The emergence of online retailing and customers’ ability to shop in a frictionless way using different devices has necessitated sophisticated and extensive supply chain solutions. Robotics and automation are now part of our everyday lives. From an environmental perspective, being sustainable is paramount.

High-quality construction from all three of the UK’s biggest logistics developers – Prologis, SEGRO and Gazeley –  is a given. Prologis is promoting Park Life, which includes offerings such as gritting roads, litter picking, ANPR control and regulation, onsite security and park signage. SEGRO has Pocket Parks, which are an oasis of greenness and open space within the logistics park, and it has committed to the Better Buildings Partnership of being carbon net zero by 2050. All of Gazeley’s buildings are designed with WELL certification principles at heart, placing people at the cornerstone of any decision on the design, construction and use of the building, with outside amenities, community space and integrated footpaths and bridleways in its Magna Parks.

Prologis is planning to install an astroturf football pitch at Dirft that will be available for use by the wider community. SEGRO commissioned an electric bus at East Midlands Gateway, connecting all the buildings. In addition, it aims to employ locally and use local physical resources to construct the buildings to reduce the carbon footprint. Gazeley has refreshed its 2020 Base Build Specification together with a sustainability passport and it adheres to the Planet Mark. The developer’s new H&M warehouse at Magna Park, Milton Keynes, even has a roof garden. All its new buildings are rated BREEAM Excellent.

These examples shine a light on the desire to contribute to a sustainable future that embraces wellness. To put it simply, the three want to provide logistics parks where you would want to work. New buildings are now incorporating, among other things: gyms, high-quality canteens and locker rooms, full-height atrium reception areas, solar panels, LED lights and electric vehicle charging points. The quality of such offices would not be out of place in London’s West End.

Greenery and calmness

Outside, the emphasis is on greenery and calmness. This is achieved through initiatives such as creating natural areas for bees, wild flowers, trees, walks, benches and landscaping.

At CBRE we have a dedicated environmental consultancy team led by Julie Townsend that examines every facet of environmental, social and governance, including looking at how buildings should be designed and operated to be resilient to climate change and our transition to a low-carbon economy. Without a doubt, there will be value implications on a property investment that doesn’t embrace these changes. Completing an energy audit to identify cost-effective ways to improve the efficiency and comfort of your building is a first step towards creating that resilience.

Warehouses have come a long way over the past 20 years. However, the immediate challenge facing the sector is a shortage of labour. Developers must ensure that the specification of their buildings is “top of the range” to appeal to prospective employees.

Looking further down the line, we face many challenges as we aim to eliminate our carbon footprint by 2050. Expect developers to be taking the lead to not only offset carbon but to pursue carbon negativity. Building design and specification are changing as warehouses constructed today will still be operational in 30 years. It is imperative that full environmental consideration is made now, without hesitation. The key long-term challenge will be availability of power, as automation, electric transportation, and robotics becomes ingrained in our lives. This can only be achieved through renewable sources.

Jonathan Compton is senior director in the industrial & logistics team at CBRE