According to McKinsey and Co., the e-commerce industry experienced 10 years of growth in just a few months due to the rapid change in consumer behavior last year. This surge in e-commerce created a 51% increase in large fulfillment and distribution center demand and is fuelling a construction boom in the space.
Distribution center operators often have ambitious sustainability commitments and are seeking opportunities to reduce the carbon footprint in every aspect of their business—from their supply chain to new construction projects.
Sunbeam Development Corporation is one example of this. Along with its trusted general contractor Shiel Sexton, and concrete producer Irving Materials Inc. (imi), Sunbeam built its new distribution center, Sunbeam Building 3, with sustainability at top of mind.
About Sunbeam Building 3
Sunbeam Building 3 is located at the I-70 West Commerce Park in Indianapolis—the most centrally located place in North America, since 80% of the U.S. and Canada can be reached within one day’s drive.
The building is a massive 700,449 square foot (65,074 square metres) and is made up of the following:
- Footings: 2,300 cubic yards (1,759 cubic metres)
- Slabs: 15,295 cubic yards (11,694 cubic metres), 7” (18 cm) unreinforced floors, 4,000 psi (2.8 MPa) concrete slab made with CarbonCure
- Pavement: 3,300 cubic yards (2,523 cubic metres)
- Walls: Precast insulated concrete
Exceeding Complex Concrete Requirements
In fulfillment and distribution centers, the concrete slab and flooring are critical to the functioning of the operations. For example, abrasion resistance is a key criteria since the floor slabs are put through so much wear and tear with heavy machinery traffic.
To ensure imi’s CarbonCure concrete mix met the requirements, the team hired a third-party engineer, Christopher R. Tull, P.E. at CRT Concrete Consulting, to validate the comprehensive testing performed on the concrete for Sunbeam Building 3.
The Sunbeam Building 3 project had requirements for 400 psi (2.8 MPa) in 28 days and 700 psi (4.8 MPa) flexural in 56 days. CarbonCure hit the 700 psi (4.8 MPa) requirement in just 28 days, so the team was very comfortable with it.
In distribution centers, curling and shrinkage are also critical due to the sheer quantity of joints required in a large floor space. If the joints curl up, the machinery will hit them, creating a maintenance nightmare—not just related to the floor slab but also to the machinery. A large distribution center could face routine maintenance costs of up to USD $100,000 per year as a result of poor flooring.
In the Sunbeam testing, the team noted improved performance on the shrinkage test which out-performed what is required for flooring specifications (typically 0.04 per ASTM C-157).
Finally, and most importantly, the floor slabs in distribution centers must be incredibly flat and level to enable the efficient operation of the heavy machines that utilize them. This requirement is measured in F-numbers (Face floor profile numbers): FF (Flatness) and FL (Levelness). Usually, FF tells you how well the finisher worked the surface and FL tells you how skillfully the contractor set the side forms and struck off the concrete.
The FF/FL numbers were impressive on the Sunbeam project at FF 69 and FL 51, far exceeding the specification of FF 50 / FL 35.
Meeting Sunbeam’s Sustainability Goals
Imi’s use of CarbonCure’s technology in the concrete mix reduced the carbon footprint and Global Warming Potential (GWP) of Sunbeam Building 3 while making no discernible difference to the quality or performance of the concrete itself.
Overall, Sunbeam saved 428,260 pounds (194,256 kilograms) of CO2 through the use of CarbonCure. This is equivalent to 254 acres (103 hectares) of forest absorbing CO2 for one year.
“Sunbeam is committed to sustainability in our development and quality for our tenants,” said Jamie Christman, Vice President at Sunbeam Development Corporation. “The sustainability and quality of our product align with our generational approach to development. CarbonCure allowed us to continue to deliver on both fronts.”
Opportunity for Concrete Producers
Architects, structural engineers, owners, and developers of fulfillment and distribution centers are proactively seeking proven ways to reduce the embodied carbon of their building projects.
This sector represents a massive growth opportunity for concrete producers around the world—particularly producers that can deliver low-carbon concrete mixes.
Recognizing concrete as a solution to embodied carbon emissions, CarbonCure’s easy-to-adopt carbon removal technology enables concrete producers to use captured carbon dioxide to produce reliable, low-carbon concrete mixes and achieve market differentiation.