Industrial Basics – Why Care About Ceiling Height?
You’ve probably seen ceiling height called out in listings for warehouses and manufacturing buildings. But why should that number matter to you?
What is “clear ceiling height”?
- “Clear ceiling height” is the height at which product can safely be stored on racking. It’s also defined as the height of a building from the floor to the bottom of the lowest-hanging item on the ceiling, such as sprinklers or HVAC ducts.
Why should ceiling height matter to you?
- Warehouse capacity is determined by clear height. So, a tenant can increase the capacity of a warehouse by 10% to 25%, just by increasing clear height from 32 feet to 36 feet. After all, true warehouse capacity is how much product can be stored in a three-dimensional space—a measurement of volume (cubic feet) rather than area (square feet).
How have ceiling heights changed over time?
- Clear height under 20 feet was normal many years ago, but now most modern warehouses are built with 30-foot ceilings (some as high as 40 feet). New high-tech distribution and inventory systems are changing how warehouses are used, and even how space in them is described (Amazon for example has been considering using cubic feet—instead of square feet—to measure warehouse footprint).
What impact do ceiling heights have on building operations?
- A pallet of goods generally measures 64 inches, meaning that a building with 32-foot ceilings can stack between four to six pallets high. A building with 36-foot ceilings can provide between 10% and 25% more capacity. But the cost of the additional height has to measured against the cost of a larger building with lower ceilings—assuming that a user could actually make use of the higher ceilings.
- Low ceiling heights affect how much inventory can be stored in a building, as well as what kind of equipment and machinery can be used or moved around in a building. Many manufacturers have equipment that requires high ceilings—think monorail systems to move merchandise for processing.
Can low ceiling heights be remedied?
- Yes, contractors can raise the ceiling height on a warehouse, but costs can be very high ($5 to $25 per square foot—the price drops as the building gets bigger). Most contractors would advise you to demolish the building and start from scratch.
What’s the takeaway?
- During site selection, ensure the team you’re working with is thinking creatively in order to identify the space you need for your operations. Ceiling height is one of many factors that can help you maximize a warehouse’s full potential.