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Seeking sustainable warehouse space?

19 January 2022

Matt Whittaker asks searching questions about the impact of COP26 on warehouse space supply.

THE RECENT COP26 summit has, despite some disappointments, highlighted the need for radical change in every area of the modern economy, supply chains not least. This need is widely accepted and being acted on in transport – electric or perhaps hydrogen powered vehicles, modal shift to rail, even low carbon deep sea shipping – but the carbon impact, and potential for improvement, of essentially static and inert warehousing and storage is less considered.

That poses a problem, especially in the UK. It’s well recognised that the country is ‘under-warehoused’, especially given the rapid and permanent rise in eCommerce with its demands for increasingly sophisticated distribution facilities. But continuing to build ever more ‘big sheds’ is in no way sustainable, let alone carbon-neutral, on several levels.

First, the UK’s construction and building industries rate really poorly in international terms for their use of concrete, steel and other energy-intensive materials – and ‘net zero carbon’ steel or cement are still largely aspirations, rather than achievable realities. New build is intrinsically bad for any carbon footprint.

There are less obvious climate change considerations. While the local effects of climate change on agriculture are as yet unknown, they are unlikely to be positive – should we really be concreting over more farmland, in a country that hasn’t been able to feed itself for two hundred years or more? And secondly, is it wise to build ever more distribution centres, vital nodes in the economy of the nation, on increasingly vulnerable, if attractively flat, flood plains?

The need for more warehousing and storage capacity is undeniable – ironically, increased capacity may be essential to achieving other carbon and wider environmental goals, for example by enabling more energy-efficient transport and distribution networks. But need this all be new build?

We know that there is a considerable estate of unused, or under-utilised, warehousing that is potentially available, at least on a short-term or temporary basis. We also know that there are many businesses desperate to take advantage of those opportunities. How can we bring these parties together, to improve the carbon performance of supply chains without adding to the burden of new build?

At Bis Henderson Space we offer low risk, high flexibility solutions that can continually adapt to changing business needs, including a transition to a more eco and sustainable solution. 

It’s not realistic to suppose that our economy can be sustained without some degree of new build warehousing, but it surely makes sound environmental thinking to make the best possible use of the assets we have before we commit to ever more carbon-intensive projects.

For our space-hungry clients, we can source operational space that can help grow the business without climate change guilt.

Matt Whittaker, commercial director, Bis Henderson Space

For more information, visit www.bis-hendersonspace.com