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Warehouses, defined here, are facilities that provide a proper environment for the purpose of storing goods and materials that require protection from the elements. Warehouses must be designed to accommodate the loads of the materials to be stored, the associated handling equipment, the receiving and shipping operations and associated trucking, and the needs of the operating personnel. The design of the warehouse space should be planned to best accommodate business service requirements and the products to be stored/handled. The economics of modern commercial warehouses dictate that goods are processed in minimal turnaround time.
The different types of warehouses include:
- Controlled humidity (CH) warehouses-similar to general warehouses except that they are constructed with vapor barriers and contain humidity control equipment to maintain humidity at desired levels.
Special-designed warehouses meeting strict requirements can also provide liquid storage (fuel and nonpropellants), flammable and combustible storage, radioactive material storage, hazardous chemical storage, and ammunition storage.
Features already now common in warehouse designs are higher bays, sophisticated materials-handling equipment, broadband connectivity access, and more distribution networks. A wide range of storage alternatives, picking alternatives, material handling equipment and software exist to meet the physical and operational requirements of the warehouse. Warehouse spaces must also be flexible to accommodate future operations and storage needs as well as mission changes.
Being utilitarian facilities, warehouse designers should focus on making the warehouse spaces functional and efficient, while providing a safe and comfortable environment for the workers to increase productivity and control, reduce operating costs, and improve customer service. Even warehouses have to maintain a corporate image and provide for worker satisfaction. Building image and aesthetics, landscaping, and worker safety and comfort, become important issues in competitive real estate markets.
A. Types of Spaces
Depending on the program of the warehouse being designed, space types may vary dramatically.
- Storage Space
- Office Space
- Loading Docks for shipping and receiving
- Light Industrial Space
- Computer Centers
B. Space Configurations
- Be designed based on current and future needs.
- Be designed with fire protection capacity to accommodate storage of materials with a greater fire hazard, especially needed with high plastic product content or packaging, and plastic shrink-wrapped pallets.
- Maximize utilization of space while providing adequate circulation paths for personnel and material handling equipment such as forklift trucks.
- Use higher bays to take advantage of height allowances in the space.
- Alternative material handling methods will determine other building aspects, such as aisle widths, lighting design, need for mezzanine space, fire protection, and egress design. Businesses will often use different methods of storage handling simultaneously for different products.
- Be planned to accommodate loads of stored materials as well as associated handling equipment.
- Adequate space must be provided on-site for truck maneuvering, truck storage if the business owns a fleet, car parking for employees and future office space/population expansion (which might be driven by higher rent for center-city office space), and landscaped areas.
- Be designed to ensure that no structural member will interfere with the spacing of rail car doors or truck berths at dock spaces. Dock heights on the truck side of the terminal should be approximately 4'-4" above the pavement, with appropriate ramps at each truck berth to bring the height of the truck bed in line with the dock height. Dock heights on the rail side of the terminal should be approximately 3'-9" above the top of the rail to ensure that the rail car floor is even with the dock floor. Dock widths and areas inside exterior doors leading to dock space must be planned for maneuverability of forklift trucks and other expected types of material handling equipment.
- Dock widths and areas inside exterior doors leading to dock space must be planned for maneuverability of forklift trucks and other expected types of material handling equipment. Consider using a non-slip finish on the concrete floor near loading areas for safety.
- Use energy-efficient fixtures, systems, and appliances, e.g., motion sensor instant-on lighting systems, wherever feasible.
E. Safety/Security of Personnel and Material
- Include appropriate security systems incorporated into the overall warehouse design.
- Strive to create a 'sense of place' such that the warehouse has a unique character that engenders a sense of pride, purpose, and dedication for individual workers and the workplace community.
G. Example Design and Construction Criteria
For GSA, the unit costs for this building type are based on the construction quality and design features in the following table 187 KB, 14 pgs). This information is based on GSA's benchmark interpretation and could be different for other owners.
