Thinking About a “Cool” Future at the CEBA Expo & Conference

By Tom White, Senior Vice President of Cold Storage

For a construction firm working in the cold storage industry, there’s no better place to be than the Global Cold Chain Alliance CEBA Conference & Expo, which is what I was fortunate to attend late last year. So while my mind was preparing for the impending Upper Midwest winter, my body was enjoying the sunshine of Palm Springs, CA!

The event was extremely well attended, with more than 400 controlled environment facility, construction, logistics, and supply chain professionals from around the world. The controlled environment building industry is extremely niche, and thus highly sophisticated. Bringing together experts and practitioners to share techniques, trends, and best practices always makes this a worthwhile event to attend, and this marked the third year that WDS Construction had a presence. Senior Project Manager, Bryan Walker, from WDS also attended.

With each passing event, we meet more of the industry leaders and Global Cold Chain Alliance members. The educational roundtables and seminars are always worthwhile, but even better is connecting with our industry partners and subcontractors, and making new friends along the way.

Jim Carroll, a futurist and author, provided a keynote addressing the many disruptions facing businesses and the opportunities they provide. Art Rasmussen of CBRE spoke about market drivers impacting cold storage real estate growth in the United States. Breakout sessions focused on sustainability, industry regulations, financial and liability tools, and speculative cold storage development.

Among the most interesting information shared was in Kate Lyles breakout session on Speculative Cold Storage Development.  Kate is Practice Leader with Ware Malcomb Design & Engineering and Director of WM Industrial Cold & Food Group. She pointed out:

  • There is a big supply-demand imbalance – projections of up to 30 million SF is needed per year, and we’re building around 10 million.
  • The current average age of a cold storage facility in the US is a whopping 42 years old. Many are lower-height buildings sacrificing pallet storage quantity and building energy efficiency.
  • Spec development is happening, largely focused on PRW’s (Public Refrigerated Warehousing), and a greater variety in speculative facilities predicted in the future.
  • With new players entering the market, it’s important to educate everyone on quality cold design and new construction practices. GCCA and CEBA conferences assist with training programs to increase the skills of CEBA members making them builders of choice for quality and energy-efficient cold storage facilities.


Of course, the best part this year was the recognition that WDS Construction received for our Vortex Cold Storage project, which we were able to present to the conference attendees. The project was recognized as a finalist in the “Built by the Best” category for controlled environment construction projects in the $35 million and under category. The 173,400 sq. ft. Albert Lea, MN project is a state-of-the-art facility designed to meet the complex needs of the cold storage industry. Being recognized by our peers among entrants from across the globe is an exciting development as WDS Construction expands our footprint of cold storage and food-related projects.

Are you looking for the design and construction expertise necessary for your next cold storage project? We’d love to hear from you and learn about your specific challenges and how we can help create the ideal solution because at WDS Construction, we’re Built to Build Better. Reach out to me at and let’s get the conversation started!