Thursday 27th Oct 2016 - Logistics Manager

When the suit doesn’t fit

The property market that serves the UK logistics sector is based primarily on the concept of developers building properties that they think will meet the needs of an occupier and then a business coming along and leasing that space.

When this “off-the-peg” approach works for all parties then there is no problem: the developer has an occupier paying rent and the business has accommodation from which it can operate. But what happens if what is on offer is not a perfect fit for the business in question? In the same way that when you cannot find an “off-the-peg” suit to fit you, the remedy is to have something “bespoke” made for your business.

Bespoke requirements can range from the almost cosmetic – for example, the corporate image of the building – right through to features which are fundamental to the building functioning successfully (eaves heights, loading, office content, security).

In property, the route to this bespoke product is via a “design-and-build” approach where a building is specifically designed and built for the particular requirements of an occupier.

For anyone who has ever found themselves cursing the shortcomings of their current premises, it looks like a tempting option. However, while the term “design-and-build” sounds beguilingly simple, in reality it reflects the latter stages of the bespoke process rather than the entirety of it.

There are several phases to go through before you get to actually “design-and-build”. Above all else, it is essential at the outset to get the right development partner with whom you can make your dream facility become reality.

Room for expansion

You may well have a location in mind but not necessarily a site at your disposal. Accordingly, you ideally want to find a partner who can offer you a number of options in your preferred location.

It is also important at this stage to bear in mind the future. Does the project have enough elbow room for expansion? Will your partner be able to work with you on other projects in other locations as your business grows? Considering these possibilities at the outset can avoid frustration and disruption in years to come.

Your partner should have a proven track record of delivering bespoke design-and-build projects. You should look for a provider who has experience in tailoring facilities to the different needs of different companies. If a developer is simply used to building the same old shed time and time again – albeit on a design-and-build basis – it may not have the necessary flexibility and innovation to meet your needs.

If you are starting from square one, you need a partner who has the experience and can call upon the design expertise to translate your operational needs into a physical space. Alternatively, if you have an existing facility that has to be replicated in a new location then you need a “fast learner” who can absorb what is required, work with an existing design team and deliver that identical facility whilst perhaps delivering additional occupier requirements throughout the process.

Project managing construction

All new construction has to go through the planning system and this is where your design-and-build partner should be able to play a vital role guiding a project through the complex system until it receives consent, which will benefit in reducing the timescale and ultimately assist in gaining the permission.

Finally, your partner must be able to efficiently enable and project manage the construction process so that all time, specification and cost targets are met.

The phrase “design-and-build” does conjure up visions of simply sketching out a design and then cracking on with the building. But if you are to get a property that meets all your financial and operational needs then your partner must be able to tackle every dimension of the process and not just the conceptual and construction aspects of it.