Warehouse, manufacturing facilities go high-tech: Sustainability and energy efficiency

Warehouse, manufacturing and logistics buildings are more than simple boxy structures used to make products and store them before they move onto their next destination. Engineers working find these facilities can be as complex and advanced as any other building

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer May 29, 2020


Leonard Belliveau Jr., PE, SET, vice president, strategic accounts, Jensen Hughes, Framingham, Mass.: Belliveau has more than 22 years of experience managing fire protection engineering design and code consulting on government and commercial projects. Clients include a large shipping company, U.S. Department of Transportation and Leidos Corp.

Jason R. Gerke, PE, CxA, LEED AP BD+C, practice area leader – Mechanical/Plumbing | Principal, GRAEF, Milwaukee.: As a practice area leader, Gerke has worked on a broad range of projects, including convention centers, schools, airports and others. He has more than 12 years of mechanical design, commissioning and project management experience.

George D. Halkias, AIA, LEED AP, NCARB, senior principal, Stantec, Pittsburgh: Serving as senior principal, Halkias brings more than 20 years of experience — as well as knowledge on a wide range of project types — to the company. He has designed, consulted on or managed more than 2 million square feet of U.S. Green Building Council LEED certified buildings.

Josh Meinig, PE, senior mechanical engineer, CDM Smith, Maitland, Fla.: Meinig is the lead mechanical engineer in the southeast region at CDM Smith. He has more than 14 years of experience in mechanical design and construction services for environmental, industrial, military and commercial facilities.

Doug Sandridge, PE, principal, RTM Engineering Consultants, Wheat Ridge, Colo.: Sandridge, principal, comes to RTM from Concord West, an engineering firm specializing in design, construction and management services that the firm acquired in June. His portfolio includes a number of liquor distilleries and international projects.

CSE: What level of performance are you being asked to achieve, such as WELL Building Standards, U.S. Green Building Council LEED certification, net zero energy, Passive House or other guidelines?

Meinig: I have only been asked to design to U.S. Green Building Council LEED for these types of facilities.

CSE: What unusual systems or features are being requested to make such projects more energy efficient?

Sandridge: For cold storage and distribution centers, the refrigeration system is responsible for a large portion of the facility cost and energy use. Refrigeration systems should be evaluated for their potential to increase greenhouse gases, energy efficiency, first costs and potential requirements to replace the refrigerant in the future. That is why it is important to review the owner’s energy goals at the beginning of the project and work within a budget to develop system comparisons, options and recommendations for the owner.

CSE: Describe a recent project in which the building envelope was complex or unique.

Meinig: Providing proper insulation in tilt-up wall panels is always challenging when trying to exceed energy code compliance.

CSE: What types of sustainable features or concerns might you encounter for these buildings that you wouldn’t on other projects?

Gerke: Our company recently designed a large heavy manufacturing building with containerized battery storage on the site. This solution made sense on many fronts, including a large roof to locate solar photovoltaic panels, equipment that required bumpless power transfer in the event of an outage and an owner that wanted to use leading-edge technology. These features must all align to explore and successfully implement newer technology on projects. Design professionals should always look out for these opportunities.

Meinig: Some ASHRAE standards are difficult to meet based on the size of the facilities and the process loads of the manufacturing process.

CSE: What types of renewable or alternative energy systems have you recently specified to provide power?

Meinig: For such large facilities, photovoltaics are ideal for such large roof areas. If PVs aren’t in the client’s current budget, provisions are made so they can be added later.

Gerke: Our company has been involved with a project that included solar photovoltaics, battery storage, wind spires, water reuse system and ice storage. The inclusion of all of these items made this a very exciting project, both for the design team to incorporate all of these systems in a single project as well as an owner that was looking forward to promoting this new facility with all of these great energy efficiency features.

CSE: How has the demand for energy recovery technology influenced the design for these kinds of projects? Describe a mixed-use building in which the heat from the manufacturing section of the plant was used in other portions of the building.

Meinig: Depending on the manufacturing process schedule, energy storage has been used to provide heating for other areas of the facility.

CSE: How have energy recovery products evolved to better assist in designing these projects?

Meinig: The efficiency of heat exchangers and the effectiveness of desiccant wheels has improved drastically throughout the years.