September 20, 2021
We’ve all heard a version of the phrase “Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance”. When it comes to the design, construction and commerciality of industrial developments, planning is the key to every project’s success.
A recent perfect storm of events – Brexit, Covid, rising inflation – has led to unpredictable pressure on supply chains for materials, expertise and services, underlining the need for careful planning.
As Kingsbridge Estates continues to deliver successful industrial schemes – most recently at Concorde Park, Segensworth and our site nearing completion at Spring Park, Havant – we know the importance of looking ahead at changing markets, employer trends and occupier preferences well before boots hit the ground on-site.
Here are the key factors we believe are vital to planning a thriving, commercially successful scheme with happy occupiers.
Recent events have conspired to make the lead times for surveyors and consultants longer than usual. In the very early stages of planning a development, we ensure that lead times for obtaining these surveys – which often can be weeks and sometimes months – are factored in.
A more complex foundation solution due to unforeseen ground conditions can greatly increase the cost of a scheme. For example, piling slabs at 2.5 metres can add 20% or more to the build cost of a scheme.
A smart developer should never end up in a position of bidding blind, putting in an offer for a site without really knowing what’s beneath their feet.
A significant amount of value in the design of a development isn’t about the building itself – it’s about the space around it.
The yard area – how big it is, how secure, the circulation space for trucks and vans, ease of loading – will have a huge impact on the desirability of a space for the occupies as well as the lenders or investors who may fund it.
When designing spaces, we think about now and the future – who is likely to be occupying the units we’re delivering? How are they going to use them? What kind of vehicles will be turning up at those units, and how often? Asking and answering those questions helps provide attractive schemes and futureproofs the value of our developments, without wasting expenditure on over-engineered solutions.
The future is electric. The current target is that no new petrol or diesel cars will be sold after 2030 – and as businesses switch on to the importance of environmental responsibility we expect commercial fleets to be increasingly electric-powered before then.
It’s often the case that developers are required to deliver a certain percentage of active electric vehicle chargers ready for use by occupiers on day one. Alongside those can come requirements for “passive” charging where the ducting and other infrastructure are delivered, but the charger, cabling and power supply can be added further down the line.
There is a cost balance to be struck here to reach a point where enough charging points are provided within the cost limitations at the outset. However we always bear in mind that more and more tenants in the future are likely to have vehicle fleets charging outside their units ready for drivers to use the next day.
Again, it’s about future proofing – ensuring ducting is in place so cables can be drawn through, and that power will be available when needed to ensure businesses stay on the road to a greener, electric future.
Although we should do all we can to mitigate it, we know climate change is happening with extreme weather events becoming more prevalent. When planning any development we must consider not just today’s rainfall levels but those of tomorrow – and that means building more capacity into our drainage than we may need at the moment.
Increasingly, we are seeing yard and parking spaces with permeable surfaces – water can soak through these and safely drain away. This can add a modest amount to the base build cost but in the long run could be more cost-effective than dealing with excess water in years to come.
Another helpful option can be to include landscape buffers – green space, shrubs and trees around the edge of a development – which can naturally soak water away. These also create a pleasant visual screen around a development and improve the wellbeing of those in and around the site – it’s a win-win.
Staff wellbeing and the creation of pleasant spaces people want to work in has been ingrained in thinking in the world of office developments for some time. Now – and even more importantly in a post-lockdown age – this attitude is rightly becoming more common in the world of industrial and warehouse development.
An attractive working environment can help industrial occupiers to attract and retain talent in an increasingly competitive labour market.
Green areas are proven to have a positive effect on mental health and wellbeing, so facilities such as outdoor seating for lunch breaks or meeting areas and relaxation spaces are increasingly being planned in. Trees can help to reduce stress, lower blood pressure and improve mood, so developers should look to include these wherever possible – ideally rooted in the ground, where they are more likely to thrive than those confined to planters.
Still on the theme of wellness, we carefully consider the working life of the people who use the office spaces of our developers – and where they are best placed.
People simply don’t want to work in dingy offices that are 15 metres from the nearest open window or natural light source. Ideally, nobody should be sitting more than eight metres from a window. Good ventilation is key too – and that’s something we’re all more conscious of because of Covid.
At our development at Concorde Park we favoured mezzanine level offices which can have several benefits to workers. These stretch across the full width at the front of our units, with windows looking out towards the adjoining site of importance for nature conservation, providing an attractive outlook and a good level of natural daylight for the people working there.
It’s worth bearing in mind that this requires the offices to be positioned above the vehicle loading bay below, so the office needs to be higher, meaning more stairs to climb for its users. Further future proofing could be provided here by designing in the ability to add a lift in the future, should the occupiers require.
When it comes to the superstructures of commercial units, choosing the right materials is fundamental. This is an area significantly affected by supply chain shortages so planning ahead is crucial – developers should know which materials are in short supply and factor this into the material choices to avoid delays and the resulting effects on cost.
In most industrial schemes, steel remains the structural material of choice – it strikes the best balance of cost, strength and weight. Occupiers prefer larger span buildings without supporting columns impeding the use of their unit, and the strength of portal-frames avoids the need for these obstructions.
When designing units, developers should bear in mind that off-the-shelf materials are likely to be more widely available than bespoke materials, which are likely to be more costly with long lead-in times at least until the supply chain recovers.
They should also carefully consider the optimum size of unit that strikes a balance between “letability” and cost – for example, increasing the span of a warehouse from 20m to 30m could double the amount of steelwork required.
Local sourcing of materials where possible is the right choice with sustainability in mind, not least, this reduces vehicle miles.
The term “embodied carbon” refers to the amount of carbon that is wound up in the materials that make up a scheme. This includes the carbon produced in the process of making that material, bringing it to the site and removing and disposing of it at the end of its life.
There are several online calculators that can work out the embodied carbon in different materials and therefore the environmental implications of using them.
For example, concrete is hugely carbon-expensive – so to meet sustainability goals, developers may wish to minimise their use of concrete and plan for alternatives.
Reducing the amount of embodied carbon in the structure of a scheme, alongside energy-efficient design and sourcing of green energy, can make a significant difference to the environmental impact of development.
It’s not just materials and surveyors that are in short supply – developers should also consider increasing lead times for services, such as power and internet connectivity.
They should assess the capacity and constraints of local utilities as far ahead as possible. Enquiries into local electricity providers can take 8-10 weeks, even just to establish whether capacity will be available to a site.
For internet infrastructure providers the delay can be much longer – as long as 15 months – not including the time it takes for engineers to provide equipment and cables needed to make a service live.
Developers will have their own attitudes to the provision of services for future occupiers and will make decisions based on costs and the anticipated requirements of their future tenants.
See our recent industrial developments here.