Viewpoint: Online retailers fuel shed boom
"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."