Examples of natural lighting designs for warehouse structures
Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) are reshaping the ways in which goods and services are manufactured, stored, and distributed. AS/RS have become a means to control and immediately report the movement of material, providing a critical link in the chain of information systems that control work-in-process, manufacturing schedules, and distribution. AS/RS warehouses are designed for maximum storage and minimum personnel on site. They are built for lower temperature operation with minimal heat and light needed, but require a tall structure with super level floors.
In the private sector, competition, technology and e-commerce are forcing distributors to look for ways to move larger quantities of their products more quickly and efficiently to the consumer. Clustering distribution centers in a single geographic area is among the new trends. There is also a move towards transportation specialization, such as companies that depend on substantial parcel air transport, locating near Memphis, TN, while Columbus, OH rates higher for companies focused on overland distribution.
Labor availability and technology advances are factors driving many companies to consolidate their distribution systems into fewer but larger, regional facilities. However, not all companies are consolidating their distribution centers: in many areas, the consolidation trend itself is producing a new generation of smaller, local distribution centers. Experts say that new logistical handling systems and greater outsourcing-in particular, the increased use of third-party logistics providers-seem to be driving this trend.
New "flex" warehouses in well landscaped industrial park settings for smaller businesses is a growing trend. These buildings accommodate small businesses such as contractors, light industrial fabricators, and mechanics that do not need exposure to heavy retail street traffic. In older industrial areas, small warehouse buildings with low roofs, no longer suitable for large single commercial users, are being repositioned and renovated as multi-tenant "flex" warehouse buildings.
Forces outside the parameters of the normal building project can generate great changes in warehouse design. Examples include accelerated tax write-offs in the 1980's, which enabled speculative construction of much larger buildings; again 1980's federal regulations to permit much larger over-the-road trucks, which required commensurate changes to site space given over to truck space; local real estate market prices, which often makes it economically attractive for companies to relocate much of their corporate back office space at their regional distribution center; increasingly tighter environmental and permitting processes, which leaves the market to the larger developers, resulting in usually larger projects; and the reclamation of former "brownfields" industrial sites for either new industrial or other uses.
Relevant Codes and Standards
Warehouses must be designed to meet all local building, fire, and life-safety codes. When in doubt, consult with the local building official. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also provides guidance for warehouse safety.
- 29 U.S.C. § 651 et seq.; 29 C.F.R. Part 1903.1 et seq.-Occupational Safety and Health Act 1970
Several design criteria and guidelines exist for federal warehouses:
- Department of Defense (DOD)
- National Fire Protection Association
- Veterans Administration (VA)-Veterans Health Administration
Building / Space Types
Functional / Operational-Account for Functional Needs, Productive-Ensure Reliable Systems and Spaces, Secure / Safe- Fire Protection, Secure / Safe-Security for Building Occupants and Assets, Sustainable-Optimize Energy Use, Sustainable-Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality
- American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE)
- Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP)
- Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE)
- International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses (IARW)
- International Warehouse Logistics Associations (IWLA)
- International Society of Logistics (SOLE)
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC)
- Guide to Sizing Warehouse Aisles for Various Types of Lift Trucks. by Edward Brown. WarehouseIQ.com, October 8, 2011.
- Rules of Thumb for Warehousing and Distribution Equipment Costs by Gross & Associates.
- Time, Space & Cost Guide to Better Warehouse Design by Maida Napolitano and Gross & Associates.
- UFC 4-440-01 Warehouses and Storage Facilities
- UFC 4-451-10N Design: Hazardous Waste Storage
- Warehouse Safety: A Comprehensive Review by George Swartz.
- Warehouse Safety: A Practical Guide to Preventing Warehouse Incidents and Injuries by George Swartz. 1999. ISBN: 0865876479
- Warehousing Profitably by Kenneth Ackerman. Third Edition. The Distribution Group, 2011.
- Building Research Information Knowledgebase (BRIK)-an interactive portal offering online access to peer-reviewed research projects and case studies in all facets of building, from predesign, design, and construction through occupancy and reuse.
Points of Contact
- Gross & Associates-Consultants in Material Handling Logistics, 555 Highway 1 South, Suite 300, Iselin, NJ 08830. Phone: (732) 636-2666