By Tom Reddon
The incorporation of sustainable practices into warehouse and distribution center design has proven to be a winning strategy for business. Warehouse designs incorporating sustainability alleviate harmful effects on our environment while encouraging worker security and comfort level.
Sustainable warehouses earn respect from customers and community members. Moreover, they lower a company's operating costs and ultimately improve a company's profit margins.
1. Ensure reliable access to energy
The energy sources that a company uses directly impacts the surrounding community's quality of life. According to McGraw Hill Construction's report for 2010, approximately 20 percent of the world's population is living without direct access to electricity. People forced to contend with this circumstance have limited access to conventional education. Consequently, citizens of these communities have few options for economic and social development.
Moreover, some communities that have access to electricity may lack the infrastructure needed to create a more stable energy grid. Energy interruptions at a company's warehouse or distribution center often negatively impact commercial operations and could possibly endanger lives.
Sustainable warehouses provide more reliable electricity access since power is produced on the actual worksite -- meaning products kept in these warehouses can be held in ideal conditions. Goods held in sustainable warehouses are also more secure since security systems are less likely to experience interruptions in electricity access.
2. Protect your building from energy price volatility and supply shortages
Energy prices rise and fall according to consumer demand. Today, much of the world is in the process of developing its infrastructure. Additionally, war and unstable trading conditions can cause huge price increases and limit access to energy sources. For instance, unstable conditions in the Middle East directly affect the world's energy markets.
Rising energy prices can slow growth in developing countries. In some cases, price increases can halt a country's growth completely.
By generating power from alternative energy sources, sustainable warehouses shield companies against the adverse effects of war and political uncertainty. They provide a dependable energy supply in locations that previously lacked the resources needed to stabilize its energy supply through traditional means.
3. Protect your company from evolving energy efficiency incentives
Government mandates that regulate commercial buildings are becoming increasingly strict where pollution is concerned. Current trends clearly indicate that operating sustainable buildings will be the standard for commercial enterprise in the near future. One such example of government-regulated changes into green operations is the Energy and Performance of Buildings Directive
issued in 2010 by the European Parliament and the Building Council of the European Union. Some of the requirements mentioned in this directive are:
- By 2020 all new buildings must be able to achieve "nearly zero energy" results and must gain most of its energy supply from renewable resources.
- By the end of 2018 each new building owned or occupied by the public must be nearly zero-energy buildings.
- By 2020, all buildings must get at least 20 percent of their energy supply from renewable sources.
4. Improve your company’s return on investment
There are several economic reasons why a company should consider moving toward sustainable warehousing and distribution centers. Sustainable design provides efficiency improvements and reduces operation cost over the lifetime of a building. CDP's annual report issued in 2011 stated the following:
- Operating costs decrease by approximately 13.6 percent for new buildings and roughly 8.5 percent for existing buildings.
- Occupancy of rates increase by 6.4 percent in sustainable buildings and increase by 2.5 percent in existing constructions.
5. Sustainable constructions inspire better overall company performance
Reports from Global 500 companies show a positive correlation between negative returns on equity and abandoning corporate social responsibility standards. Consequently, one can easily understand how owning sustainable warehouses and distribution centers can improve a company's bottom line.
Image credit: patpitchaya, Fotolia
Tom Reddon is a forklift specialist and blog manager for the National Forklift Exchange. Tom also sits on the Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA) Executive Dialogue team. Follow him on Twitter at @TomReddon.