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Making mega warehouses happen

10 January 2019

Built to stretch beyond the horizon​, Britain’s vast ‘mega’ warehouses and distribution centres​ are a sign of an ever-evolving logistics sector that demands a faster, more flexible and efficient response to customer demands. Paul Gouland, marketing director at Clugston Group, discusses the secrets behind building modern distribution centres.

To gain a competitive edge in the supply chain and meet customer expectations, therefore, modern warehouse facilities are not only becoming larger, taller and wider, but also far more complex as companies look beyond a “standard box” design. 

Such is the rise of large ‘big box’ warehouses – typically structures of over 100,000 square feet – that Lidl recently announced plans to build one of the largest UK warehouses near Luton, measuring a staggering one million square foot. Meanwhile, construction work on a new 1.1 million square foot, £100m logistics facility for Amazon in Doncaster was completed in July 2018.

Although the scale and complexity of these projects bring numerous advantages for the logistics sector, they also pose a number of challenges. 

Building Information Modelling

Traditionally known as a building and civil engineering contractor, in addition to operating its own logistics division, Clugston has been constructing large sheds for the distribution sector for more than 40 years; and as a result has acquired a precise knowledge of the complex challenges surrounding the construction of modern warehouses and distribution centres.

While scale is a critical consideration during any build – with not only bigger building footprints, but also higher ceilings to provide extra clearance for stock, vehicles, larger racking systems and the surplus of advanced equipment now common place – other factors such as energy efficiency, cost-effectiveness and safe design are also vital.

To achieve the incredibly high level of accuracy that is required for any large scale shed build, leading construction companies are now utilising BIM (Building Information Modelling) – an intelligent 3D model-based process – to model sophisticated warehouse designs to ensure businesses are getting all the space they need for stock, equipment and employees.

By utilising BIM technology, construction companies such as Clugston Construction can review building data to drive efficiency, boost sustainability and minimise waste during the build process. Prototyping structures virtually ensures facilities not only meet the requirements of the retailer, but also maximise efficiency. 

Careful consideration should be given to both the construction procedures and materials utilised during the build to ensure that the facility is both high quality in its appearance and contextually appropriate for the purpose it is going to serve. The glass, bricks and cladding of a facility, for instance, can be constructed to bolster the strength of the building or meet BREEAM and sustainable measures.

Similarly, such structures can be constructed from materials that resist break-ins and guard against outside tampering to protect against unwanted intrusion and theft, due to the high value of stock they usually contain. External and internal windows, doors and gates, for example, can be manufactured from heavy-duty and robust materials and fitted with advanced locking devices to create a safe haven for hazardous and expensive materials. 

Case study

Located off junction 38 of the A1(M) and just seven miles North West of Doncaster town centre in South Yorkshire, Redhouse Interchange is a sign of the transformation happening in the once ‘steady’ warehouse and logistics market.

The major development, a joint-venture between Clugston Estates and Cromwell, is one of South Yorkshire’s premier distribution locations, providing around two million square feet of space that is occupied by leading retailers Next, Asda, B&Q and DFS’ Head Office. 

Mawdsley Pharmaceutical Group, as occupier and purchaser, has taken the last 150,000 square foot unit – which rather fittingly was built by Clugston – acquiring additional land from the JV, with a view to extending the unit in the near future.

Such large-scale warehouse schemes have become increasingly common, particularly on the outskirts of the UK’s densely populated cities where they are required for the fundamental “last mile” of delivery into major cities.