Never knowingly unsustainable

The compatibility of sustainability and good business is exemplified by John Lewis's recently-opened distribution centre in Milton Keynes
Jitendra Patel

The John Lewis Partnership asked Gazeley to deliver a pioneering automated distribution centre in Milton Keynes. Located on site at Magna Park, the building combines the latest in environmental measures with cutting-edge industrial development techniques. It will also provide more than 600 new jobs for people in the region.

The project was part of a major supply-chain investment programme by the retailer, supporting plans to increase selling space by 50% by opening nine new shops and relocating three in the next seven years, and accelerating improvements in productivity, availability and customer service for John Lewis.

One of the biggest challenges was the tight time frame: to deliver the building by August 2007. The transformation from greenfield site to distribution centre also meant there was little infrastructure in place already, so new utility supplies and transport links were provided at the same time.

John Lewis’s focus on the corporate responsibility and environmental agenda required a solution that reduced the overall environmental impact of the building by providing carbon savings.

In order to deliver the project on time and to the highest standards, Gazeley worked with project contractor Simons to develop a schedule that allowed construction of the building’s outer shell to work in tandem with the tailored fit-out programme required by John Lewis. By enabling both elements to run alongside one another, Gazeley reduced the overall build time, as well as cost.

To address the lack of infrastructure, Gazeley made an investment of more than £20M to provide utility upgrades, road improvements and for the development of a new roundabout on the A421. This will ensure the effective running of the distribution centre and wider industrial park in the long term, while providing the customer with the best possible facility to run a successful operation.

This additional investment will also benefit the local area and community by reducing congestion.

Sustainable approach

Gazeley’s green aspirations are shared by John Lewis, and are at the heart of their partnership on this project.

The new building will incorporate a range of eco measures including rain water harvesting and recycling; energy-efficient lighting; low-water- use appliances; FSC-approved timber; photovoltaic panels and solar thermal energy; low-toxicity paints and furnishings; and local provenance vegetation. An on-site wind turbine and biofuel energy plant are also being considered to provide additional eco savings.

Nigel Godfrey, development director of Gazeley UK, said: “A key aim with this development was to create a flagship sustainable national distribution centre that will be a blueprint to inspire the wider commercial-property industry. To have the opportunity to work with John Lewis on the first unit for Milton Keynes’ Magna Park was a dream start.

“John Lewis’s belief in our ability to deliver has been highlighted by their major investment in this large-scale project. Their commitment to the project also reflects the quality of the development and its suitability in meeting the strategic needs of their business,” said Godfrey.

“We expect many leading retailers and other users will be attracted to the ease of access for national distribution, sustainable, quality buildings and a highly skilled workforce.”

The result

The environmental technologies included in the design will mean the building achieves a Breeam rating of very good for sustainability. The savings provided by these measures include:

  • 39% CO2 reduction a year (1,826 tonnes)
  • 40% energy usage saving a year (2,990 MWh)
  • 61% water usage saving a year (740,000 litres)

The combination of these initiatives will significantly reduce the environmental impact of the building, and annually save more than £240,000 for John Lewis. Across the 20 year lease on this site, the retailer will save in excess of £4.7M.

Patrick Lewis, John Lewis’s director of retail operations, said: “To win in our market, we need to continually improve our service. For the supply chain, this means improving availability and at the same time reducing our costs so that we can invest in front-line service. This development gives us the space we need to increase the scale of our business and allows us to provide better service to our shops and customers at a lower cost.”

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