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Sustainable Warehousing: New Requirements to ‘Green’ Online Retail Demand


Sustainable Warehousing: New Requirements to ‘Green’ Online Retail Demand

Although the pandemic rapidly increased the demand for online shopping, the e-commerce industry has been experiencing rapid growth for years. Spurred by consumer desire to have unlimited choices instantly, e-commerce is expected to represent 26 percent of all retail sales in the U.S. by 2025 — resulting in the need for an additional 330 million square feet of distribution space. With ambitious plans to make the U.S. carbon neutral by 2050, warehousing and logistics organizations have an obligation to decrease the industry’s carbon footprint. This means taking a low-carbon approach to construction and building maintenance, as well as improving site selection and availability for warehouses to reduce transportation emissions.

Warehouse Site Selection

The increase in e-commerce has inevitably led to a rise in demand for warehouse space. Ideally, providers are seeking options closer to where their consumers live — near major metropolitan areas. However, warehouses require expansive spaces, with most key players in the industry looking for facilities over 100,000 square feet or even 250,000 square feet. This can make it challenging to find suitable sites to meet new demand, hiking up costs for warehousing land. Additionally, distribution centers are finding it difficult to locate existing assets to lease or purchase that meet these requirements. Many end up looking for new builds or refurbishing abandoned commercial assets, such as malls or office spaces.


Currently, most warehousing demand is coming from the Western U.S., including markets such as Phoenix and California’s Central Valley. These areas are heavily populated but also offer vast land resources close to city centers. Moving further outside of cities and major metropolitan areas can increase availability and decrease cost, but it has an adverse impact on the environment. When distribution hubs are located farther from where the demand is, journeys will be longer, increasing carbon emissions. In order to improve the sustainability of the industry, government strategies are needed to reduce land requirements for distribution centers, allowing them to be placed closer to where consumers live. In circumstances where this isn’t possible, companies need to consider means to lower the emissions caused by distribution strategies, such as using Electric Vehicles (EVs) to transport products to consumers.

Repurposing existing spaces can help reduce the carbon emissions of warehousing sites, as it reuses resources and potentially allows for shorter distribution timelines. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of work required to get these facilities up to standard for modern warehousing and manufacturing needs. Another key trend that will improve site selection by allowing for smaller horizontal square footage and improved proximity to city centers is the growing popularity of vertical warehouses. In metropolitan areas where horizontal land is not an option, logistics facilities are going vertical, creating multi-floor warehouses and manufacturing sites. Logistics demands are changing as new industries enter the market, including food services. This has inspired innovation in the design of buildings.

Low-carbon Construction and Operation

According to a United Nations Environment program study, buildings and new construction are responsible for huge carbon emissions, accounting for 36 percent of global energy use and 39 percent of annual energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. With warehousing requirements increasing, it is a pivotal time for this industry to evaluate construction-related emissions and consider environmentally aware building methods.

Modular construction has been used across several sectors with great success, including life sciences and residential construction, and these same practices can be applied to warehousing and logistics. Modular construction takes place off-site in manufacturing facilities, with completed designs moved on-site for installation. This can reduce material waste, as it uses a controlled environment for building. It also creates reusable, standardized building designs. Because the building parts are plug-and-play, it also makes the demolition of buildings more sustainable as the units can be removed when they are no longer needed, then repurposed elsewhere. Using hydrogen-powered transportation to move modular projects on-site can help further reduce carbon emissions, but this new trend is only sustainable if companies invest in hydrogen manufacturing plants.

The materials used in warehouse construction are also important. Utilizing steel building frames can reduce wear and tear on the building. It’s also recyclable and can be reused on other projects. Reusing materials from other projects, or using materials that have lower embodied carbon, can bring down the carbon footprint of the building. All materials used in warehouse construction need to be carefully considered if a company wants to reach sustainability goals.

Sustainable practices should also be followed when the building is in use. In a warehouse environment, energy efficiency is important, but it must be balanced against workers’ needs. Workspaces must be illuminated and heated properly to keep workers safe and comfortable. Implementing energy-efficient lighting and heating, as well as using alternative energy sources, can help meet sustainability goals while managing requirements for workers. Technology can be used to monitor energy efficiency, manage inventory and create more efficient internal processes, thereby reducing overall energy consumption.

Smarter warehouses are also needed, whereby technology can be implemented to reduce consumption. Warehousing is now implementing robotics to reduce manual labor requirements while improving efficiency. Although the use of robotics is mostly to improve productivity, when used in conjunction with other sustainable design initiatives, the results can reduce carbon emissions. For example,, a retailer out of China, opened an automated warehouse in 2018 that boasted only four employees but 200,000 daily package fulfillment. When China announced its goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2060, began exploring low-carbon, innovative solutions for warehousing, such as solar panels to power the robots. As new technologies emerge, building considerations will need to change. For example, the use of drones in delivery means that spaces need to accommodate charging stations and landing pads. In new warehouses, companies will need to look towards new technology trends to ensure buildings are prepared for the future.

Traditionally thought of as straightforward projects, warehouses are becoming increasingly complicated. New design, technology and sustainability requirements are forcing companies to innovate in order to develop forward-facing warehouses that will meet future demand. At the same time, increased demand is forcing companies to accelerate timelines while reducing costs. Traditionally reserved for complex life sciences projects, project control consultants will become increasingly necessary on new builds, as well as refurbishing projects.

Environmentally Aware Warehousing and Logistics

Large e-commerce companies are starting to see the importance of creating environmentally sustainable operations. Many U.S. companies that moved manufacturing capabilities overseas are now looking to reinvest in U.S. infrastructure to reduce shipping timelines. California’s World Logistics Center is aiming to be the most sustainable center of its kind in the world, investing in green vehicles and green technology, rooftop solar panels and conservation grants, among other efforts. Other large logistics players are also making promises to reduce the industry’s environmental impact.

