How To Build a Cold Room: Essential Do’s and Don’ts

As the name suggests, a cold room is primarily an insulated room with a specialized architectural design to ensure the adequate long-term preservation of refrigerated and frozen items. While it sounds straightforward, designing a cold room takes careful consideration into various aspects. Thus, requiring collaboration with a team of specialized individuals to ensure the necessary steps and practices for accomplishing a flawless plan. With the right design strategy and material requisition, owners of cold room storage buildings can rest assured knowing their time and monies have been well spent.

To help you build a cold room perfectly, we have put together a list of best practices collected over the years from industry experts.

  1. Understand Airflow, Humidity, and Temperature

    For starters, it is important to understand that all three, airflow, humidity, and temperature are dependent on one another and affect each other. However, the best way to understand their relationship of each of these with one another is to first understand the mechanics of each one separately.

    Airflow

    The transfer of moisture and heat are primarily dependant on how the air travels across cold room storage systems. Since warm air rises and cold air sinks, the openings of cold rooms can cause a massive spill over of cold air and substitute it with warm air build-up. Therefore, it is important to limit this airflow by including certain things in the initial design, such as airtight door seals, and air locking mechanisms in the form of intermediate temperature rooms.

    Humidity

    Due to insignificant levels of moisture within a cold room envelope, the humidity from outside tries to penetrate within to balance out the absence. However, if not adequately dealt with, moisture will ultimately condense into water and then turn to ice especially if the internal temperature is minus 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, vapor barriers must be installed to reduce the transfer of moisture through airflow.

    Temperature

    Perhaps temperature is the common thread between understanding airflow and humidity. While sealing and insulating the cold room is essential, it is important to install certain mechanisms that ensure a continuous vapor barrier and reduce the transfer of hot air.

  2. Avoiding Ice Build-up

    If adequate precautions are not taken into consideration when designing a cold room, owners may face ice build-up and various issues following it. For starters, it is important to understand the temperature that the intended cold room is being designed around. Moisture freezes into ice which can expand around the cold room envelope. Although a natural insulator, its hard composition, and build up can have detrimental effects especially around the openings, equipment, and under the slab of the freezer. Therefore, it is important to have certain mechanisms in place that prevent and remove excess ice build-up. For example, incorporating a vapor barrier, ensuring adequate glycol levels in the adjoining concrete, installing insulation around freezer slabs, or an inbuilt electric heat tracing system can help fight against ice build-up.

  3. Adequate Insulation and Envelope Terminations

    Experts recommend using insulated metal panels with thermal breaks to provide adequate wall-to-wall insulation at all intersections including slabs, walls, and roof. Additionally, it is important to have a continuous vapor barrier in place against envelope termination and temperature transitions between metals. Combined, both features ensure a reduction in ice build-up and prevent any loss of space between intersections.

  4. Effects of Temperature on Building Material

    Before undertaking material requisitions for building a cold room, it is important to understand how temperature affects each of them. For instance, metal is a known conductor of temperature and will transmit it in the adjacent spaces around it. For example, steel structures transfer cold temperature to warm surroundings. To rusting and weathering, it is recommended that all structural steel components are adequately galvanized. In doing so, this protective barrier will work against atmospheric conditions to ensure the longevity of your cold room envelope.

  5. Gradual Drop In Temperature

    A freezer system will not immediately achieve its desired 0-degree temperature once set up and turned on. The temperature in the surrounding areas needs to be gradually brought down in small increments so that the environment within the cold room can be naturally climatized. To fully achieve the desired temperature, it can take anywhere from a month or even longer therefore it is recommended that builders and end-users schedule this time in their operations to avoid disappointments and delays.

  6. Foam Insulation

    To build a cold room, there would essentially be multiple transitions and additions required to achieve maximum insulation. However, while board insulation is the most desired option, it is unable to reach all the small areas that could potentially lead to the transfer of temperature. Therefore, we recommend using foam-in-place insulation in combination with board insulation to build a sustainable cold room envelope. These are mostly required between the walls and roof and at deck flutes thus, investing in high-quality neoprene insulation inserts will not be too costly. Every little opening and penetrating area can impact temperature regulation within the cold room. One way of ensuring maximum insulation is by applying joint sealants to the floor and slabs. However, it is recommended that users wait to do this until optimal internal temperature is achieved fully. This allows room for any contractions that the slab may go through during the varying temperatures.

Conclusion

Building cold rooms can be a tricky job. However, with the right team collaborations, it is not impossible. We highly recommended employing local teams with mechanical engineers to develop your dream cold room. Local engineers understand the surrounding temperatures in the area better than foreign ones and will be better able to guide you regarding the appropriate R-value, material requisition for proper thickness of panelling, and insulation cost vs. energy costs. These consultations should be included earlier on in the design phase so that proper steps can be taken accordingly, and systems can be put in place essentially.

At the end of the day, a diverse team of experts including designers and engineers will be best equipped to build a cold room because of their years of industry experience.

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