Introduction

As a country with a strongly export-led economy and the highest population in central Europe, Germany is one of the top logistics locations. Jones Lang LaSalle have reported in their 2013 commentary on logistics real estate for Germany that the industry here recorded turnover growth of 2 per cent to some €228 billion in 2012, representing the highest logistics turnover in Europe (c. €930 billion) ahead of France (c. €126 billion) and the UK (c. €99 billion). The upwards trend also continued in 2013.

Climate protection and sustainability are increasingly important. Because of high energy costs, the shortage of resources and the growing demand for products which result from sustainable production processes—including storage processes—“green development” now assumes a significant role in the logistics sector as elsewhere. The possibilities in the industry have not (yet!) been fully exploited so that enormous potential for savings is being lost.

Buildings which are erected, managed and used with a view to achieving the highest possible sustainability can be described as “green buildings”. The Sustainability Code of the German Property Federation identifies three aspects to sustainability:

  • Environmental friendliness
  • Economic efficiency
  • Social compatibility

The weight given to each of these aspects differs greatly from case to case but to earn the “green building” badge each must at least have been given due consideration.

“Green” as an answer to the challenges facing the industry

The efficient use of energy is a huge challenge for the logistics industry for four reasons:

  • High energy consumption
  • Rising energy prices
  • Decreasing energy resources
  • Increasingly restrictive national and international environmental protection legislation

Many companies have already accepted that they must improve their energy balance. According to a study by the BVL (the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety), “Trends and Strategies in Logistics and Supply Chain Management”, over 60 per cent of the logistics companies in Germany plan to do so.

In view of technical advances in the erection and management of buildings and as a result of the demands made by logistics service customers—such as Adidas and Jack Wolfskin—for all processes to be sustainable, not just transport, but operations in storage facilities themselves are increasingly coming into focus.

In warehouses, an average of 15 per cent of energy consumption is attributable to lighting. According to information from the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (ILM), 35 per cent of energy is expended on heating and air conditioning requirements.

Building insulation, energy recycling and LED lighting systems therefore frequently pay for themselves quickly.

Alnatura distribution facility

Whilst individual aspects of sustainability are being considered in an increasing number of logistics buildings, there are only few properties so far in which the principles have been implemented on a large scale from the outset. However, one example of such a property is the Alnatura distribution facility.

The retail chain Alnatura sells ecologically produced food and textiles. Sustainability is therefore built into the fabric of the company. Just under 38,000 sq m of warehouse space was created for Alnatura on a 73,000 sq m large plot of land in Lorsch (in the state of Hesse) and was awarded the Gold DGNB Certificate in mid-2011. It has the following features:

  • The office building is heated and cooled using geothermal technology, whilst the temperature in the warehouse is regulated via an air-water heat pump with under-floor heating.
  • The energy requirements for the warehouse are met using green electricity whilst a photo-voltaic system (1.1 MW) has been installed on the roof.
  • The load-bearing structure of the warehouse is built from regionally sourced larch wood.
  • Energy consumption has been reduced by means of triple circuits for the lighting in the warehouse together with lighting strips.
  • Green zones have been created for the employees.
  • The extension building has high bay shelving which can be lowered 2.50 m into the ground. This allows the building to be managed in a climate neutral manner.

Continuous improvement of “green” buildings

To enable the green standards achieved not only to be maintained but also improved during the lifecycle of a building, sustainability strategies must be incorporated into the management of the building and its use, such as:

Energy monitoring and management—Careful energy monitoring and management enable the existing savings potential to be constantly improved. Environmental burdens and energy costs can then be steadily reduced. An energy strategy and the actual consumption figures will be regularly checked against benchmarks.

Lighting strategy—Lighting accounts for some 20 per cent of the energy requirements in an average logistics company according to Logis.net, the Institute of Transport and Logistics at the University of Osnabruck. The first objective should therefore be to make maximum use of natural daylight. An intelligent window layout and light conducting systems integrated in roof lights or windows should be used. Artificial lighting systems should be adjusted to suit the areas in which they are used.

Heat management—Over 60 per cent of energy consumption in a typical logistics company is attributable to heating (according to Logis.net). In addition to suitable insulation and equipment in the warehouses—for example with self-closing outside doors and fast-shutting gates—it is advisable to check the outer walls regularly for weak points using thermal imaging.

Water management—Logistics companies use water primarily in bathrooms and for cleaning operations. The main focus of water management in logistics buildings should therefore be placed on recycling rainwater from the roof areas instead of using drinking water for cleaning purposes.

Raising awareness among staff—These measures are usually the responsibility of property and facility management which also has the task of educating the users about the subject and providing information—for example in the form of user manuals—so that the strategies which have been developed are actually implemented.

Green on the outside, but brown on the inside?

It is important that the user is involved at the development stage of a sustainable logistics building. Proper planning can avoid measures which may at first appear to be sustainable and are also positively assessed in individual certification systems but which will, in all probability, not be used in practice.

How green is the future?

Particularly in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich and the Ruhr area, there is currently a great demand for land suitable for the establishment of logistics facilities. An increasing number of large warehouses with over 30,000 sq m are being built at top locations with land prices of over €200 per sq m so as to serve the markets in the main German conurbations. This trend can be expected to continue in the coming years.

Current development projects are increasingly relying on new building certificates (namely BREEAM, DGNB or LEED). It is thought that this certification trend will become more established as the logistics network is further extended because inspection by an independent company guarantees that sustainability standards are actually observed.

A general certification trend is not yet in place for existing properties. According to BREEAM notable market players—such as Prologis and Rhenus Immobilien Mitte—have so far taken on a pioneering role in this area by adopting certification.

Finally, logistics buildings are suitable candidates for portfolio certification because they are frequently constructed using the same methods and—with the exception of energy consumption—largely comparable management strategies. These synergy effects will also further promote certification in this industry sector.

What points should be considered in a “green” agreement?

Logistics buildings which are sustainably constructed, managed and used can of course be used without green building certificates. Irrespective of the existence of a certificate, all agreements pertaining to a property that which aspires to sustainability should take the standards into account. Furthermore, it should be possible to adapt agreements to provide for future developments in the green logistics property market and technical innovations. Competitive disadvantages may otherwise be embedded in long-term contractual relationships.

Green property and facility management agreements as well as green leases are essential if the advantages of green logistics properties are actually to be achieved. Emphasis is currently placed on the following aspects in particular:

  • Guarantees of data exchange;
  • A total overview/ restriction of consumption-dependent operating expenses;
  • Inclusion of the user in management processes;
  • Maintenance of communication.

However, there are no universal green standard agreements. Rather, an agreement which gives adequate consideration to the needs and characteristics of the particular property must be selected.

Green logistics buildings are in fashion!

More and more well-known businesses are calling on logistics companies to ensure that all production processes satisfy sustainability standards. Savings potential which has so far gone to waste—particularly in building management and use—needs to be exploited in future. The idea of sustainable logistics buildings will therefore become standard in the long term and the logistics industry will make a decisive contribution to using energy more efficiently, saving resources and reducing emissions globally.