These positive changes show that the industry is ready to ‘green’ online retail demand. To do so, there needs to be serious considerations around where and how warehouses and logistics centers are being built. The benefits for the operators are there — a low-carbon approach to construction can lower future operational costs. But it also has a larger impact on future industries that are experiencing increased demand, such as data centers and life sciences. If logistics can show the benefits and ease of sustainable construction and design, it can pave the way for future sustainable construction booms.


Damien Gallogly is Vice President, Americas West Region at Linesight and has over 17 years experience in the construction industry. As a project controls expert, he has worked on a number of large-scale projects, and benefits from considerable international experience across the U.S., UK, Ireland, the Middle East, and Asia. This gives him an in-depth understanding of working on major developments and complex projects, from early engagement through to project closeout. Damien has worked with a range of multinational clients, supporting their development and ambitious programs with valued, strategic counsel.

This article originally appeared here. Republished with permission.


Low-e Coating: An Energy-Efficient Solution in Coated Glass

One of the most sought-after trends in real estate has been the use of coated glass as contractors seek to generate a leading-edge in the coated glass market. Innovations have paved the way towards improving the energy efficiency of buildings. Coated glass windows, for instance, play a valuable role in the energy savings of a structure.

In common parlance, buildings have a massive role in greenhouse gas emissions given that a large chunk of the global energy demand emanates from them. Not to mention windows are responsible for the greatest energy loss in the backdrop of high overall heat transfer coefficients (U-values). This is where the coated glass comes to the rescue: contractors and their commercial partners have opportunities galore to cash in on the trends that are likely to reshape the landscape.

Coated glass is used copiously in modern construction and buildings owing to aesthetic attributes, lightness to the structure, and advanced thermal insulation. Architects and contractors regard this as one of the most sought-after options since it reduces weight on the foundation and makes the building lighter as compared to construction walls.

Coated glass makes the area look far more spacious and creates a sense of “feel-good” factor with long windows and obviates external wastage. Global Market Insights, Inc., has projected the coated glass market size to surpass US$ 24.5 billion by 2024.

State-of-the-art overview of Low-E coating

The architectural glass will provide energy-saving, aesthetic and technical attributes such as thermal insulation, solar control in fenestration, and façade. Glass with low internal reflection will remain instrumental to do away with the mirror effect from inside of a building during nighttime, light transmission, and maximum visibility.

These parameters allude to mega-trends for low-E coated glass, such as double silver glass and triple silver glass. In a bid to boost the energy performance of the façade, hard-coated glass and soft-coated glass have gained impetus. While soft-coated glass balances between light transmission and energy performance, hard-coated glass strikes the balance between cost and energy performance.

Currently, contractors, architects and façade managers see coated glass thriving as an adaptable material delivering unparalleled growth potentials. Low-E coated glass has fueled the trend to reduce the amount of ultraviolet and infrared light without reducing the amount of light that enters the building.

Why Low-e glass?

Low-E coated glass has turned out to be a cost-effective and unique solution to save energy as windows were primarily regarded as the least energy-efficiency component of a building. With commercial buildings in the U.S. wasting around 30% of the energy they consume, low e-coating tends to reduce the emissivity of the glass and reduces the U-factor. Some of the “green features” of low-e glass are elucidated herewith (included but not limited to):

-Reduces UV rays that lead to less fading;

-Provides optimum visible light transmittance, reducing lighting loads;

-Reduces solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) values—transcending into cost and energy savings;

-Maintains temperature and provides insulating benefits.

Low e-coated glass has the innate ability to improve thermal comfort in the fall and winter, with stakeholders infusing funds in solar control low-e coatings (soft coat) and passive low-e coatings (hard coat).

It is worth noting that demand for soft-coated glass will be more pronounced in the U.S. as it provides better UV protection and has a decent U-value. Not to mention the soft-coated glass also reflects the warm and cool air back into the room.

Solar control glass for hospitals: a palpable trend

Contractors have upped their focus on solar control glass in hospitals to boost patient’s visual comfort and vitamin D levels, reduce anxiety and depression. Solar control glass is helping hospitals go green, thanks to its ability to reduce the need for artificial lighting and lighting costs, thereby making hospitals energy-efficient.

With low glare, energy-efficiency, optimum light transmission, indoor environment quality, and comfort, coated glass can be used effectively in hospitals. Solar coated glass is likely to add value to the performance, light transmission, and durability.

North America to be a favorable coated glass consumer

With the trend towards building new infrastructure soaring in the U.S., contractors are envisaging North America as a happy hunting ground. Glass façades in several buildings in skyscrapers, buildings and hotels in the U.S., Canada and Mexico have become a natural fit in North America coated glass industry.

Low-e coated glass will expand its footprint in the region as it will remain instrumental in both summer and winter seasons. For instance, it will preserve heat indoors during the winter season, while it will also ensure windows are well insulated to withstand hostile weather conditions. Traction for low-e coating will be noticeable in visible light transmittance and U-value.

The U.S. coated glass industry is expected to be replete with investments following the construction boom in the country. The U.S. construction growth will tilt towards the southern states, with Oxford Economics estimating that the industry could grow faster than China over the next 15 years, thereby instilling confidence among construction contractors.

The coated glass market is likely to be one of the most dynamic sectors as low-e glass and solar control glass have become smart choices for architectural designs to boost sustainability. Advancements in green technology to reduce energy consumption will bolster sales of coated glass as these green products have come as the most compelling evidence of the high energy efficiency performance of coated glass.