Blog Post

Warehouse construction: the differences and similarities

31.03.2021 | 5 min read | Written by Alexandra Hasek

Warehouses and logistics are areas of the construction industry that are currently booming. As a result of the pandemic, there has been an increase in online retail and commerce, leading to an increased need for warehouse construction. Warehousing is a key part of logistics operations and is crucial to the distribution of goods. At every stage of its lifecycle, an item could spend time in a warehouse, whether that’s with a manufacturer, importer, exporter, wholesaler or in the customs system.


As well as a rise in general demand for warehouse construction, demand for different types of storage has increased. According to Construction Drive, growth in online grocery and meal kit delivery sales will create demand for up to 100 million additional square feet of cold storage warehousing space over the next five years.

Warehouses are also becoming more reliant on technology, due to a rise in popularity in environmental considerations. Warehouses use an immense amount of energy and with demand increasing, it is crucial to consider sustainability. Many companies are choosing ‘greener’ options such as solar power and responsible waste disposal, so it’s important to look at client specifications for each build.

Differences between warehouse construction vs traditional building

Function is the most obvious difference between building a warehouse and other construction projects. A warehouse is a building that holds items belonging to a company. A warehouse may also need to provide refrigeration, safety measures for storing chemicals or other special features. But fundamentally, as storage facilities, warehouses have a simple function: to keep stock secure between manufacture, transport and trading. 

Building materials used for warehouse construction are also different from the standard brick and mortar. The most common material used for warehouses is steel, creating a pipe framework that supports the outside cladding and roof. Designers prefer using metals for their durability since the structure needs to hold heavy loads. Typically, roofs are made from fibreglass, which allows natural light into the building. This also makes it easy to replace if it becomes damaged. As expected, wood is an important resource for building shelving and storage space within the warehouse itself. The materials to build a warehouse consist of about 80% of the total cost, so ensuring good quality is essential. 

Size is also a key difference. According to WarehouseSpace, the typical warehouse design will measure over 1km and have the capacity to house more than 500,000 different containers and units. Smaller structures are more expensive to build and maintain, as they offer less storage space but require similar running costs. 

A structure that size requires an adequate location, which is why most warehouses are found on industrial estates. They also need to have good connections to infrastructure. However, as demand for next-day delivery continues to rise, developers are beginning to look at urban areas to build distribution centres closer to customers. For example, population centers like New York have over 9000 warehouses inside the state.

Warehouse design and structure

Building design should provide optimal use of the space, safe access and efficient running systems. Warehouse construction follows a very simple design, with four walls and a high roof. However, sustainability is an increasingly important factor in warehouse construction, with many designers choosing to add solar panels to roofs. As a source of renewable energy, solar panels can reduce energy bills by up to 60%. A simple design doesn’t automatically equal a simple project, as there are additional considerations that warehouses must comply with.

Warehouses must have deceleration lanes to enable lorries and loading trucks to access the building safely. Delivering and collecting goods easily is fundamental to an effective storage facility, so the internal design must be carefully considered. The interior should include space for loading machinery such as forklifts, as well as accessible emergency exits. 

In terms of safety, all warehouses must receive planning permission before construction begins, and the completed structure must be fireproof. A fire sprinkler system is crucial, and installing one becomes more difficult if the roof reaches higher than 40 feet. Any cladding of the structure must also be certified as being flame-retardant and offer protection from fire damage. A flat floor surface, usually a concrete slab, is necessary to prevent equipment damage and injuries from falling. These measures protect warehouse stock, but also reduce risks to the staff who work there.

How can PlanRadar help?

While a warehouse may use a very basic design, reliability and high build quality are key to protecting the products and people inside. During construction, builders need to collect data on the progress and management of the project. Construction software like PlanRadar creates a centralised system for communication and reporting. In order to ensure new builds are fit for purpose, you can upload digital plans or BIM models to PlanRadar and use them for regular inspections. That way, you can easily see where a mistake has been made, instantly creating a task for its repair. As a result, time is not wasted waiting for paperwork or extra site visits, as task assignments can be done on the go.

As warehouse construction is often fast, sometimes taking as little as two months, it is crucial that contractors not compromise on quality. External contractors can use free PlanRadar accounts to access information relevant to them and communicate with the site or facility manager. They also receive the latest versions of any plans they need, so they’re always working with up to date information. 

Like with any construction build, adhering to a schedule is crucial to avoid financial losses from delays in completion. Clients need access to full construction details, from material composition to lighting and safety systems. Inventory needs to be done during handover to account for the structure and any internal elements that are part of the contracted work. Collecting these details digitally ensures that there is a clear record of every action, which is necessary for maintenance and insurance purposes. 

For further information on how PlanRadar can help you complete warehouse construction, you can book a free consultation or register for a free 30-day trial to test our software for yourself.

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