• Sandro Mendace

New Warehouses versus Old Warehouses

What design and specifications do you need for your operation? Whats important and whats a luxury?

Basic Design

When deciding on an industrial site you have a choice between older design and modern design. The design and construction of industrial warehousing has changed substantially over the years and continues to do so. Warehouses have always been built with the end user in mind using the best technology available at that time, and as the users’ needs change and improved technology becomes more freely available, so does warehouse design and construction. Older industrial warehousing is cheaper and may serve its purpose for your business, so looking at newer, more expensive warehousing may be an unnecessary cost and outlay, depending on your operational needs.

Coverage and Yard Area

Changes in industrial zoning has had a part to play, industrial zoning in newly proclaimed industrial areas sees coverage at around 50%, effectively only allowing half of the site to be covered which forces developers to maximise the bulk that they have. Older properties offered coverage of up to 90% sometimes, which means the size of the building relative to the size of the land is far greater so a developer could achieve more GLA (gross lettable area) which in turn impacts the amount of rental income needed per square metre. The downside of the older design is the availability of yard area. Older factories tend to have less yard area because of the size of the building versus land. So if you have large articulated trucks coming in and out every day this can be a serious issue on an older property.

A major benefit of new designs and restricted coverage is the availability of yard area for large truck articulation. Its not uncommon for large warehouses to have 30 or 40m deep yards enabling interlinks to turn easily. They also tend to have more than one access point making truck thoroughfare easier and less congestion.

Roof Height

How high can you go? Although site coverage is limited, developers now make use of increased roof heights. Minimum eave heights have increased substantially from the 5 or 6 m heights of yesteryear to 15 m and even 18 m now, this enables users to rack higher and maximise the use of floor space. Does your operation involve storage or manufacturing? If you are manufacturing then roof height may not even be a factor.

How do you store your stock or finished item, is the product light and can you rack, or is it heavy or bulky and you can only stack to a limited height? Are the products flammable? These answers will all help with your decision. Which brings us to our next consideration.

Sprinkler Systems

Another important consideration for large warehouses is sprinkler system installation, the Automatic Sprinkler Inspection Bureau (ASIB) currently regulates the rules that govern sprinkler installations for fire prevention and protection in South Africa. Most manufacturing operations don't require sprinkler systems, however businesses involved in storage, especially of of over 2 500 m² of open area, do require them. Older sprinkler systems are commonly fed by the municipal water supply but modern installations are fed from pumps and tanks on site in order to ensure the correct water pressure required. Once again, depending on your operation and what you are storing will determine what installation will serve your purpose.

What about in-rack sprinklers? Roof mounted sprinklers can’t maintain fires found on the lower racks of pallets whereas in-rack can attend to fires directly below them unobstructed.

Once again this comes down to the type of product and volumes being stored. Insurance companies, both structural and content, generally have set policies in place when it comes to sprinkler system requirements and they will be able to give you their requirements.


Should you require the use of racking then the next consideration is flooring, flooring in modern warehouses can support heavy loads and is extremely flat and level in order to ensure safety and efficiency. Floors need to support both static and dynamic loads, the downward force of the pillars and the racking units create a static load and are concentrated over a very small surface area but can cover the majority of the warehouse floor. Dynamic loads are created by handling devices moving between the aisles of racking, their load varies depending on the type of device, ranging from forklifts to stacker cranes. In these types of environments with narrow aisles it is extremely important that the floor is not only able to withstand the load but is also extremely level and flat. Majority of floors in modern warehousing developments today have an FM2 floor rating in terms of flatness and levelness.

Door Access

How many doors do you need the facility to have? What type of doors, should they be floor level (on grade) or do you need docked doors with dock levelers? Docked doors are raised and vehicles can back right up to the dock creating a flush access to the truck so goods can be easily moved from the truck into the warehouse.All of these make for easier access and improved flow. Will large trucks need to drive into the warehouse and need high doors for clearance? Will conventional roller shutter doors work or do you prefer sectional panels? If you require a number of doors and different accesses then newer warehouses will cater better to your needs as the number of doors has increased and it’s not uncommon for a warehouse to have 50 plus doors for access. More and more warehouses are now using a combination of docked doors as well as on grade.

Certain facilities also cater for cross docking whereby the warehouse has a number of doors on opposite ends of the warehouse for inbound and outbound. Received goods can be delivered on one side, then sorted and dispatched at the other side. Rentals and sales prices of these facilities tend to be higher as their development costs are higher due to the positioning of the warehouse on the site.

Power Requirements

Manufacturing processes generally require a large supply of 3 phase power. Whilst almost all industrial facilities have 3 phase, power is limited in the newer facilities designed for distribution as there requirements are far less and the cost of installing large supplies is ever increasing. If your operation requires high power then it is general better to look in the older industrial areas as they do tend to have a higher supply available. With the increased cost of electrical supply, installation, and usage another important feature is energy efficiency in warehouses.


Modern warehouses offer far improved natural lighting by using clear chromadek sheeting in sections of the roof allowing natural sunlight to enter the property and reduce the need for electrical lighting for illumination. The better the natural lighting, the lower the requirement for additional lighting. Older warehouses used mercury vapour down lighting for lighting whereas modern warehouses makes use of LED lighting. Mercury vapor lamps can take up to 10 minutes to warm up, which means switching the lights on 10 minutes before you actually need to use them. This is also a wasted cost if you consider the cost of 10 minutes a day for a year. Although replacement of mercury vapor globes is less than LED, the price of LED in continuously decreasing as technology improves. LED lights are also more resistant to damage considering mercury vapor globes are predominantly made of glass. In terms of life expectancy, although mercury vapor globes can last up to 25 000 hours, LED can last from 50 000 up to 100 000 hours before they need to be replaced. LED globes also do not emit any gases or radiation, which mercury vapor do, nor do they make any buzzing or humming sounds like their counterparts are notorious for doing. Apart from a cost point of view lighting is also an integral part in health and safety considering that warehouse staff need to be able to see clearly and maneuver vehicles around safely. Good lighting improves concentration and in turn leads to increased productivity.

Safety and Security

Another important factor to look at is your need for security. Do you need to be located within a park or boomed off area because of the nature and type of product you are dealing with, or are your security needs more basic? Even general structure of the facility like whether the external structure is pure steel cladding or bricked to a certain height, to burglar proofing, security gates, alarms and sensors (both internal and external), fencing and boundary walls. What about guard house and guarding services. Modern facilities can even offer CCTV surveillance and bio metrics.

Cost and Efficiencies

What will greatly influence your decision is the weighing up of cost versus efficiency. If your operations needs are basic and your margins are minimal then it may well serve your interests to look for a property that is in an older industrial area where rentals and purchase prices are lower, but still offer a certain level of practicality. Especially if your operation is more manufacturing focused and less storage focused where availability of high power and cranes are more of a priority. Operations that are more focused on logistics and distribution who need to maximise space and require height, quality flooring, good access and sprinkler systems will need to look at newer, more modern spec facilities.

These are all important decisions to weigh up and take into consideration. Nobody knows this more than us, so let us assist you and guide you. We know the areas and we know and understand the stock, this will save you considerable time and help you make an informed decision sooner.

Contact us here

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Bedfordview, Gauteng

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