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Is the Future of Industrial Multi-Level?

Earlier this month, Haworth Tompkins completed the UK’s first “new generation vertical industrial building” for BeFirst in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. Named “Industria”, the structure boasts over 11,400 sqm of floorspace spread across four levels. It is designed specifically for small and medium enterprises in light industrial sectors. BeFirst labelled the scheme as the “industrial home of the future,” highlighting features like green walls, cafes, and shopfronts—a striking departure from traditional industrial buildings.

This unveiling is expected to be the precursor to many more as the UK draws inspiration from countries like Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, which host some of the world’s most expansive multi-storey industrial buildings. Andrew Smith from Carter Jonas, in his insightful blog on the subject, notes that Asian markets feature multi-storey warehouses reaching heights of up to 20 storeys. Until the introduction of Industria, SEGRO’s facility at Heathrow stood out as the UK’s only ‘true’ multi-storey warehouse, standing at two storeys.

In London and nearby regions, the advent of vertical industrial buildings might be a solution to the prevailing supply constraints. According to a Savills blog from the previous year, a staggering 5.7 million square feet of warehouse space had been repurposed since 2011. As the demand for housing intensifies, this trend is predicted to escalate. Barking and Dagenham alone witnessed a 4% reduction in its industrial floorspace since 2011. However, the introduction of projects like Industria could halt further decline.

London and the South East are in a competitive race for space, with increasing demands for land. Amidst a housing supply crisis in these regions, there’s concern that industrial floorspace will shrink, potentially impacting a vital sector that consistently propels growth. Nonetheless, envisioning a scenario where industrial structures harmoniously coexist with other commercial and residential entities isn’t far-fetched. Industria might very well exemplify this vision. The entire industry, along with us, eagerly anticipates the potential rise of a vertical industrial building movement.

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