The humble coldroom can play a vital part in the running of a commercial kitchen, providing a suitably cool storage space for huge amounts of produce. But as there are both bespoke and standard models available, different types of units will be applicable in different situations.
German-headquartered Viessmann has recently been making a big splash in the UK coldrooms market. UK and Ireland MD Steve Steadmann advised distributors: “There are many circumstances for dealers to consider which product is suitable for their client when it comes to modular cold storage. These range from site conditions – is there room for a standard off the shelf product, are there obstructions/access issues, is the coldroom going to be located in an area with little or no ventilation; budget restraints; speed of delivery and customer’s expansion plans.”
Therefore the firm’s Hof-based factory creates the standard TectoCell Compact model which can also be tailored into a more bespoke range if required. Over 240 sizes of panels are available in three heights and two thicknesses, the smallest being 1,800mm x 1,200mm through to 3,900mm x 12,000mm.
“Where the customer dictates that they require a higher specification the Viessmann TectoCell Standard Plus range offers full overlapping silicone free wall joints, Viessmann Smartprotec anti-microbial additive to the walls and ceilings, more flexibility in sizing options and various door options which include sliding, internally opening, double hinged and various bespoke hinged widths,” revealed Steadmann.
Furthermore, the manufacturer offers free site consultation and an in-house design and planning service. It is also starting to run dealer training at its UK branch in Telford and arranging learning workshops at its German factory.
He added: “Our R&D team are constantly looking forward and developing either new products or ranges to supersede or complement our existing ranges. We now have our new TectoRefrigo CMC and CMF ceiling-mounted integral refrigeration systems. Our new handle-less door was recently launched which incorporates the new digital controller and light switch on the face frame of the door. We are looking to streamline the TectCell Compact range and offer more options so the gap between standard and bespoke is narrowing.”
One very established refrigeration manufacturer with an extensive coldroom portfolio is Foster. “We’re specialists,” commented Foster Coldstores’ commercial sales manager Sam Devitt. “By focusing on coldstores it means all of our colleagues are actually stakeholders in the products we manufacture. With that wealth of experience we can support dealers, see any problems and pitfalls along the way and guide people to prevent them falling into any traps.”
He explained: “To make sure that end users receive the best equipment for their individual business, it’s really important that dealers understand some basic information. Bespoke coldstores tend to lend themselves to unusual shaped areas. If there is a ‘l-shaped’ corner, we can work with dealers to spec the correct size to avoid wasting space. Bespoke coldstores are ideal for maximising the useable area of the storage.”
On the other hand he emphasised: “The biggest advantage of a standard, more ‘off the shelf’ option such as our ProLine Range is the initial outlay cost is lower, as there are a fixed range of 20 units. A standard product is the right choice for customers who have budget as their major consideration. However, nine times out of ten, we’d recommend the bespoke option.”
Devitt reported that Foster is focusing its product development on creating energy efficiency savings and is investing heavily into researching alternative cooling methods. He added: “Being able to give a customer a real feel of what they’re going to get is important too. That’s when things like BIM drawings come into their own. End users will get a 3D visual on what they’re actual paying for, down to the lights and shelf location. Another thing that’s becoming increasingly mentioned is the ability to remotely monitor the coldstore with internet connectivity to help with diagnostic and stability checks.”
Fellow East Anglia refrigeration manufacturer Williams can assist distributors by carrying out a site survey for coldrooms, provide drawings and a quotation, supplying, installing and project managing the complete outfit. Sales and marketing director Malcolm Harling urged dealers to: “Look for coldrooms using thermally efficient, zero ODP foam insulated tongue-and-groove panels with camlocks on ceiling, wall and floor. This design creates a highly stable structure that eliminates the risk of ice build-up in joints and ensures a complete thermal envelope.”
The firm has developed 90mm, zero ODP foam insulated panels for optimum thermal efficiency. Explaining the merits of standard or bespoke coldrooms, Harling said: “Standard coldrooms with through the wall units are generally used on smaller catering premises where ventilation and access is good. If space is at a premium, to allow further seating in the restaurant, consider an external coldroom.
“Williams coldrooms feature a modular construction and a range of panel sizes that allow designers to create bespoke rooms to virtually any size or shape. These can be assembled on-site, overcoming any accessibility issues.”
