Building in the fast lane!

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On a new dedicated distribution park in northern France, construction is underway on a 23,700sq m (255,107sq ft) logistics centre. Nothing particularly unusual in that, but this building is the first in mainland Europe to be built using Gazeley’s award-winning G.Track construction process. And, what is truly remarkable about it, is that it will be completed and ready for occupation on Friday July 23, 2004 – an incredible 14 weeks after work started.

The building is going up at Gazeley’s 152 hectare (375 acre) Magna Park Arras, one of the first of a network of 30 plus state-of-the-art dedicated logistics parks that the specialist distribution property provider is planning to develop across Europe. Subject to local conditions in respect of planning and servicing, it hopes to be able to offer G.Track buildings on all of them.

And, if you think a 14-week build is fast – you should see what Gazeley is doing in the UK where it has been refining the G.Track system since it first launched with a 38,275sq m (412,000sq ft) building for third-party logistics provider TNT UK at Magna Park UK in Lutterworth, Leicestershire – Europe’s largest dedicated distribution park – in 2001.

Then, Gazeley used G.Track to deliver the 20,902sq m (225,000sq ft) first phase of the building in just 12 weeks. This was a case where speed was certainly of the essence. Long-term TNT client Primark needed a new distribution facility to take delivery of it new Autumn/Winter stock in the Spring. Time was short, so TNT dismissed the idea of a new, purposed-built facility and started looking at existing premises that could be adapted.

Two abortive negotiations later and the company was fast running out of options. G.Track at Magna Park was the answer. A brand new, bespoke building built in just 12 weeks – ahead of the Primark’s Autumn/Winter collection arrived from Southampton and have continued to arrive at the rate of 25-30 lorries everyday since.

A second phase of the building, totalling 17,372sq m (187,000sq ft), was also constructed under a 12-week G.Track programme, including extensive mezzanine fit out, and was completed ahead of schedule!

Gazeley has subsequently further refined the G.Track technique in the construction of a number of other buildings in the UK and is now able to offer occupiers here a initial comment both at Magna Park UK and at a number of its other developments across the country.

Gazeley’s development of the G.Track concept is a classic example of the way in which the company seeks to respond to the needs of its customers. And TNT found, one of the biggest problems facing the logistics industry – and particularly third-party logistics providers – is that by the time a distribution contract or requirement is confirmed, it is usually already urgent and yet it can take months to find a site, deal with the “legals”, get planning consents and build or adapt a building.

So, as the logistics industry demands ever shorter lead times, Gazeley’s customer service commitment drives it to find ways of delivering top quality buildings as quickly as possible. G.Track enables Gazeley to provide occupiers with a brand new, fully operational building in less time than it takes to adapt most existing buildings or complete the legal documentation on a speculatively-built unit.

So, how does G.Track actually work? It is really all down to proper preparation and careful planning.

The key to G.Track is having a relevant planning consent. In the UK, where it usually takes about eight weeks to get a planning consent, this is no problem. In Europe, however, securing the necessary permits can take up to six months, Gazeley obtains detailed consents for a range of buildings — which can later be adapted to suit a customers’ specific requirements — in advance and then uses G.Track to provide a finished building in 14 weeks or less.

This means that all an occupier has to do is say yes and work can start — saving many, many months of preparation.

The only downside of this is that, while it is possible — and now quite commonplace — for Gazeley to adapt the basic design of a unit to meet individual occupier requirements, wholesale changes mat require and adapted planning consent or, in Europe, a new construction permit.

Gazeley has alternative options for specialist occupiers who want or need a truly bespoke facility on all of its logistics parks across Europe. In such cases, the developer works closely with the occupier to design exactly what is requires and then obtained, such occupiers can still benefit from the fast-track construction process that is the crucial element of G.Track.

The key to actually constructing a building of several hundred thousand square feet in a matter of weeks is Gazeley’s commitment to working in partnership. Customer, developer, contractors and suppliers all have to work together as a team. Gazeley’s long standing relationship with construction partner and main contractor GSE combined with a well-established supplier chain ensure that all elements of the construction process, all materials and all services are all completed to the highest quality, on time and in budget.

Gazeley has put a lot of time and effort in building its supply chain, bringing together like-minded partners to create a “virtual team” of specialist consultants, trusted sub contractors and leading suppliers all of whom are fully committed to providing a real service to Gazeley’s customers. This saves time needed to appoint the team and ensures they are ready to work together from day one, but it also has other advantages.

Unusually, Gazeley involves the team from early on in the development process and, as a result, is able to draw on their specialist knowledge in order to further reduce build time and/or make cost savings. On one build, for example, the structural steel contractor suggested a slight change in the building geometry, which increased the number of spans from four to seven. Surprisingly, this dramatically reduced the total number of different steel pieces needed and opened up three new work fronts, which helped to save time.

Gazeley encourages all of the members of its supply chain to think like this — and it works. Contractors who are treated as partners act as partners and, they value working with Gazeley and work hard to ensure that each project is a success.

Developed in direct response to customer need, G.Track really does enable Gazeley to deliver brand new, top quality buildings much faster than any of the construction alternatives available elsewhere. If you don’t believe it, check out the Arras web cams on and see for yourself! n

Ian Worboys is development director at Gazeley. Tel: 01908 838100.

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