Which warehouse type will grow with your company?

Warehouses are as diverse as the requirements they meet: So which building type is the right one for your company? Weigh up all your options with our guide on the four major building types in industrial building construction. Quickly and easily compare the pros and cons of aluminium, steel, wooden and concrete building constructions.

 

| Reading time: 5min.

Choosing the right warehouse is crucial on the road to success. Regardless of whether you operate in the automotive or food industry, logistics, construction or packaging - the requirements placed on a warehouse are diverse. Employees spend their working days there, valuable goods are stored, machines are used or accommodated. Cost effectiveness is decisive. Companies are increasingly attaching importance to sustainable construction. Can the buildings be easily fully dismantled? How effectively can the materials be recycled? Which building types allow companies in the industry to respond to changes in market needs in the fastest and most cost-effective manner?

We put the four materials through their paces in five categories during the building check: The materials, flexibility, construction time, costs and sustainability are examined. Which material is most impressive for warehouses: Aluminium, steel, wood or concrete? Discover your favourite, which best suits your company’s needs.

Aluminium – lightweight and flexible

  • Low weight
  • Easy to handle
  • Natural corrosion protection
  • Certified for use as permanent structure for up to 50 years
  • 100 % recyclable
  • Up to 40 m unsupported width
  • Modular design with TÜV-inspected statics
  • Can be relocated
  • In the event of a fire, not as highly stable as a solid construction

Aluminium is most well known for one thing: being light. With a density of around 2.6 to 2.8 grammes per cm³, the lightweight metal has merely around 30% of the density of steel. This lowers transport costs. In many cases, a foundation is not required. Due to the ideal malleability during manufacture, aluminium is very easy to process. Its unique properties make the lightweight metal a sought after material. Optimised profile geometries ensure the required resistance with certified use as permanent structure for up to 50 years. Natural corrosion protection is yet another benefit of this material. If the lightweight metal comes into contact with oxygen, it is coated with an oxide layer. This protects the aluminium and saves you money.

The prefabricated components are assembled at the construction site in no time at all. As such, a 1000 m² building is constructed in around five working days. Similarly to other materials, aluminium consumes a high level of energy during production. Nevertheless, the lightweight metal can be smelted again following use without any loss in quality with a lower level of energy consumption. Meaning the components can be 100% recycled.   

Wood – with the cosy factor

  • Low weight
  • High load-bearing capacity
  • Natural insulating properties
  • Pleasant atmospheric environment
  • Renewable raw material
  • In the event of a fire, not as highly stable as a solid construction
  • Higher maintenance

 

As a renewable raw material, wood and sustainability go hand in hand. Warmth, light colours, the scent of the forest: You can’t go wrong with these associations. The material stands out due to its natural insulating properties and provides a pleasant atmospheric environment. Particularly as the special cell structure stores heat instead of emitting it, even the Passive House or low energy standards are possible for wooden buildings – as impressed customers are not even deterred by their higher prices.

When it comes to outdoor installations, sustainability is what matters. Sustainability is ensured by drying out the material well, as then fungi and mould do not stand a chance. Wood also impresses in terms of its weight. Lighter than steel, it has a high load-bearing capacity. It is also not the worst choice in terms of fire protection, as from the fire brigade’s perspective, wood burns in a highly controlled manner.

 

 

 

Steel – the classic choice

  • High load-bearing capacity
  • Easy to install
  • Individual statics possible with large unsupported widths
  • Virtually 100% recyclable
  • Can be relocated
  • In the event of a fire, not as highly stable as a solid construction
  • Prone to corrosion
  • Heavier than aluminium, meaning increased costs for transport and foundation

Steel has a high load-bearing capacity. With this in mind, large clear widths and extraordinary narrow constructions can be implemented. This makes the material an attractive option and explains why it is regarded as one of the most versatile construction materials. Manufacturing components does however take longer than with aluminium. Even if construction kits already exist for the building construction, in many cases an individual static is required, which costs time during the planning stage. The actual building assembly can be performed in a short timeframe. Nevertheless, steel is considerably heavier than aluminium, which means that a foundation tends to be needed. This results in: An additional delay of around four weeks for the building phase.

