Woolworths Holdings is moving goods through its brand new R500m environmentally friendly Midrand Gauteng distribution centre (DC). Richard Inskip, Executive Director of Operations at Woolworths says, “The DC is green from top to bottom.” Inskip says sustainability has been at the heart of Woolworths since the company was founded 75 years ago. “Sustainability, therefore, was the premise for the development of our new DC. Beyond the mandatory but comprehensive environmental impact study, every aspect of the design and construction of the 78 000m² facility has been subject to scrutiny from a social and environmental perspective, ensuring that Woolworths minimises the impact on the surrounding environment and communities. The DC has been designed and built in line with world standard best practices when it comes to efficiency and effectiveness in the areas of land usage, water usage, environmental impact and employee working conditions.” Woolworths Project Manager, Johan Shaw, says, “The principle applied in the design was one of ‘economy of effort’; ensuring optimum flow of people, product and vehicles around and within the facility. The design is such that extensions to the building to create capacity for future needs can be made with the smallest amount of effort and with no disruption to operations.” The new DC houses the off-site stockrooms for clothing and home, groceries, perishable goods, and returnable equipment such as the crates used for the transport of goods. Inskip says the decision to build the DC was driven by a need both to consolidate Woolworths distribution effort and to ramp up capacity to serve Woolworths aggressive store roll-out policy in light of the fact that each Woolworths store receives new deliveries every day. “Space was constrained at the old City Deep site. The extra space available at the new DC means that for stores where space is under pressure, Woolworths will be able to deliver goods as the stores need them.” “In terms of the food supply chain, the supplier receiving facilities have been upgraded so the DC’s turnaround time has been substantially reduced. The design of the DC also means Woolworths will only handle stock once when the bulk deliveries are broken up to build specific store orders.” Woolworths Project Manager, Johan Shaw, says, “A challenge of the new DC is that, in order to maximise efficiencies and provide ultimate flexibility, all five temperature storage sections are accommodated under one roof. This means that with one journey to the DC trucks can gather all stock required by a store on a daily basis. By having it all in one place Woolworths will be able to improve the efficiency of the vehicle fleet which means fewer kilometres driven and lower costs.” Woolworths worked closely with Development partner Charles Lloys Ellis, to identify and acquire the perfect location for the DC. Not only was the DC’s location selected for the most cost-effective transportation of goods – it will supply Gauteng, Free State and 80% of KwaZulu-Natal – but also precisely to limit its impact on the environment. “The issue of reducing food miles should be high on the list of any retailer,” says Inskip. “The location of the DC means that suppliers delivering to Gauteng will drive approximately 9% fewer kilometres to deliver their product. Much of the planning behind the DC flows from Woolworths supply chain strategy which aims to transport all products to stores in a single delivery, reducing both energy consumption and damaging gas emissions. The site will result in a general reduction of kilometres travelled for suppliers to affect primary distribution. Taking into account future store development programmes, the site will have a considerable reduction in kilometres travelled to stores to affect secondary distribution.” Sustainability priorities for the DC included the conservation of energy and water and the elimination of ozone depleting gases. For example, the refrigeration equipment is running on ammonia, which is harmless to the ozone instead of damaging CFC gases. Opaque glazing has been installed on the outside of the building to avoid direct sunlight bleaching products in the DC. “This will have a positive spin off for our employees working in the DC, says Inskip. “By maximising sunlight it will make it a more pleasant working environment, as will the fact that the site has been landscaped with extensive areas of water wise indigenous flora and frost resistant trees.” But it is not just humans who have been considered in the design of the DC, says Inskip. “During the environmental impact study, prior to the building of the DC, the endangered African bull frog was discovered on the site. Planning of the development was carefully managed to protect these frogs and maintain their natural habitat around the huge water collection ponds on site.” Paul Simpson, Woolworths head of real estate, brief to R&L Architects, who worked in conjunction with global environmental architects and designers, Green By Design, meant strict environmentally-friendly building methods were used to construct the DC. For example, materials and equipment were sourced locally to reduce transportation, and displaced rock, earth and soil were incorporated into the landscaping and retaining wall features within the site boundaries. Inskip says this is Woolworths largest property development project to date. “It is a credit to all the parties involved that Woolworths were able to meet three key targets for the project. First, Woolworths set and exceeded BEE targets in line with the dti’s scorecard at the time. Second, thanks to the quantity surveyors Norval Wentzel Steinberg, the project came in on budget, and third, thanks to project managers, MDSA and contractors Wilson Bayly Holmes Ovcon it came in on time.” Ends For further information please contact: Dorothy McLaren Woolworths Press Office pressoffice@woolworths.co.za (+27 21) 407 7700 DISTRIBUTION CENTRE FACT SHEET • The 78 000m² facility is the largest retail distribution centre in southern Africa • The 1.1km long platform was built by Africon. The building currently being erected is 700m in length and 117m wide. The remaining 400m of the platform will be used for extensions (these have been planned in accordance with future needs analysis up until 2020). The new building covers an area of 80 000m2 with 71 000m2 of that as warehouse space and a further 9000m2 as office space and plant rooms. • It is projected to grow to 150 000m² by 2010 • Land – the extensive feasibility studies were predicated on the most efficient use of resources by both Woolworths, its workforce (i.e. the site was chosen as being close to major labour pools) and its suppliers. 14ha of the site was preserved as agricultural land. The 40ha of topsoil removed to begin construction was then removed to this plot in order for it to maintain its agricultural function. • Water – rainwater and grey water will be harvested in 6 capture ponds. Water collected from the roof and the horizontal hard stands is gathered, filtered and pumped out for use in irrigation. All other water supplies are drawn from bore holes so that the DC is completely water self sufficient. Grey water is harvested and used to flush toilets • Lighting – office lights dim automatically depending on amount of daylight. Offices equipped with movement sensors. If no movement, lights automatically switch off. • Environment – Because of the vast area of the building, there was a danger of creating an ‘urban heat island’ – ie the building would reflect heat rather than absorb it as agricultural land would. To remedy this fact, grass is being planted on the roof of selected areas. This increases the bio-diversity of the site, adds to the roof insulation for areas such as the main offices, gatehouses and ablution blocks. • Once the storage area is completed it will be one of the largest insula