Elements of a Sustainable Warehouse

Companies can play a big part in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. For a lot of businesses, this usually means changing their supply chain by employing more electric vehicles and using cleaner fuels when transporting goods and materials. But why stop there?

The facilities where these companies store or manufacture products offer even greater opportunities to go green. In fact, according to the World Green Business Council, the building sector has the greatest potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In this guide, learn what goes into making a sustainable warehouse and why it’s important.

Interior of a Sustainable Warehouse

   

A green warehouse features energy-saving equipment and building materials. Lighting is typically one of the largest contributors to a warehouse’s energy demand, so simple changes can lead to dramatic results. Changing a warehouse’s lighting to LED can lower a building’s total energy consumption, as well as reduce heat generation. Further, LED bulbs last much longer than all other forms of lighting, which leads to replacing warehouse lighting far less often, resulting in potentially significant cost savings.

Another way to reduce the energy consumption of a warehouse is to install sensors wherever they are applicable. These include motion-sensing lights, as well as submeters on machinery, appliances and other equipment. With sensors in place, it’s easy to monitor and reduce energy use—and save money at the same time.

In some cases, the materials used to build or finish a warehouse can impact how sustainable it is. For instance, non-toxic paints, sealants, wood products, adhesives and carpeting help improve the overall air quality in a warehouse. Upgrading a structure’s insulation also helps reduce energy use. In the process, building owners make the interior of the space more comfortable for workers.

Other tips to make a warehouse more sustainable include:

  • Recycle all possible materials.
  • Use more efficient packaging.
  • Reuse pallets and other materials whenever the option exists.
  • Build upward instead of outward.
  • Purchase or rent electric forklifts instead of gas-fueled equipment.
International Park of Commerce - Solar launch event

Exterior of a Sustainable Warehouse

Of course not all eco-friendly attributes are found inside a warehouse. The exterior of a sustainable warehouse is easy to detect because it usually has a rainwater harvesting and management system, solar panels, reflective/cool roofing, strategically planted shade trees and other elements.  

Location is another factor in a distribution center’s overall sustainability. Delivery times can be shortened to reduce transportation emissions by positioning a facility near an urban zone, airport, freeway, rail line or ocean port. Building in these areas also means that certain infrastructure, such as roads, utilities and water lines, will likely already be in place and not need to be developed. Furthermore, redeveloping brownfield sites provides benefits to a community through the cleanup process of sites that might have legacy environmental contamination.

Why Green Warehouses Matter

Transportation may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about improving sustainability and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but buildings account for 41 percent of the energy consumed in the United States. (Compare that to the 29 percent used by the transportation industry.) Further, many warehouses are increasing automation, and the requisite energy demand is another reason why energy efficiency is so important.

Learn more about the warehouse sustainability efforts we strive for at Prologis.