He reported: “Lately we have designed and installed several meat ageing rooms/charcuteries, as well as cheese and wine cases with vision panels and glass doors for theatre style display. Some of our fire retardant PIR panels have also been used as fire walls in corridors within a building.
“Williams is also looking at the latest refrigerants becoming available with a lower global warming potential (GWP). Just recently we carried out a CPU installation using R407F which has a much lower GWP than the traditional R404a which will be phased out by 2020. We will also see more efficient foams, more choice of metals for panels and floors and the continuous development of the evaporators and condensing units to meet the ever demanding customer requirements.”
Elsewhere, Bob Littler sales and marketing manager at Porkka UK pointed out: “In situations where an ‘off-the-shelf’ cold or freezer room would be a compromise rather than the perfect solution, then a made-to-measure room is going to be the best option. The important thing is to understand just how the coldroom will be used, and in what environment, and then make sure that the proposed solution meets all of those requirements.
“Clearly a totally bespoke cold/freezer room will cost a little more than a standard off-the-shelf model, but a useful ‘half-way house’ is the modular coldroom. These make use of ‘standard’ components but these components can be brought together in a wide range of configurations to meet specific requirements.” Around 80% of Porkka’s UK sales are for modular coldrooms.
Furthermore he added: “Working with dealers or dealing directly with the customer, we advise them to concentrate first and foremost on what we call the ‘abilities’ – reliability, dependability, durability and suitability. These are the four most important things with regards to selecting equipment that will add value to their businesses and, clearly, these are then closely followed by energy performance, price and operational capability. Once the design criteria have been established our online coldroom configurator makes it very easy for dealers or end customers to select a modular coldroom that fits the bill.”
Littler feels that incremental steps are being made in the sector to improve energy efficiency, plus remote monitoring technologies are gaining traction. “For example, a remote heat disposal system that in the past would have simply transferred waste heat to outside the building may now be linked to an air source heat pump to utilise the heat elsewhere,” he commented.
Specialist manufacturer Celltherm Coldrooms reports that its modular coldroom sizes are so small there is little or no need to cut panels. “The increment sizes of 175mm and fully camlocked PU panelling system negates the need for exposing the internal insulation to moisture ingress by cutting,” said business development manager James Connolly. “However, there is unfortunately no option on some sites when panelling needs to be incorporated into physical structures such pillars and masonry. If this is the case we keep cutting to a minimum and correctly seal with expanding foam and silicon.”
The company offers a full site survey service whereby it meets the dealer with their client, discusses their operational needs and makes recommendations. Connolly revealed: “Our survey team of five have over 135 years of combined industry knowledge and experience, the majority of which is with Celltherm.”
He advised: “Dual-leaf doors allow a cost-effective solution for large door openings where a sliding door cannot be utilised, an industry first by Celltherm.” The manufacturer also operates a continuous improvement programme which includes over €14m of investment so far in the last decade.
In terms of technology, Connolly analysed: “There have been many advancements in refrigeration systems such as digital scroll compressors and inverter technology. Movements forward on new and less harmful (to the environment) refrigerants now have half the ozone depleting properties of their predecessors. There are even zero GWP refrigerants. It’s likely the trend will continue downward in terms of harmful ozone depleting gases as the technology and manufacturing processes advance.”
Andy Hudspith of ISD Solutions, a specialist in modular cold stores, also considered the options. “Bespoke coldrooms are normally required when a client wants every inch of available space to maximise storage opportunities. Standard models are used more when a specification dictates the size required, or when costs are important. But these aren’t the only considerations.
“The volume of stock and the frequency of staff for access are clearly important. Standard off-the-shelf cold stores come in a range of sizes and may be ideal for smaller operations, but for lots of capacity with easy access, these may be limiting and wasteful on resources and time, especially when hunting for a product that is buried or hidden.
“In these circumstances a bespoke solution designed to match operating requirements more precisely which will make more efficient use of the available space, often at a premium, is a better option.”
Hudspith furthermore urged that stock rotation to minimise wastage should also be considered. “The function will take longer to perform and may not be carried out as frequently as it should be if the coldroom is restrictive. Instant stock visibility afforded by a well-designed bespoke solution will help reduce these issues.”
He added: “A site visit to understand requirements and work flows is essential. The ability to advise on energy efficiency is also important. Quality, easy clean features, self-close doors, temperature alarms, lighting and durable finishes should also be discussed, along with maintenance and servicing, a crucial aspect to ensure optimal efficiency and performance.”