Over the past year we have noticed that new typologies for logistics schemes are gaining in popularity in Germany in the context of urban intensification, with the design of both typical out of town industrial logistics ‘sheds’ and urban logistics centres being approached and adapted in different ways to respond to changing urban and town planning demands. We are expecting these new types of typologies to be coming up more and more in Germany over the next few years.

The current market

The logistics industry is the largest economic sector in Germany and is fast-growing with a workforce of around three million. In 2022 nearly 32 million sqm of warehousing and logistics space was taken up across 13 major European markets, with the total take-up in the German market of around 8.67 million sqm matching the record year-on-year increase in 2021.

Most demand for space came from distribution / logistics companies with 34%, followed by retailers with 29%. Manufacturers assumed third place, increasing their share of total take-up from 19% in 2021 to 27% in 2022.

Demand for space remains high with many companies expanding their production, storage and distribution capacities in Germany. However, a lack of modern logistics space and land available at short notice in many regions makes the shortage of suitable space an ongoing challenge.

Increasing capacity

Our clients in Germany are finding that larger plots for out-of-town logistics developments are less available and becoming more challenging for potential development in terms of return on investment. Many local authorities also worry that big out-of-town developments are not providing as many jobs as they could be and may be creating heavy goods traffic from the countryside to city centres. In addition, the scale of such larger warehouses means they are increasingly challenged, especially near urban environments. However, like we have been in the UK, in Germany we are working with existing and new clients to explore new solutions to increase logistics capacity within land availability constraints, while reducing both the physical and environmental impacts of warehouse buildings where appropriate. This also has aided in easing concerns from local authorities and communities.

Co-location of uses

As elsewhere in Europe, e-commerce is continuing to boom in Germany but needs more proximity to city centres. The requirements of this demand for last-mile delivery are impacting the location and design of logistics facilities in German towns and cities to provide more well-located and flexible urban industrial and logistics space.

One of the approaches that we are talking about more and more is intensification and the co-location of different uses. City authorities are asking for a mix of uses on plots in urban areas or even in city centres.

This relatively new concept refers to the careful juxtaposition of industrial, logistics and residential uses to form mixed-use developments on industrial sites to provide more residential and industrial space. This approach that also been developing in the UK, where for several years our colleagues in London have been exploring with the Greater London Authority (GLA) new typologies and templates to co-locate logistics with other uses in and around London.

New urban typologies

This innovative mixed-use development model has two approaches: vertical co-location, with residential uses stacked above industrial and logistics uses, and horizontal co-location where existing industrial uses are intensified on one part of a site to release part of the land for residential development.

In Germany we are now being asked to look at multi-level logistics for tight urban sites to service the demand for urban last mile delivery services and mixing uses on valuable urban sites. In particular, we are looking at how pure logistics space can be increased by using ramps to layer multi-level warehouses above ground.

The first two-storey logistics building in Germany was developed by Four Parx in Hamburg. Initially there was concern that the tight column grids required at ground level for load bearing reasons would cause a problem for vehicle movement and access. However, the development is now 90% occupied, because when operators visited the site during construction, they realised that the design ensures that, despite the tight grid, there is enough space for HGV traffic and storage racks.

Last year our German office worked with a client to develop a two-level pilot-project for an urban logistics development that adopts a new approach which substantially reduces the massing of the building. HGVs deliver goods to the ground floor from where they are vertically distributed to the first floor to be picked up by much smaller vans for distribution into city centres. This allows the first floor to be much smaller than the ground floor which creates a staggered building form and thus moves away from solely square design. Such typologies will also adapt to make use of new delivery technologies such as drones or autonomous vehicles.

The detailed aesthetic design of warehouses on such urban sites is also changing, with more focus on the design of facades that are facing main roads going to the city centre so they reflect the adjacent built environment without being dominant. Traffic also needs to be agglomerated in the centre of the plot in order to use the new buildings around as a noise barrier. Where possible public leisure facilities may be incorporated too.

Moving forward with innovative concepts 

The success of mixed-use industrial intensification schemes going forward will involve both the design of the buildings and the better and innovative use of space on the immediate site.  It will rely on how they are placed in, and relate to, their wider community and respond to their local environmental context. We are excited to be working with our clients to design projects that prove that logistics space can look great, sit alongside other uses, and fit well within and ideally enhance an urban environment.

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