Steel is also susceptible to corrosion. As such, either higher-quality, more expensive stainless steel profiles need to be purchased or the steel needs to be specially treated. Steel does not score too badly from an ecological perspective either. In fact, the steel industry is a major energy consumer, but steel itself can be recycled several times.

Concrete – effective in the long run

  • Long service life
  • Multi-storey building possible
  • Impressive in terms of insulation and noise protection
  • High fire resistance up to 1,100°C
  • Not acid-proof
  • Cannot be relocated
  •  Larger supporting areas required similar to steel pillars

Reinforced concrete is an artificial material that combines the best from concrete and reinforced steel components. Whoever opts for this variant, can be confident: This warehouse can be moved exactly where it is needed. What’s more, the material stands out due to it being particular durable. Moreover, the construction takes longer due to the time-consuming foundation and drying times and is more expensive. However, construction of finished parts is also possible. The costs are considerably higher than those for aluminium or steel buildings. In addition to this, the weight is much greater, meaning that much larger supporting surfaces are required. The highly fire-resistant concrete is particularly attractive, as it withstands temperatures above 1,100 degrees Celsius without showing any cracks. Nevertheless, the material does have a lower acid resistance. The material can also be partially recycled. High roof constructions even over several storeys are possible. Concrete walls are clearly ahead of the field when it comes to insulation and noise protection. If just the building frame comprises reinforced concrete, building walls can also be made of trapezoidal sheets.

The concrete building is less impressive when it comes to the financial aspects. It is fixed to its construction site, which restricts the field of potential buyers if put on the market.

 

Which building is most flexible?

Aluminium buildings come out on top here. The aluminium parts are assembled on the ground during mounting and then bolted or clamped. As they are not welded (in contrast to steel profiles), they are not only easy to assemble but also to dismantle again. Since cost-effective anchoring with ground spikes is often possible instead of a foundation, an aluminium temporary building can be fully dismantled again. The aluminium can be completely recycled, while the remaining building parts used during rental can be almost 100% recycled. Should customers no longer need their building, they can also sell it to someone who does. In just a week, the building can be at a completely different location. Thanks to the modular system, the building can also be extended in a flexible manner. With this in mind, customers are able to directly respond to changes in their storage needs.

Even in the case of steel buildings, changing the building size is just as straightforward as completely dismantling the building. However, this is more time-consuming than is the case for aluminium buildings, as welded joints are preferably used in steel buildings. Steel buildings can however also be assembled in a new location, meaning the building can be sold to another party and the land used for a different purpose. The material can also be up to 100% recycled.

In the case of wooden buildings, the dismantling and reassembling process is very time-consuming and therefore does not usually make financial sense. The site must be just perfect for concrete buildings. Once the building is up, it is up. And it’s not going anywhere in the coming decades.

Conclusion

Anyone wishing to buy or rent a warehouse, needs to have a clear picture of the building’s requirements. If fast and flexible warehouse space needs to be created, a different design is involved than for company looking for a building at a fixed location over the coming decades. If goods or machines are to be stored in the building, the requirements placed on insulation or noise protection are different than if people were constantly working there. Also consider that: Modular systems are always more cost effective than individual solutions. Alongside the costs for the building itself, the costs for a foundation, different equipment, resale options as well as cost-effective rental options are to be considered.

For anyone looking for an ecologically high-quality solution, wooden buildings offer the most sustainable choice. Concrete buildings are characterised by their durability, fire resistance and the possibility to build multiple storeys. Steel offers an excellent material for individually planned buildings with extraordinary clear widths, but also for prefabricated buildings. Aluminium temporary buildings with cost-effective anchoring with ground spikes are the simplest and swiftest approach for gaining more warehouse space, which can also be flexibly adjusted to changing storage needs.

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