Ample clear working heights, the right number of dock-level loading bays and being a stone’s throw from the nearest motorway junction – these are just the kind of features that once formed the backbone of what we thought about as industrial and logistics developers and landlords.
We had little reason to think differently as this is what our tenants tended to focus on, but this is now just the tip of the iceberg.
In today’s world, such practical features are unlikely to be enough when thinking about what our customers want and need, for now and the future. The fact that decisions about future logistics sites now routinely extend beyond estates managers or client finance teams, and are now as likely to pass by the desk of the chief executive or HR director, means companies are no longer viewing these spaces through a functional or financial lens alone.
Employee wellbeing, attraction and retention, as well as impact on the environment and future-proof workplaces, are just some of the factors now high on the agenda of our customers. Rightfully, that means they are high on our agenda, too.
The World Health Organization states that one third of our adult lives is spent in work. I know that, once occupied by customers, we don’t control the space within the units, but we can equip new spaces or retrofit existing ones like a responsible manager. And perhaps just as importantly, we can play a huge part in curating the spaces surrounding our industrial and logistics properties.
We also need to keep on bringing down the carbon emissions of our buildings, through the materials and labour used in construction and the property’s efficient operation and recycling. With Amazon declaring its commitment to being net-zero carbon by 2040, we know that will only be achieved through a like-minded supply chain, including the buildings they use.
“Wellbeing is climbing the agenda, leaving plenty to be achieved in partnership with our customers”
Wellbeing is climbing the board-level agenda, leaving plenty to be achieved in partnership with our customers. But it’s the outside spaces, which have traditionally been too much of an after-thought, where we can embrace biodiversity and create more usable, healthy spaces, from orchards and ponds to trim trails and all-park amenities.
Future technology will also be factored into our thinking, from the robots and smart engineers who may grace our buildings to electric charging points to help employees and logistics users keep moving.
Ultimately, when I think about the future of industrial and logistics sites, I think less about what we build, but more how we build it and for whom. Too often we’ve focused on the product. Now it’s the turn of people and place.
Rupert Joseland is managing director at St Modwen Industrial and Logistics
Industrial & logistics supplement November 2019
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It’s time to focus on people and place