Designing industrial, manufacturing, and warehouse facilities: Codes and standards

More than just places to make and store products, industrial, manufacturing, and warehouse facilities are becoming more complex. Building codes and standards dictate design and safety elements.

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer September 24, 2018


  • Andy Campbell, CEng, MCIBSE Senior Refrigeration Engineer Leo A Daly Minneapolis
  • David Crutchfield, PE, LEED AP Principal RMF Engineering Charleston, S.C.
  • George Isherwood, PE Vice President Peter Basso Associates Troy, Mich.
  • Tommy Lane, PE Department Head, Electrical Engineering Spencer Bristol Peachtree Corners, Ga.

CSE: Please explain some of the codes, standards, and guidelines you commonly use during the project’s design process for these facilities. Which codes/standards should engineers be most aware of?

Crutchfield: Industrial ventilation standards are key, coupled with the International Building Code (IBC) and ASHRAE standards.

Isherwood: Besides the typical building codes, environmental codes, and fire codes that are used in designing manufacturing facilities, most of the larger companies have standards to be maintained that include safety, additional fire protection requirements, and preferred manufacturers.

CSE: What are some best practices to ensure that such buildings meet and exceed codes and standards?

Crutchfield: We use advanced energy modeling to ensure that the building performs properly, is sustainable and energy-efficient, and meets all energy codes. Using energy modeling, we can also suggest improvements to the envelope of the facility that will reduce energy and lower operating costs for the life of the facility.

CSE: How are codes, standards, or guidelines for energy efficiency impacting the design of such buildings?

Isherwood: While energy savings is in everyone’s design practices, safety is a No. 1 priority in manufacturing facilities. Complex technology and industrial-strength tools and equipment create a potentially hazardous environment for employees, which is why complying with codes that emphasize employee safety are crucial to help narrow that gap for potential injuries and liability. Clearance around technology must be designated easily.

Crutchfield: Energy efficiency requires that the architect and envelope designer work with the engineer to ensure that the minimum energy codes are met. Going further, exceeding the minimum energy code requirements to provide an efficient building has become the norm.

CSE: What are some of the biggest challenges when considering code compliance and designing or working with existing facilities?

Crutchfield: Existing buildings generally have legacy issues, where the current code has changed enough that the older systems would not be considered code-compliant if built today. How far back the renovation needs to go to capture and fix these old code issues is always a challenge. Convincing an owner that he has to replace equipment far from the building area being renovated to fix an electrical issue is always a challenge.