From the outside, cold storage facilities seem like large, simple boxes. However that perception is far from reality — they actually require an advanced, detailed analysis in the design phase to achieve significant operational cost savings.

At its core, a cold storage facility is designed around the type of product that will be stored and how long it will sit on the shelves. But as technologies and techniques aimed at improving efficiencies have proliferated, cold storage warehouses have become more complex to design. 

Here are five key budget considerations to keep in mind:

1. Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency is a top priority when constructing low-temperature facilities. One of the single biggest ongoing expenses for facility operators is power consumption, with costs reaching tens of thousands of dollars per month.

Many facilities have switched to packaged refrigeration units, instead of a central station. Low-charge, rooftop ammonia units have proven to be more energy efficient over time. Plus, the lower refrigerant charge yields cost savings in annual project safety management (PSM) costs.

The orientation of a building can also improve energy efficiency with higher temperature rooms located at the southern end of the facility, and lower-temperature rooms at the northern end.

2. Refrigeration

Factors that influence the efficiency of a refrigeration system include:

These factors must be carefully balanced with operational demands and return-on-investment criteria.

Control systems allow engineers to generate trend analyses, alarm logs, energy management data and runtime reports in real time. This data allows them to make necessary changes and modifications to ensure the refrigeration system is running at optimal efficiency.

3. Refrigeration controls

In addition to mechanical efficiencies, automation can greatly improve refrigeration efficiency and optimize energy use. The increasing cost of labor, availability of labor, advancements in technology and lower equipment price points have all contributed to the recent growth of automation in cold storage facilities and beyond.

4. Thermal and Roofing

Given the staggering energy demands of cold storage facilities, it’s vital to construct a thermal-efficient vapor barrier of uncompromising integrity. Numerous thermal details must be considered including:

5. Electrical Utilities

Loss of power in a cold storage facility can lead to significant financial losses. Design considerations for electrical utilities should include:

  • Reliability and redundancy of the local utility
  • Standby generation

Climate change and increasing severe weather trends — combined with the growing demand for fresh and frozen products — have led more facilities to invest in backup generators. These emergency generators aren’t just found in coastal, Hurricane-prone locations anymore. Many more inland facilities across the country are investing in standby generation to be able to continue operation in the event of power loss.

Understand ROI with cost-benefit analyses

For all of the factors above, a cost-benefit analysis can determine what the return on investment would be for each energy-saving investment in your new facility. At Stellar, we often run these tests to determine how long it would take a particular investment to “pay for itself” over time. (It’s often three to four years.) The goal is to find the balance to ensure the optimal solution when it comes to your budget and long-term needs.  

If you’d like to learn more about designing a budget-efficient cold storage warehouse, email me at foodforthought@stellar.net.

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