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Logistics Distribution & Warehousing 2006: Green Building: A New Priority

Environmentally friendly warehouse design is increasingly necessary to satisfy both government agencies and customers.

Logistics Distribution Warehousing 2006
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The Next Level
Techniques and technologies like those listed above are both meaningful and practical; they afford real benefits to the environment without imposing a giant up-front economic burden on warehouse developers. Over the long term, however, regulators and customers can be expected to raise the bar on builders, pushing for higher environmental performance from their facilities. In order to move forward, the industry will need to overcome one of the largest handicaps it faces in this area today: a dearth of hard data that quantifies the costs and benefits of individual environmental building features.

For instance, is putting photovoltaic cells on the roof of a distribution center a meaningful and cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions from the building over the long term? Or would it be better to have on-site shower facilities that enable people to bike to work conveniently? Today, one would be hard-pressed to answer those questions definitively. The industry needs to develop a standard, metrics-based approach that enables an apples-to-apples comparison of sustainable technologies in a scientific manner.

As an example, ProLogis will develop a 64-acre industrial park in the midlands region of the United Kingdom that will serve as a "test bed" for state-of-the-art environmental technologies. The land for the park is the site of a former coal mine that also served for years as an unlicensed tire dump. Following a government-sponsored cleanup, construction will include more than 600,000 square feet of space designated for both industrial distribution and use by small and medium-sized businesses.

Plans for the site include a wide array of sustainable technologies and design features:
• There will be improvements focused on the energy performance of the facilities, such as exterior building fabrics that decrease air leakage and loss of energy, and enhanced skylights that boost natural lighting and lower consumption of electrical power.
• The project will include renewable energy systems, such as roof-mounted solar panels, heat-absorbent solar walls, and solar thermal hot water systems. In addition, the feasibility of wind turbines on the site will be investigated.
• The development plan will be designed to create an optimal working environment for employees that integrates into the fabric of the local community. A plan will be developed for a comprehensive transit system that includes convenient links to mass transportation, cycle paths, and pedestrian walkways. Shower facilities will be included to encourage cycling to work, as will a free electric shuttle to key nearby locations and an Internet-based carpooling program. Landscaping onsite will be designed to offset the development's carbon dioxide emissions, and irrigation systems will rely on both gray water and recycled rainwater.

Third-party engineering consultants will monitor and analyze the costs and benefits of the various features at the park, both during construction and over the long-term life of the project. ProLogis intends to make its findings public, so they can be used to enhance future decision-making about sustainable development by private builders, occupiers, and those who craft public policy.

In the end, of course, no industrial development can be truly called sustainable unless it remains economically viable and continues to deliver a strong return to investors. That idea is sometimes lost in the debates and discussions that take place about sustainability today. But better information and a scientific approach should enable our industry to focus on those techniques and technologies that deliver the highest impact at the lowest cost, improving the world we live in without undermining business performance and the bottom line.

Jack Rizzo is managing director of global development for ProLogis, a real estate investment trust based in Denver, Colorado. The company has more than 400 million square feet of industrial space owned, managed or under development in 81 markets across North America, Europe, and Asia.

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