Few high-bay facilities are as impressive as the new distribution center operated by Alnatura Produktions- und Handels GmbH in Lorsch, Germany.

It rises 17.5 meters into the sky and, this is the most extraordinary part, it is made entirely of wood.

The high-capacity high-bay warehouse is the only one of its kind anywhere in the world, Alnatura points out with some pride, and an external façade that is also made of wood will soon be added to the ecological concept. The goal of the construction project is to build a cutting-edge extension onto an existing organic food distribution center.

“What’s extraordinary is that the project is in keeping with Alnatura’s principles, which are based on systematic sustainability and environmental protection,” comments Dr. Volker Jungbluth, Managing Director of Swisslog Germany. “The organic food retailer can still rely on modern technology,” he adds, “since the warehouse will soon be automated.”

Headquartered in Bickenbach, Alnatura has been distributing organic foods since the mid-1980s, including dry cereals and other grains, sandwich spreads, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, to name but a few.

The company maintains 80 stores in Germany and also distributes its goods through trade partners in Germany and abroad. Lorsch has been one of Alnatura’s key logistics centers for many years, but it is now outgrowing its capacity, due to the retailer’s strong growth.

Because of the great need to expand, Alnatura decided in 2012 to construct a new building. The company is now building a new distribution center for dry goods on a footprint of 9 000 m².

The new structure will be a fully automated high-bay warehouse connected to an adjacent building, which will provide the interface to the existing logistics space.

“The order from Alnatura not only covers the storage systems and conveyors, control technology and warehouse management,” says Heinz Ennen, Swisslog’s Head of Sales, describing the work specifications. “The milestones also include construction and a sophisticated energy concept.“ In keeping with Alnatura’s motto, “Sensible products for people and the planet,” the new logistics center will cut CO2 emissions wherever possible: by saving energy, using renewable resources and building with wood.

“We deliberately chose to use one of the most sustainable building materials,” says Prof. Dr. Götz E. Rehn, Alnatura’s Founder and CEO. “Wood is a renewable resource.” Alnatura wants to set an example by combining ecology and economic feasibility with attractive design.

The high-bay facility is made of PEFC certified spruce and therefore comes from sustainably managed forests. It is an eight-story, 18 m load-bearing structure with 65 570 m3 of shelf supports.

The facade features PEFC-certified larch wood. Thanks to good insulation and natural cooling, the logistics center requires neither heating or artificial refrigeration.

To do this, the building was sunk 2.5 meters into the ground, which allows it to use the natural cooling effect of the surrounding earth. A photovoltaic system will be installed on the roof, so that the building will be operated with additional green electricity once it is completed.

A total of 3 800 m2 of open storm water infiltration basins collect rainwater from both the roof of the high-bay warehouse and all yard areas, preventing rainwater from contaminating the public drainage ditch. Extensive landscaping of the property rounds out the ecological concept.

The new 137 m x 67 m x 20 m warehouse and distribution center will have a functionality and dynamics shaped largely by automation technology: 9 Swisslog Vectura stacker cranes will serve up to 31 000 pallet locations.

Pallet conveyors, picking robots, extensive peripheral and safety components as well as modern software control systems make the Alnatura warehouse an extremely safe and high-performance environment.

“We are delighted to give our customer a solution that is beyond compare,” says Volker Jungbluth, and adds that any complex logistics system can rightly claim to be unique if it actually attempts to meet the user’s personal needs.