Industrial doesn’t mean ugly
Latest design trends include functionality, curb appeal, flexibility
Dallas Business Journal - by Rachel Crosby Correspondent
Friday, September 4, 2009
Two factors are the prime drivers of how current industrial spaces are designed: functionality and efficiency. Recently, however, designing warehouses and distribution centers has become a bit more demanding as owners are increasingly seeking to include such attributes as higher clearance heights, sustainability features, flexible space and curb appeal.
Dallas-based Jeff Turner, executive vice president of Duke Realty’s southern region, sums it up this way: “There’s a balance you have to achieve between function, design and cost.”
“Form follows function,” said Phillip Dye, owner of Irving-based Larsen Dye Associates Architects.
Jeff Thornton, senior vice president of Duke Realty in Dallas, said today’s warehouses usually have clearance heights of at least 32 feet, curb appeal, truck courts of at least 180 feet, large bay spacing — the distance between support columns — and use Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified building materials. Turner said warehouses should also have plenty of dock doors per the amount of square footage, ample parking for employees and plenty of storage space outside.
According to Doug Johnson, senior vice president and regional development officer of Atlanta-based IDI, one of the biggest trends is adding sustainability features into design. Sustainability features that improve functionality and the life of the facility include energyefficient lighting and fixtures, early suppression fast response (ESFR) sprinkler systems and larger truck aprons. Other sustainability features are less noticeable, but no less important. Sustainability guidelines are specified by the U.S. Green Building Council, which certifies LEED properties.
Flexibility in design
Flexibility is another trend the industry is seeing more in industrial buildings. “Owners are looking for buildings that will not become functionally obsolete,” said Dye. “Buildings have to be more flexible so they can be adapted to other uses as the market changes.” This trend goes hand-in-hand with higher clear heights, which not only allows more usable space and room for different types of equipment, but it also opens the door to second-floor access and expansion to a second level.
“The interior finishes and exposed surface materials are getting more attention,” said Dye. “The owners are reluctant to skimp on the exposed surfaces that will deteriorate with minimal use over a short time period.”
He also said the desire for flexibility means designers are now incorporating an external appearance that is similar to other buildings in the area.
“You can get by with a warehouse being blue-collar, so-to-speak, as long as it’s functional, but if you can make it look nice and have a nice setting, then you’ve crossed two boxes off your list,” Turner said.
The need for curb appeal depends on the location of the warehouse. Todd Hanson, vice president of Fort Worth-based Schwartz-Hanson Architects, said the warehouse appearance does not matter too much if it is buried in an industrial complex, but it does matter if the warehouse is located on a major thoroughfare. Warehouses that are designed for curb appeal look like one-story office buildings.
“More exterior glass in the office area and smooth, finished, painted walls, reveals to break up the long expanses of wall. Quality, treed landscaping can provide more of an office park appeal rather than the expansive sea of concrete that many developers have designed to in the past,” Johnson said.
Specific design features depend on the company and the designer, but more companies are realizing that an attractive building is not about aesthetics; it’s also tied to corporate branding.
“The industrial market is finding that the visual appeal of their facilities must be consistent with all aspects that represent their business,” said Dye. “The built environment is as much a part of the branding of their product as the logo and Web site.”
One trend in industrial building practices involves downsizing in one of two ways: by either building larger buildings in fewer places or smaller buildings in more locations.
Companies are also making sure they choose a designer who won’t overbuy and who looks for the lowest-priced materials without sacrificing quality or good design, Dye said. He also said companies increasingly are hiring designers and contractors separately because of the cost benefits that come with not tying up one team with a full design-and-build project.
According to Johnson, some companies are also spending a little more to obtain one of four LEED level designations: certified, silver, gold or platinum. In the end, the savings come from water and electrical being used more efficiently. Products that provide the best cost benefit are drip irrigation systems, T-5 florescent warehouse lighting and extra roof insulation, particularly in colder, northern states.
Some design features are not only economical, but also environmentally friendly. They include concrete truck aprons, white heat reflective roofs made of thermoplastic polyolefin, skylights, clerestory, or walls of windows at the top of a building, and construction materials made of recycled or sustainable materials.
Rachel Crosby is a Grandbury-based writer.