In previous articles we have reviewed the evolution of warehouse design from its earliest iterations nearly two thousand years ago to recent high-profile buildings that showcase new high-tech and sustainable designs, systems and materials. We have also looked at some of the new Industrial Intensification architectural typologies and templates that are being applied on Strategic Industrial Land (SIL) in response to the challenges facing the logistics and other construction sectors.

In this article we are looking more closely at how the next stage of the logistics construction story is seeing its evolution into a wider force for good.


The challenges

The design of logistics facilities has been transformed in reaction to the demand for well-located industrial and logistics space, and the simultaneous shortage of suitable and affordable land for residential developments and their associated community and commercial infrastructure. The transformation has been accelerated by pandemic-related changes in demand and expectation.

As land supply has tightened, and the requirements of a growing demand for last-mile delivery has soared, a new approach to repurposing brownfield sites and existing buildings is being explored, with logistics now being delivered at different scales as part of a co-location of urban uses that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.


The responsibility of the construction team

Architects have a big responsibility in this.  A large part of the success of a mixed-use industrial intensification scheme is not just the design of the buildings and their better and innovative use of space on the immediate site.  It increasingly relies on how they are placed in, and relate to, their far wider community and environmental context. Projects are now being built that prove that logistics space can look great in itself, sit alongside other uses, and fit well within and ideally enhance an urban environment.

Some of the new industrial intensification templates that have been developed are currently going through planning and others are already on-site as projects that will enhance the local community rather than negatively impacting it, whilst also creating sustainable locations that are built to last.

Multi-level urban logistics at G-Park London Docklands – the UK’s first three-storey logistics facility (below) – is currently going through the planning process. This scheme demonstrates how pure logistics space can be increased by using ramps to layer multi-level warehouses above ground.

Chetwoods - GLP G-Park Docklands

The same approach was used in the design for the relocation of the City of London’s historic food markets to a new site in Dagenham which has received outline planning permission (see below).

London Markets Initial Concept

A ground-breaking example of the co-location of urban uses – including industrial and logistics with residential – has recently been granted planning permission. The development of U+I’s Morden Wharf on Strategic Industrial Land will create an urban fabric that integrates industrial logistics with new mixed-use neighbourhoods to support high-density suburban living.

Chetwoods Morden Wharf - U+I


Sustainability and wellbeing

These new blended-use typologies coincide with the urgent need, underlined at Cop-26, for all buildings to be designed, constructed and operated sustainably as the construction sector aims for net-zero targets.  These targets are already encouraged and monitored by BREEAM, Planet Mark and other measures and standards, and evolving regulatory planning requirements.

At the same time, evidence of the vital contribution that industrial intensification can make in providing wider environmental enhancement, user well-being, and social and community benefits is being demonstrated with the adoption of WELL™ standard and other design and delivery protocols in the best new developments.


Commercial viability

While these design, construction and operational elements all have to be taken into account in new developments, they also need to be part of a viable commercial proposition. In the past they have been seen as expensive optional add-ons, but fortunately we are seeing a fundamental shift in the mindset of funders who recognise the logic and merit in sustainability, and are investing in real estate which embodies those principles while also delivering user wellbeing. This creates real estate that is cheaper to operate, worth more in the long-run and also more attractive to tenants, while using and repurposing scarce land responsibly.


New opportunities for regeneration

The ultimate blend of logistics and landscape, with logistics requirements as the key driver in regenerating major industrial wasteland to create a new green landscape, is now happening.

Rectory Farm in Hounslow has taken sustainable logistics down to a whole new level. As the result of the extraction of gravel, the largest new park in London for more than 100 years will be generated on disused open space above modern, state-of-the-art underground storage and warehouse space.

Rectory Farm is a derelict and inaccessible wasteland site above one of the country’s largest remaining deposits of high-quality gravel, a material in high demand for London’s growing infrastructure and building needs. The development will provide several thousand direct jobs, along with new recreation, cultural and sports facilities, community gardens, open parkland, wildflower meadows, and wooded areas to encourage ecological recovery and biodiversity. Transforming the derelict site into a public park requires a reliable and continuous stream of funding: letting the proposed subterranean warehouse space will assure that the park is developed and maintained in perpetuity.

Chetwoods’ appointment as technical architects for this project recognised a 30-year track record in logistics, design, sustainability and technology expertise, and recent experience of projects covering multi-level, multi-faceted logistics and industrial design.  Our in-house sustainability, design and technology experts were able to help the Rectory Farm team design an efficient cutting-edge, innovative underground warehouse and storage facility.

During the first stage the new park will be created. During subsequent phases gravel extraction will take place discreetly beneath the park’s surface through an innovative ‘top-down’ construction method, used in the construction of high-rise buildings with deep basements, with the process contained below ground in contrast to open cast mining. Formal Investments was granted outline planning permission for this landmark in logistics technical innovation in 2017.

All these responsive ‘right time right place’ new directions for logistics have been achievable in large part thanks to research and development that has been going on for the past 30 years in parallel to growth in logistics construction.


Pioneering R&D

At Chetwoods we have an acknowledged reputation for the design and delivery of award-winning logistics projects that pioneer advances in sustainability and construction. These range from single units to large multi-modal developments; from the eco-template developed in partnership with GLP more than 20 years ago, to the recent delivery of the world’s first building verified as net-zero for construction in line with the UKGBC framework.


New templates

Over the past few years our ‘Warehouses of the Future’ research programme has been exploring new concepts based around multi-storey warehouses and mixed-use urban logistics, as well as working on pilot studies for the GLA. Our work in other sectors has also encompassed dark hotels and kitchens and repurposed underground car parks which have been relevant to projects such as Rectory Farm.


Holistic integration

Given the progress of the past five years, we are excited as we look forward to the next 10 years. Ideas about integrating logistics with a community that were just a competition-winning twinkle in our eye a few years ago are now beginning to look feasible and even come to fruition.

Property Week’s invitation to submit our ideas for a ‘Shed of the Future’ Competition gave us the perfect opportunity to develop innovative concepts and ideas we had at the time into the revolutionary ‘E-Hive Epicentre’ logistics city (below). This self-sustaining and self-supporting community, with a subterranean logistics hub at its heart, addressed future issues the logistics industry would face in its vital role in nationwide infrastructure, and its responsibility for local ‘just in time’ last-mile delivery.

E-Hive Epicentre Warehouse of the Future

This idea was explored further in a masterplan concept for Wuhan International Eco-Logistics Park in China (below), which imagined a logistics city led by landscape, constructed in three layers from logistics at the bottom through layered mixed-uses to a green and pleasant landscape on top.


Logistics as a force for good

We continue to work and research with environmentally and commercially aware clients to push boundaries. We are currently working to deliver a net-zero carbon at construction development without the need to off-set, and we have prepared designs for a 500,000 sq ft warehouse which would be zero carbon throughout its cycle, for which we are now in the measurement process.

We are acutely aware of our responsibility during the next phase of the evolution of logistics: from balancing the consumer-driven requirements of businesses to solving the challenges of available sites, and the overarching necessity for designing-in environmental and human well-being.



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