Awareness of social responsibility for the environment continues to grow. Various branches of the economy are taking measures to reduce their negative impact on the environment. It is also worth noting the continuing increase in fuel and electricity prices that accompany these trends.

Industrial construction is linked with the use of raw materials for the production of which high-energy processes are involved. The construction of industrial halls is only the first step in the life cycle of a facility. The next, and much longer step, is its use and the accompanying ongoing consumption of fuel and electricity. They are needed not only to keep process lines running, but also for heating and lighting.

These components related to the construction of the hall and its maintenance can be an incentive to go in for an upgrade of industrial halls. Particularly if confronted with trends in the fuel and energy markets.

Steel hall upgrade options

The construction of a hall undoubtedly involves high cost. Industrial halls are buildings which are usually very spacious inside. Continuous heating is required to maintain the desired temperature inside the building. Due to the size, heating the halls involves with high cost. The heat retained in a building is lost, among other things, because of heat transfer through the building envelope. This phenomenon works in all directions, so horizontally through the walls as well as vertically through the roof and floor.

Upgrade of a hall can include, among other things, replacing sandwich wall panels with ones that have a thicker insulating core or are made of a material with better specifications. Similarly, when upgrading a steel hall, it is worth considering replacing the roof insulation with materials of better insulating performance and/or increasing the thickness of the insulation layer.

Materials commonly used as the core of wall and roof panels are polyisocyanurate (PIR), mineral wool and polystyrene. All those materials have different thermal conductivity coefficient values – for example, as a rule of thumb, PIR transfers less heat and therefore is more efficient than mineral wool.

However, it should be noted that both, during the construction of a hall and during the upgrade, care must be taken while switching from mineral wool to PIR. Mineral wool is non-combustible and PIR is, at most, a non-fire spreading material (NRO). For that reason, when it is necessary to create a partition required by fire protection, the use of PIR insulation is severely limited.

Another way to upgrade a hall is to choose or adapt its heating. There are many solutions available on the market, and the more popular ones for industrial buildings include electric and gas radiant heaters and air heaters. Air heaters generate heat using electricity or by burning natural gas, fuel oil, biofuel, eco pea coal or even hard coal. Upgrading a hall can include changing to more efficient equipment or using an alternative (and in the long term cheaper) energy source.

Industrial buildings also commonly use devices called air curtains, which are usually located above a gate or door and direct a strong stream of air downwards. It avoids a cold stream from outside entering and overcooling the facility. It is worth considering the installation of such equipment as part of a hall upgrade. Another aspect worth considering is reducing electricity consumption by replacing lighting with LED luminaires. A photovoltaic system is also a good solution. While considering installation of a PV system on a building roof, if the original design did not provide for the required slope, the structure has to be investigated by a professional to find out if it is capable of taking such additional load.

Hall upgrade as a way to optimise heating cost

How can the above measures contribute to reducing heating cost? Let us have a closer look at building physics.

As we mentioned earlier, upgrading a steel hall can help reduce heating cost. This can be achieved by improving the insulation properties of the building envelope, which will reduce heat transfer. Crucial here is the thermal conductivity coefficient, which, in terms of building physics, is denoted by the Greek letter lambda. The lower the lambda value the less heat the material transfers or, in other words, less heat penetrates through the partition. By thickening the thermal insulation layers and changing to a material with better thermal insulation (one with lower lambda), less heat escapes from the building and less energy is needed to heat it.

Upgrade of industrial halls – where to start, where to finish?

A well thought-out upgrade of a hall should not only modernise the building but also result in measurable savings. By analysing the projected energy gains and comparing them with properly calculated upgrade cost, you can get an answer to which solutions are best suited to your facility.

Also relevant is the fact that excessive increase in insulation thickness may not be economically viable. The percentage of heat loss by penetration, in the overall heat loss balance of the building, decreases with thicker insulation. Leakage losses, on the other hand, are of great importance in the energy balance. They are caused by thermal bridges, improper use of the building (e.g. unsealed doors and gates) or heating the building with old and inefficient equipment.

To conclude, a good first step in planning a hall upgrade is to turn to an experienced contractor who, having been in the industry for many years, is able to advise on the extent to which a hall upgrade should be carried out to make the best possible economic sense.