Mezzanine floors are often seen as being one of the most effective solutions for creating additional floor space without having to extend or rent new premises.
However, the term mezzanine floor is often mis-used and as a result, we see companies ending up paying too much for an over-engineered solution that they don’t really need.
Mezzanines are not the only means of maximising the height of your building and can often prove to be the least cost-effective solution.
So, the very first thing we ask when we receive an enquiry for a mezzanine is “What are you looking to do with it?”
It might seem a rather simple question that will be answered with “to create more space” but the purpose of the floor may open up a range of alternative solutions which could prove to be much more cost-effective.
So, rather than a mezzanine, we may suggest a multi-tier floor or potentially a floor over shelving solution.
But what is the difference between a mezzanine floor and a picking tower?
What is a Mezzanine Floor?
A mezzanine is a free-standing, semi-permanent flooring structure that uses a grid of structural steel columns to support a raised floor that can be used for storage, production or office space.
The major benefit of a mezzanine floor is the complete flexibility that it offers. The grid structure can be designed to provide a blank canvas of a floor to suit your requirements and specified to accommodate heavy-duty loads such as machinery. It can also accommodate fully fitted offices to either the ground or first floor levels.
By their very nature, Mezzanine floors have a larger column grid which requires a higher gauge of structural steel which obviously has cost implications.
However, the challenges you may face when considering a Mezzanine Floor are;
- controlling cost
- over specification and engineering
- ensuring load capacity meets your requirements, including point loads
- maximising space utilisation
Mezzanine floor systems can often provide the perfect solution for delivering the additional space you require. However, careful consideration must be given to what the raised flooring will be used for. If it’s purely storage, it may not be the most effective solution.
What is a PICKING TOWER or a Multi-Tier Floor?
A picking tower or a multi-tier floor is similar to a mezzanine floor in that it is a free standing structure, however, the main difference is that it is designed to provide storage to all levels of the structure, using the same footprint.
In essence, the structure features double or triple height shelving with steelwork to support the integrated flooring and staircases to provide simultaneous access to all products.
By using the strength of the steel shelving as the core structure, the system can reduce the requirement of separate structural steelwork and, therefore, the cost associated.
One of the major benefits of a two-tier can be the height room that the structure requires. Whilst a mezzanine floor uses structural steel beams which can mean the structure could be anywhere from 280mm – 400mm deep including particleboard flooring, the two-tier structure can, depending on the aisle width, use the strength in the shelving unit to support the floor with only a minimum of 50mm clear headroom.
However, the main drawback of the two-tier flooring or multi-tier flooring solution is the fact that all shelving must follow the same footprint.
Of course, the configuration of the shelving heights and storage components within the shelving structure can be customised to suit the products being stored. For example, you could be storing garments on the shelving below with standard shelving on the first floor and small parts storage on the top floor.
The challenges you may face when choosing a Picking Tower are:
- Layout restricted to identical positioning of shelves
- Restricted use of pallets
- Load capacities of shelving must be carefully considered
Floor Over System
The floor over system is almost a hybrid of the mezzanine floor and the picking tower solution which uses the shelving to the ground level together with beam supports to span the aisles and provide the structural support to the floor above.
This enables a different storage layout to be installed on the level above or indeed create a flat floor surface for multiple uses (subject to loading capacity).
The system is ideal for clients looking to store a diverse range of products that can vary in size and shape and therefore require different storage solutions.
The challenges you may face when choosing a Floor Over System are:
- Requires expert design to ensure the structure is safe and meets building regulations
- Loading capacities to upper level must be carefully considered and adhered to
In any raised flooring solution, you will inevitably need to ensure the structure complies with the latest Building Regulations and Fire Legislation.
Some exceptions are in place for mezzanines within prison facilities and where they are used for plant maintenance, however, these must be checked on a project to project basis.
But with any structure subject to building warrants, it is vital that you get the right design at the outset as the cost of re-works to make it compliant can be very costly. Likewise, the cost of over-engineering and over-designing the structure, such as assuming you require to create safe zones and compartments in a mezzanine, can also increase the cost needlessly.
To ensure you receive the best advice, check your supplier’s experience in dealing with your local building control department as we have found the interpretation of the building regulations can vary from area to area.
Summary – Mezzanine Floors vs Picking Towers
Of course, the mezzanine route may be the best option for your requirements and our experienced team will look at developing the right solution with the right specification for your company.
But determining when not to build a mezzanine and when to look at alternatives starts with a discussion with someone who can deliver a range of solutions, NOT a company that only offers one.
After all, if you approach a company that only offers mezzanine floors, they are only ever going to be in a position to sell you a mezzanine, regardless of whether it’s the best and most cost-effective solution for your project or not.
Contact us now to discuss your project