Recent years have brought about significant changes to the industrial real estate landscape. As a result, today’s “ideal” warehouse configuration varies significantly from many of the properties built even ten years ago.
Much of the growth in the industrial market has been driven by the growth of eCommerce, and the changes to modern supply chains that shift has brought about.
Even though discussion about Amazon, Wayfair, and other online companies dominates conversation, eCommerce only accounts for nine percent of total retail sales today. By the year 2035, it’s expected that another two billion square feet of industrial space will be required.
In Greater Boston, industrial vacancy rates which have historically averaged more than nine percent have fallen to 5.9 percent, and absorption during the past 36 months has topped 2.5M SF.
In that kind of competitive environment, warehouse developers and owners need to understand what features are important today.
Exterior and Lot Requirements
To start, today’s ideal warehouse should have a 32’ minimum clear height, which is a significant shift from the designs of older product.
“If you were building a warehouse in 1990, you’d likely engineer it for a 21-foot clear height,” says
Kevin Hanna, Executive Director of Cushman & Wakefield. “Today, 32-foot clear is the standard, with many developers looking at 36-foot height to get more pallet positions into the same building footprint.”
The placement of the building within the lot should also allow for separate movement for both trucks and employee cars, which needs to be considered early in the permitting process.
On the exterior of the building, today’s users prefer a truck court allowing for a minimum depth of 180 feet, in addition to a 60-foot concrete truck apron. For loading, it’s important to have one 12’x12’ drive in door, in addition to one standard 8’x10’ tailboard door for every 5,000 SF of warehouse area, including dock seals and hydraulic pit levers.
“The number of doors warehouse users are looking for has really doubled,” says Hanna. “Anything related to eCommerce is focused far more on smaller truck loads turned around quickly especially in last mile locations.”
Construction generally consists of concrete tilt-wall construction, with .060 EPDM Roof Membrane. Owners should also consider the potential to add a solar array on the roof. Green mandates aside, the ability to qualify for incentives may help determine whether adding solar to the property will help generate cost savings.
On the warehouse floor, the property should include a 60’ speed bay next to the loading dock, and 54 x 56 column spacing throughout the building for flexibility in terms of rack layout. Columns should also be painted yellow up to the 7’ mark for safety reasons, and the warehouse floor should support one 30-amp forklift charging station per 20,000 SF.
The roof of the warehouse should include a white decking system to hang ESFR (Early Suppression, Fast Response) sprinklers, which will remove the need for in-rack sprinkler systems, and likely result in lower insurance costs.
The interior should also include motion-sensing lights for energy savings, and fans for ventilation (as needed). Lighting systems in particular are a feature where rebate programs may make it more cost-effective for warehouse owners to retrofit their existing buildings.
All those factors add up to determine how desirable a property may be.
“For existing properties in good locations, users may be able to overlook a few of these features in exchange for lower rents,” says Hanna. “But for new construction, many of these features really become must-haves to satisfy the needs to today’s warehouse tenants.”