NAIOP I.CON: Industrial Post-COVID-19

During NAIOP I.CON Virtual 2020, panelists in the “Industrial Post-COVID-19” session discussed the evolution of industrial design, starting from almost a decade ago, then looking at the present situation and what a decade into the future might look like.

I joined the panel of industrial experts moderated by Kim Snyder of Prologis with speakers Brook Melchin of Riddell Kurczaba Architecture Engineering Interior Design and Bob Murray of Alston Construction.

Industrial of the Past
Industrial of the past looked like one million square foot, single story, cross dock facilities on the outskirts of major markets. Changing consumer behavior—specifically online ordering and shortened delivery expectations—caused the industry to reevaluate how industrial distribution worked. The industry began thinking about how to get large industrial buildings into urban areas to meet the new consumer demands and the changing supply chain model.

Industrial of the Future – Key Takeaways:

Wellness will take center stage.
In our 2013 Distribution Center of the Future Design, we envisioned a facility with high-tech automation to facilitate warehouse functions, but people would matter more than ever. We have seen this come to fruition and see this gaining even greater importance in the next decade. Walking paths, outdoor spaces and human-centric facilities will take center stage.

Tenants will ask for Pandemic-Certified buildings.
Social distancing considerations are changing the way interior spaces are configured. Companies are changing the way we configure interior spaces, and it’s not just for your office or coffee shop. Tenants will expect buildings to be designed and built to a different standard now, with careful thought—and visible evidence—put to addressing challenges brought to life by COVID-19.

It’s not all about delivery.
Surprisingly, the future isn’t going to be about how fast drones can deliver and how much weight they can carry. Looking forward, it’s the consumers’ cars that will pick-up their groceries or a birthday present ordered online. As malls across America evolve, it’s possible that the large anchor retailers will become prime pick-up locations. With ample interior space for warehousing and plentiful parking, these are prime spots for the future of retailers.

When it is about delivery, technology will be critical.
When planning for last-touch delivery vehicles, one challenge is optimizing efficiency. A delivery van sitting in a parking lot is not efficient. One solution is building a communications network. A smart car could share its estimated arrival time with a pick-up station, have the packages loaded into the trunk upon arrival and be quickly on its way. The technology is there—many 3PL’s are already performing their own research to implement this technology in their fleets and distribution centers. For mainstream acceptance, the implementation cost will have to go down, to allow smaller companies to use this across their operations.

Cities will face challenges brought on by autonomous vehicles.
Self-driving cars are on the streets today, but we still have years before they are as commonplace as traditional cars. When that does happen, though, cities will play a key role in regulating them. By taking an active stance on the role of autonomous vehicles on the roads, cities will be able to protect systems integral to efficient function—namely public transportation. To facilitate public transit, municipalities might partner with fleets of self-driving cars to deliver both people and product to transit hubs, reducing the burden on roads two-fold.

It goes without saying that the future of industrial will be impacted by many things. For the most part, the impact of COVID-19 has only expedited the future already being contemplated. Wellness and health stand out as having a particularly significant impact, though. Incorporating wellness elements into an industrial facility had previously been thought of as a bonus for employees. Now, it’s tied to health and safety across the world.

Check out NAIOP’s recap of the Industrial Post-COVID-19 Panel, as well as our vast portfolio of industrial projects: