Refrigeration design trends are changing

The rise of e-commerce has changed how the food chain handles refrigeration and companies need to adapt.

By Doug Sandridge February 28, 2020

Since most commercial buildings don’t typically have refrigeration systems, refrigeration design is a specialty many mechanical and electrical engineering firms don’t provide. RTM’s team designs and manages diverse refrigeration projects, partnering with architects and other trades to design, integrate and install equipment for performance, cost effectiveness, and to reduce global warming potential.

One of the rising refrigeration trends is the “last mile,” which is the distance and duration to get food products delivered to the end users or consumers. The most notable example of this trend is Amazon. Ten or 15 years ago, people went to the store to buy something. Now, the norm is more focused towards the convenience of online purchases through e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, with the option to have the item the same day.

Maintaining foods at the appropriate temperature for the “last mile” will require new adaptation of refrigeration systems. Another trend in terminology is the “cold train.” This is the capability (and documentation) of keeping food at the right temperature from farm to table. This reshapes how food is refrigerated in transient, and includes aircraft, docks, transfer points, and delivery vehicles.

This model has changed how products travel that last mile to the customer’s doorstep. In terms of refrigeration design, the largest sector affected is the food chain, as quality food has to be produced and kept fresh. Engineered systems will play a vital role in the success of these new models, whether food is grown organically at a rural or urban farm. Fresh food will have to be refrigerated somewhere along the train, whether in a store, a fulfillment center, or a distribution warehouse, or kept cold in transient. Because the food chain method is changing, refrigeration systems must be adapted to accommodate the new model.

At RTM, we make sure we fully understand how our clients run their business. Are they manufacturing, producing or delivering something? Are they providing another service? We have to follow each step of their process to grasp what makes them efficient. Then we can determine how to apply our engineering expertise to the building or system to improve that efficiency and benefit their bottom line – for example, saving money on utilities and electricity use. Additionally, EPA regulations on refrigerants is a changing landscape. At RTM, we are not only looking at what refrigerants will be phased out, but providing owners with enhanced green options, to select a refrigerant and system that is the most environmentally safe, and least likely to contribute to global warming gases.

This article originally appeared on RTM Associates’ websiteRTM Associates is a CFE Media content partner. 

Original content can be found at

Author Bio: Doug Sandridge, PE, principal at RTM Engineering Consultants