Strategic industrial land has long been a key consideration in the search for new development sites to accommodate residential growth.

Katerina Karaga

But because of increased demand for last-mile delivery and storage centres to respond to increased online shopping, the pressure on developers seeking such land is mounting.

The recent pandemic has also brought into sharp focus hyperlocal solutions, such as self-sufficient neighbourhoods like the ’15-minute city’, where people can live, work and play in close urban proximity.

To balance out new residential provision, reimagined employment and industrial areas, we need to think of new innovative ways of adapting land.

By their very nature, urban industrial sites provide the perfect base for this. Their vast, inefficient footprints and well-connected locations can provide the basis for mixed-use neighbourhoods in which different activities and uses are layered vertically, both physically and socially.


To put this potential into perspective, first think of an industrial unit rooftop – sizeable floorplates crying out for optimisation. And this type of vertical land use among industrial buildings is in no way new.

The various hangouts topping Peckham’s old warehouses have shown us how it can be done creatively and commercially, and a Copenhagen power plant (pictured) even has Copenhill – a rooftop ski-slope.

Rooftop space has long proven successful in terms of promoting social interaction by creating around-the-clock endeavours. But it can offer far more than compelling leisure offerings. It can also feature solar panels, greenhouses and urban farming, which support wider sustainability goals – especially for warehouses – through a reduction in energy consumption and CO2 production.

Optimising these floorplates comes with challenges, from controlling both public and worker access to managing the effective operation of industrial units. But they can be overcome with a smart, considered design.

Layering units, with their own separate access points, is just one simple-yet-effective solution. This approach should be considered not only when retrofitting but also in new industrial developments, allowing for amenity space and catering for employees’ health and wellbeing.

The potential of warehouses and other industrial sites is significant. With the industrial real estate market still in boom mode, it is time we start designing these sites – for everyone.

Katerina Karaga is an associate at Farrells