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Verti-kal™: in on the ground floor and climbing at air cargo warehouse

  Subscribe to FREE newsletter  May 06, 2010

In 2008, the staggering amount of freight handled by one of Europe's busiest air cargo hubs reached over 1.5 million tons. But with Heathrow Airport surrounded by protected land, it was becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to site enough warehouse space to keep pace with the growth. That's when things began, quite literally, to look up for UK developer Brixton PLC. As the British might say, fully accessible, high-capacity, multi-story warehouses were already a "smashing" success in Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore, where land is also scarce and pricey. It was time for the United Kingdom to look up.

Designed by Cornish Architects of London, the X2 Warehouse offers multiple stories and, to accentuate the building's height, incorporates Verti-Kal, a unique, design variation on the traditional, rectangular grid layouts of Kalwall translucent Wall Systems. Instead of the standard shoji or square grid layouts, the panels incorporate internal, continuous supports to provide a vertical emphasis. The 242,600-square-foot X2 is both warehouse and office space configured for as many as eight different tenants or consolidated to fewer, larger units.

Of course, any facility of this size needs to control its huge appetite for energy. As with all Kalwall translucent systems, Verti-Kal distributes diffused daylight throughout the warehouse, even on cloudy days, drastically reducing the amount of artificial lighting required and eliminating shadows and glare as well as stark contrasts of light and shade. Verti-Kal's unique format creates an entirely different look while still utilizing the most highly insulating, diffuse-light-transmitting, structural composite technology. Unlike conventional channel glass, Verti-Kal can be supplied in panels up to 5 ft. (1.5 m) wide and up to 10 ft. (3 m) high, minimizing the number of joints. To keep HVAC costs down, the X2 starts with a hybrid of ground-source heat pump and more conventional systems, and Verti-Kal does the rest. During the manufacturing process, standard 2-3/4" (70 mm) Verti-Kal is infilled with specialized, translucent insulation, achieving insulation values up to R-10 (U=0.10 Btu/hr/ft²/°F, or 0.56 W/m²K) by NFRC.

Beyond energy savings, Verti-Kal is an especially wise choice for airport environments in terms of maintenance, as jet fuel residue and deicing spray tend to cover buildings with an unsightly film. All Kalwall systems are self-cleaning; normal rainfall creates a sheeting action to scrub the surface.

The X2 is the UK's first fully accessible, high-capacity, multi-story warehouse. But with the rising popularity of such facilities that can soar to 20 stories in certain markets, Verti-Kal – and indeed all Kalwall translucent systems – will remain a clear choice for controlling energy costs with a design flexibility not found in other products.

X2 Warehouse
Heathrow Airport, UK
Architect: Cornish Architects
Photos by Chris Mikami

Verti-Kal Specifications:
Wall: 5,000 square feet (470 square meters)
U-value: 0.23 Btu/hr/ft²/°F (1.25 W/m²K)
Light Transmission: 20%
Exterior Color: Crystal
Interior Color: White

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