Cold Storage Warehouse Design: 5 Factors to Consider

Jamie Jacobs
Jamie Jacobs joined APX Construction Group in June of 2020 specializing in interior design, marketing, event planning, and business development.
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  • Planning the design for a cold storage warehouse can be incredibly challenging. The primary goal of cold storage is to maintain optimal conditions for perishable items to prevent spoilage, bacterial growth, and a decrease in quality. Therefore, it’s essential to think about things like:

    • Temperature control
    • Humidity management
    • Insulation
    • Heat removal
    • Material handling
    • Energy efficiency

    Of course, these things will vary depending on the type of businesses you’ll be working with and what you’ll be storing for them, as different items require different cold storage needs. Below we’ll cover the five most essential cold storage warehouse design factors you’ll want to consider for planning your next move.

    The Top 5 Cold Storage Warehouse Design Considerations

    food boxes at the cold storage warehouse

    The purpose behind cold storage warehouse design is not just to provide an efficient service for businesses with perishable goods. Planning the layout also serves the purpose of maximizing productivity for your benefit because, after all, it is a business.

    Therefore, you’ll want to consider the following when mapping out your cold storage warehouse design:

    1. The Total Area of the Cold Storage Facility

    When it comes to the functionality, efficiency, and cost of cold storage warehouses, the overall square footage is critical. The total area of your cold storage warehouse will be a direct indicator of what it can hold, which includes storage rooms, cooling systems, parking, and administrative offices. 

    Here’s a quick breakdown of the types of spaces you’ll want to plan for when designing your cold storage warehouse:

    • Storage capacity: The amount of space you’ll need for actual storage should be the first thing on your mind. You can calculate storage volume by multiplying the total weight of the products you’ll be storing by the storage space required per unit weight. Other factors that will come into play regarding how much storage space is needed per unit weight include the density, packaging, and stacking of all the intended products.
    • The handling and processing area: Handling and processing services are typically included in cold storage warehousing, which means you’ll need to factor in how much space this will require. Think about how much space you’ll need for receiving, dispatching, sorting, grading, cleaning, packaging, labeling, machinery, workers, and even transport.
    • Cold storage rooms: The quantity of cold storage rooms you’ll be building, in addition to their sizes and required temperatures, will also affect the total area required for your cold storage warehouse. Depending on the type of products you’ll be storing, the conditions required will vary. 
    • Loading docks and parking: The size and quantity of the vehicles you’ll be using to load and unload the products to be stored should give you an idea of what your layout should look like regarding the loading dock space. There should be enough space for all of the necessary vehicles owned by both your business and your employees.
    • Administrative spaces: You will also need space for offices and administrative duties. The size of these spaces should be proportional to the size of your facility as well as the number of management workers required to ensure that your daily business operations run smoothly.
    • Equipment and machinery space: The equipment and machinery you’ll be using, such as compressors, generators, refrigeration systems, forklifts, etc will also require a certain amount of space. So, you’ll need to account for stationary machinery and equipment as well as machinery and equipment that may require storage at the end of the day.
    • A utility room: Utility rooms are necessary, and their square footage should account for the overall layout and the machinery used. You’ll need to plan this space with full attention to detail, as utility rooms house critical electrical and plumbing components and backup generators.
    • Insulation: Cold storage facilities won’t be much use without insulation to prevent heat transfer and maintain humidity levels. Insulation panels are built directly into the walls, floors, and ceilings of cold storage warehouse rooms, which means you’ll need to account for their thickness and locations when calculating the total area.

