Sustainable logistics properties: efficiency as a product
An article by:
Kai Alfermann, Director of Real Estate & Quality, and Marc Borgmann, Energy Manager at the Fiege Group
Sustainability doesn’t just mean protecting the environment. Any company hoping to grow would be well advised to align its environmental goals with its social and economic objectives, particularly in the logistics field with its tight margins. In some areas, service charges alone can amount to up to 50 per cent of a property’s costs. Businesses that fail to invest in more efficient lighting, heating, robotics and intelligent management will become uncompetitive.
Efficiency is not only needed with regard to operational aspects, however. In addition to an efficient building envelope, a sustainable logistics property has to be served by logistics processes that are efficiently planned, built and managed. Which is precisely what happens at logistics service provider Fiege. The company’s major logistics locations, including the Fiege Mega Center Dieburg and the Fiege Center currently under construction in Großburgwedel, are prime examples. In Dieburg, an efficient, high-performance site comprising some 90,000 square metres has been built to the very latest technical standards. Another 70,000-square-metre site is now being added at Großburgwedel.
Case study: Mega Center Dieburg
The construction of the Mega Center Dieburg complex brings together six locations in one. In addition to delivering cost savings, this means streamlined logistics processes and shorter transport routes. Easy access and good transport links via major motorways without having to drive through a built-up area are key features of such sites, enabling 24-hour operation, 365 days a year. The proximity to Frankfurt airport and Dieburg’s location in a busy metropolitan area likewise provide ideal conditions for sustainable logistics processes.
One of the most difficult issues associated with major projects of this kind is finding a suitable site. Logistics is rarely seen as an innovative sector with a bright future. On the contrary, public perception is generally negative, focusing on excessive traffic, environmental pollution and low paid staff. The fact that the development of a new logistics site involves intensive efforts to optimise delivery routes, thus reducing emissions, is often ignored. Publicity work, i.e. engaging and informing local residents, is therefore crucial during the planning process.
Other challenges are the time frames, which are often very tight, and the closely coordinated contracts with various stakeholders, including the local council, customers, official bodies, suppliers and investors. All stakeholders involved in the planning, construction and use of the building need to work closely together.
Setting new standards for environmental performance is particularly important. Maintaining natural flora and fauna habitats is a key activity in this regard. In Dieburg, for example, Fiege has restored a watercourse, created a belt of woodland by planting approximately 250 trees over an area of more than 5,000 square metres, erected 35 nesting boxes for kestrels, songbirds and bats, and built a 4,000-square-metre rainwater retention basin.
Sustainable concepts for potential demolition or third-party-use
A detailed demolition plan also ensures that building materials can be sorted and separated according to type at the end of the complex’s lifecycle. All of the main structural components are made of concrete and can be recycled at a specialist facility. In the offices, environmentally friendly materials are used, such as doors made from renewable wood. These all carry the Blue Angel label, an ecolabel awarded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB). The insulation material used in the property comprises 55 to 75 per cent recycled glass fragments and therefore also carries the Blue Angel ecolabel.
Designed as a multi-user building, the property has built-in flexibility and is suitable for third-party use, thereby offering excellent reletting opportunities. In each of the bays, the electricity, gas and water meters can be read separately and services can be individually switched on or off and controlled via the building management system. The resource-efficient design is also reflected in the overall lighting concept, which incorporates LED technology both internally and externally. The building envelope is very airtight, enabling further energy savings to be achieved.
Employees benefit from enhanced building quality
In addition to its long-term economic efficiency, excellent utilisation opportunities, reduced emissions and lower operating costs, the Dieburg property also offers enhanced quality of life for those working at the site. As such, the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB) has already awarded the Dieburg location the highest possible rating: DGNB Platinum certification.
Developers of new logistics properties also need to think about many other issues, including modern warehouse systems and local energy production using photovoltaic systems and combined heat and power units. Pick-by-voice and stacker control systems can be deployed to achieve lower error rates, fewer empty journeys, faster picking and greater productivity.
Existing buildings pose biggest challenge
When talking about sustainability, it is important to remember that we are not just referring to new, efficient properties. In fact existing buildings pose the biggest challenge. In these properties, lighting still accounts for as much as 80 per cent of energy requirements, high-pressure sodium vapour lamps are used, and heat and cold are able to escape freely to the outside. There is an urgent need for action here to make logistics operations more efficient.
Simply replacing T8 fluorescent lamps with LED lamps reduces the amount of energy required for lighting by at least 50 per cent. This, combined with intelligent control technology, enables energy consumption to be reduced to a minimum. The return on investment is usually correspondingly fast.
Whether fully automated or manual warehouses, tyre or fashion logistics – we need to define and optimise processes, measure and understand energy consumption, and reassess our day-to-day activities in order to become ever more efficient.