Featured, Food Manufacturing

Common pitfalls in freezer design and construction

Cold chain logistics have always been a critical sector for food and beverage manufacturing, with very little room for error. 

As a result, when companies like Total Construction are contacted about freezer designs and construction, they find themselves having to ensure common pitfalls are avoided. 

There’s a laundry list of pitfalls to avoid when beginning a new construction project, especially when working in the food and beverage industry, so it’s critical to find the right construction company to partner with. 

“We have a team of experts who know exactly what is required in terms of building for the food and beverage industry,” said Blythman. 

 “There are things that people may not think about prior to the building process and it’s too late once the building is completed to make changes to suit your operations.” 

One of the most common pitfalls when designing and constructing freezers centres around the roof of the structure. If the freezer is not built with the right materials or in the right dimensions than the structural integrity of the unit is compromised. 

“People naturally look at the cheapest way to do things but one of the biggest problems is not doing a proper roof over the freezer,” said Blythman.

“Of course, using sandwich panel as an external  roof can be fine and will last for the first five or more years but inevitably the seal between the end-to-end joints of the panel will deteriorate and eventually leak. Once you have water ingress into the panel it can freeze and cause all types of problems, even collapse. 

An easy way to mitigate this risk is to create an extra barrier of protection. Even though it costs a little more it’s better to do an actual roof over the freezer roof.

 Another common issue in the design and construction of cold chain freezers is condensation, but this is an issue Total Construction is well versed in addressing. 

“You always have the potential for condensation problems because you have a situation where below the sandwich panel is -18 or -40 degrees and above in the roof void can reach in excess of 50 degrees in the summer,” said Blythman. 

“As a result you can get condensation, to avoid this, you must allow for air flow through that void, and we usually put in mechanical extraction and vents to increase that air flow.” 

The size of the space, and whether it is greenfield build (new) or brown field build (retro fit), also must be taken into consideration when designing a freezer. With greenfield presenting easier solutions. 

“For example, if you do a brown field build in an existing warehouse and to keep the cost down you don’t want to dig up the slab. You need to consider if you have room for ramps in and out of the freezer as you will need to raise the freezer slab by around 300-370mm,” said Blythman. 

“You need to raise the level of the freezer slab, because you will need to put a heater mat, insulation and then a wearing slab on top of the existing slab and that becomes your freezer floor level.

“Whereas if you do greenfield build then you do what’s called a set down slab and it is level all through the building.” 

In terms of current trends in freezer design and construction, greenfield tends to be the favoured approach where possible. 

“We are mainly seeing greenfield projects being built from the ground up in this space at the moment, “said Blythman. 

“But it depends, you may have smaller client that doesn’t have the capacity or budget to build from the ground up and may only need a small to medium size freezer to complement their existing operations. They would probably do a raised slab inside an existing warehouse or operation. “They can of course opt to dig up the slab and introduce a set down if it’s imperative to have a level floor between operations and the freezer.” 

Space requirements are another area that shapes the design of the freezer, however the experts from Total Construction are well versed in designing and building a freezer to fit the space, and the budget, of clients. 

“It has to be evaluated on space requirements, budget, it comes down to what you can live with and what you can’t,” said Blythman. 

“Most of the people building cool rooms in the market know what they are doing, it’s when customers look to save on costs and push for shortcuts in standards when issues can come into play.” 

Some of the other key things to look out for in the freezer is icing. 

“Which is what you will get if you have any condensation,” said Blythman.

“You don’t want ingress of warm air, because it can lead to ice, simple as that. 

“The ice is deadly, it’s like black ice on the floor.”

“It’s usually at doorways, so clients have to work out the frequency they are in and out of the freezer and the temperature of an adjoining room. If your people are in and out of the freezer a lot, the refrigeration plant is working overtime and you also have a lot of warm air getting in. Anterooms can be used in areas with frequent traffic, but those need to be installed properly because even those can ice up if not maintained at correct temperatures. 

As the cold chain strengthens, on the back of better tracking technology and practices, the demand for industrial freezer space will only continue to grow and selecting the right site and avoiding common pitfalls is possibly the most critical step. 

Total Construction has a proven track record of giving the best results for its clients.

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