    2. The Type of Cold Storage Warehousing You’re Building

    produce boxes placed on top of each other at the cold storage warehouse

    The purpose behind your cold storage warehouse is also essential to its overall design. There are different types of cold storage facilities to accommodate various temperature requirements and more, so you’ll want to consider the following:

    • Products such as freshly harvested produce may require pre-cooling before being transferred to a cold storage room. The optimal storage temperatures for pre-cooled products will range between 0 and 8 degrees Celsius.
    • Products stored in cold rooms will require a temperature range between 8 and 14 degrees Celsius. These are the types of products that don’t require freezing but still need to be kept considerably cold to maintain freshness and mitigate bacterial growth, such as dairy products, beverages, and certain types of produce.
    • Products like meat, poultry, and seafood often require cold storage rooms that sit between -1 and 8 degrees Celsius. The storage can be long-term or short-term, which means these cold rooms, in particular, require stability regarding energy.
    • Storage freezers are ideal for storing frozen foods as they maintain temperatures between -18 and -24 degrees Celsius. Frozen meats, vegetables, seafood, poultry, and ready-to-go meals are commonly kept in storage freezers as they require lower temperatures and longer storage times.
    • Blast-freezing chambers range between –35 and -45 degrees Celsius, and they’re used to “blast freeze” fresh products from produce to seafood and store them long-term.

    3. The Floor Plan Design

    Your floor plan will also be a crucial component in constructing a cold storage facility, as your facility will need to be divided into several rooms in accordance with industry standards. Essentially, you’ll need to ensure that the layout of your floor plan caters to the different storage needs of different items.

    Here’s an example using produce:

    • Fruits and vegetables, depending on the type, require different temperature and humidity levels. For example, tomatoes require a temperature range between 55°F and 65°F and 85%-90% humidity. Conversely, potatoes require a 45°F-50°F temperature range and 95%-98% humidity. 
    • Certain fruits and vegetables also produce ethylene gas, which can cause other fruits and vegetables to spoil quicker. For example, bananas, apples, tomatoes, potatoes, and onions give off ethylene gas. Therefore, they can only be stored with certain types of produce to prevent premature ripening and spoilage. 
    • The ethylene gas produced by these fruits and vegetables can also build up in cold storage rooms over time. Therefore, the cold rooms would need to be properly ventilated without allowing that ventilated air to end up in another cold room.
    • Fruit and vegetables also require regular cleaning to prevent mold and bacteria growth, which means you’ll likely want to consider smaller rooms for produce storage as they’re easier to clean. They’re also more energy efficient.

    4. Heat Removal and Humidity Control

    Heat removal and humidity control are two other essential aspects of cold storage warehouse design. The total amount of heat that needs to be removed from your cold storage warehouse will depend on several factors, including:

    • The size of your facility
    • The products being stored
    • The ambient temperature and humidity

    All cold storage facilities require the exclusion of heat from a variety of sources, such as:

    • The walls of the facility, which must be insulated to prevent heat transfer from outside and inside
    • The heat and water vapor that “breathing” produce emits after being picked
    • The latent heat that occurs as produce ripens
    • The heat that generates from lighting, ventilation systems, and even occupant traffic

    Humidity control is also necessary for maintaining the quality and freshness of all types of products and items, including artwork. You’ll want to zero in the relative humidity (RH), which is how much moisture is in the air in your cold storage facility compared to how much moisture that air can maintain at certain temperatures. 

    To maintain relative humidity, you’ll likely need various ventilation systems to remove excess moisture from the air and dehumidify it as needed.

    5. Temperature Control

    ac unit and screen shows warehouse temperature

    Regular temperature control is also crucial when designing your cold storage facility. The overall temperature affects the respiration and metabolic rates of produce and other products like skincare and cosmetic items, which directly determines their shelf life. Additionally, lower temperatures can slow down the aging or ripening process of these items.  

    Therefore, you’ll need to have a reliable refrigeration system installed to ensure the right temperatures are maintained at all times for the products you’ll be storing. This includes a reliable monitoring system that allows you to keep an eye on the temperatures within your cold rooms and the rest of your warehouse to ensure efficiency.

    Are You Ready to Plan For Your Cold Storage Warehouse Design?

    Planning the layout and design for your future cold storage warehouse is a great undertaking. There’s a lot more to consider beyond the above five factors, but that’s what the professionals are here for.

    At APX Construction Group, we can help you with everything from design planning to construction and even project management. Get in touch with us today to talk about your warehouse design project needs, and we’ll come up with a plan together!

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