The rise of the super-warehouse

​When The Observer recently ran a feature in its architecture pages headlined “A shed the size of a town”, we knew exactly what it was talking about.

Some of Britain’s new breed of super-warehouses, built to meet the demands of our accelerating online economy, are eye-watering in their size.

Hi-Level Mezzanines have installed mezzanines in such warehouses and distribution centres across the UK, working at a scale that would have been unimaginable when we were founded 30 years ago. 

Today’s consumers expect their internet shopping to be swiftly delivered without a hiccup, and the super-warehouses are key to making it happen.

Some are so big they are rated as “nationally significant infrastructure projects”, meaning that national government rather than local authorities grant planning permission.

Ten times St Paul’s Cathedral

A building that is ten times the volume of St Paul’s Cathedral could be constructed in six months, and they dwarf global landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and Taj Mahal.

Dirft – the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal – near Rugby and Magna Park in Milton Keynes are “town-sized agglomerations, containing thousands of workers, made up of very big sheds,” as The Observer pointed out.

Magna Park, where John Lewis, Waitrose and River Island have a base, is more than a mile long and painted in stripes of different hued blues, from dark at ground level to light at the top, to help it blend into the sky. A massive Morrisons distribution centre in Somerset bears shades of green to fade into the local landscape.

Magna Park is not a single warehouse but Europe’s largest distribution location, covering 550 acres. There are 29 occupants on the site, including one with a roof ready to be covered by photovoltaic cells when they become economically viable for generating solar power.

Integrated into logistical networks of trucks, trains, the internet and subsidiary distribution points, the super-warehouses facilitate the operations of some of the biggest companies in the world.

Top 3 warehouses on the planet

  • Tesla Gigafactory 1 in Nevada, United States

Size: 5.3 million sq. ft  / 492,000 m2

Purpose: Manufacturing motors and batteries

Fascinating fact: There are plans to expand it into the world’s largest building at over 10 million sq. ft, powered by renewable energy

  • Boeing Everett Factory in Washington, United States

Size: 4.3 million sq. ft / 398,000 m2

Purpose: Building jumbo jets including the 787 Dreamliner

Fascinating fact: It is big enough to hold 13 Wembley Stadiums

  • Amazon MQY1 Fulfilment Centre in Tennessee, United States

Size: 3.6 million sq. ft / 334,000 m2

Purpose: Fulfilling Amazon orders

Fascinating fact: It includes highly automated warehouse space

Top 3 warehouses in the UK

  • Amazon Fulfilment Centre, Dunfermline

Size: 1 million sq. ft

Fascinating fact: Equivalent to 14 football pitches with more than 1,000 permanent staff (more for Christmas and Black Friday)

  • Shaw National Distribution Centre, Lancashire

Size: 1 million sq. ft

Fascinating fact: Occupied by Shop Direct, owner of retail giants and, among other brands, at its zenith employed 1,250 people as the region’s largest private employer

  • Tesco, Reading

Size: 900,000 sq. ft

Fascinating fact: On the site of an old brewery, with 1,500 staff and one of Tesco’s 20 distribution centres across the country

Magna Park comes in at sixth in the UK Top 10, at 8.3 million sq. ft, with Dirft seventh at 7.9 million sq. ft.

Golden Triangle

Many more super-warehouses are located in the Golden Triangle of logistics, the area between the M1, M6 and M42 motorways, from Birmingham in the west to Nottingham and Derby in the north. They lie within easy reach of major ports, railways and airports. In fact, it is possible to deliver to 90% of the UK population within four hours ­– just shy of the maximum time an HGV driver can travel without taking a break.

Elsewhere, Amazon recently announced it will close three warehouses in the UK but open two new mega distribution center’s with a net gain of 1,300 jobs.

Our mezzanine projects

Hi-Level Mezzanines has worked with clients who feature among the world’s Top 20 biggest warehouses, including Amazon, ASOS, Ikea, M&S and Tesco.

For ASOS in Barnsley we installed a three-tier structure primed for automation, with a mixture of high-bay rack storage and mezzanines with conveyers.

The size of our projects continues to increase. We completed 10,000 projects in our first 15 years, and another 9,000 in the 15 years since – because we are engaged on fewer but much bigger sites.

Advantages of installing a mezzanine

  • With mezzanines our clients are making the very best use of their existing space, doubling, tripling or quadrupling their capacity.
  • They can service customer demand into the future without the crippling expense and disruption of moving to new premises.
  • They can hold more stock on site, avoiding unexpected shortages, missed supply deliveries, last-minute substitutes and quality failures.
  • They can install our unique robot-ready flooring ready for automation. It is exceptionally hard wearing with a high point load to bear the weight of robots, an anti-slip surface and is quick to install.

Hi-Level Mezzanines provides mezzanine floors of the highest quality in the industry, yet remaining competitively priced thanks to the expertise of our team of qualified structural engineers, innovative digital design process and advanced solutions.

For 30 years we have been creating space for amazing things to happen. Contact us today for more information at or call 01730 237 190.

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