Sustainability in Warehouses

Over the years environmental concerns have become progressively more prominent in all market sectors and industries. Catch-phrases like “going green”, “environmentally friendly”, “sustainability”, and “renewable” have become ubiquitous, but are interpreted differently by individuals. This leads to a myriad of thoughts and approaches on how to tackle the same problem. The overriding consensus is that climate change and global warming present an ever-increasing problem that everyone must undertake to mitigate – including the logistics/ supply chain industry as they build new facilities to meet increasing demand. It is easier to implement greener solutions for newly built construction when starting from scratch, but it is not impossible for pre-existing buildings, like warehouses, to become more sustainable. So how do you make existing warehouses more sustainable?

Buildings can be made sustainable by reducing their carbon footprint. For example, warehouses can reduce their carbon footprint by putting into action three (3) things:

1. Increase energy efficiency

Decreasing energy consumption to reduce utility costs while maintaining the same or greater productivity. This includes replacing lightbulbs and HVAC system(s) to a more energy efficient unit, installing solar panels on the roof, and movement-detector switches for lighting.

2. Automation

Helps to increase efficiency by doing less work to get more done. For example, utilizing order-picking technology and bar coding allows for operations within warehouses to increase speed and accuracy of each order, lessen paper consumption, and enhance traceability of products.

3. Utilizing sustainable warehouse design

Warehouse design is important for energy efficiency and is most applicable for new buildings. However, improvements to existing buildings can be made to decrease their carbon footprint. This can include utilizing space management techniques to increase productivity by reducing steps when moving goods or installing a green or cool roof to improve cooling or the insulation values for the building.

A good way to demonstrate sustainability in warehouses is by attaining LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification. LEED Certification is an internationally recognized green building certification system to measure and define green buildings. Warehouses can attain LEED certification by implementing LEED O+M (Operations and Maintenance) Certification, which provides sustainability solutions for existing buildings.

LEED certification is attained based on performance. The better the performance, the higher the LEED points, better the accreditation. Accreditation ranges from Certified (40 – 49 points), Silver (50 – 59 points), Gold (60 – 79 points), to Platinum (80+ points).

LEED Certifications and Points
Certification Points
Certified 40 – 49
Silver 50 – 59
Gold 60 – 79
Platinum 80+

Earning points is based on eight (8) categories, that includes subcategories for each. (P) represents a prerequisite subcategory, and is a must-have for projects to become LEED certified.

LEED Certifications and Points Points
Location and Transportation
Transportation Performance (P)
Sustainable Sites
Rainwater Management
Heat Island Reduction
Light Pollution Reduction
Site Management
Water Efficiency
Water Performance (P)
Energy and Atmosphere
Energy Efficiency Best Management Practices (P) Fundamenta
Refrigerant Management (P)
Energy Performance (P)
Grid Harmonization
Materials and Resources
Purchasing Policy (P)
Facility Maintenance and Renovations Policy (P)
Waste Performance (P)
Indoor Environment Quality
Minimum Indoor Air Quality (P)
Environmental Tobacco Smoke Control (P)
Green Cleaning Policy (P)
Indoor Environmental Quality Performance (P)
Integrated Pest Management
Innovation 1
Total 100
(P) – Prerequisite – must include in LEED certified projects as per LEED v4.1 Operations and Maintenance

It is important to know which area(s) of a warehouse can be improved. This will also require identifying which aspect to target; whether it is the efficiency, automation, or better design of the operations and maintenance systems being implemented. However, by starting small, like changing outdated to efficient lightbulbs, will immediately impact the environment in a positive way. Striving for a net zero carbon footprint may seem a monumental challenge, however, it is an admirable goal not many have achieved, but it is worth pursuing.



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U.S. Green Building Council. (2021, April). LEED v4.1 Operations And Maintenance.