Viewpoint: Online retailers fuel shed boom

Thirst for sheds


"Regional distribution centres are dictated by demographics. The main thing all retailers are looking for is a location that aligns with their customer base, or at least their delivery network and, as these are sophisticated operators, this will have been determined with pinpoint accuracy.

"Their requirements are precise when it comes to eaves heights and clearance, square footage, power input, water supply, doors in and out, energy rating and expansion potential. Very few buildings of the size required actually exist, so we're seeing them commission bespoke new build where they can dictate their requirements. Although location is the main driver, these many other requirements must be considered.

"The design will usually be for a tall shed that comfortably houses the bespoke automated racking systems typical of online retailers. Some of these systems can be up to 20m in height, much much taller than a traditional warehouse. And opportunity to expand operations is crucial, particularly for the ever growing 'returns' department, so existing planning permission and ownership of neighbouring land could tip the balance.

"Service requirements for the online retailers are much higher than the traditional B1 use, thanks to increased automation and its thirst for power. Most industrial site sub-stations have a capacity of 1000KVA and can happily serve six or seven traditional occupiers. These huge racking operations not only use significantly more power per square foot, but the lighting and climate control needed, particularly for anyone with a food retail element, would up that requirement yet further. There are significant costs to boosting or installing a new electricity supply, but this could be money well spent if it secures the occupier and others in the future as power needs are only going in one direction.

"And then there is the water supply. Consider the size of the emergency sprinkler system required by these supersheds. Few local suppliers will want to risk an interruption in delivery to the wider community should a fire kick the system into action. So provision of an external independent water supply could be another good investment for the forward thinking landlord."

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