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For those unfamiliar with I&L properties, you could be forgiven in thinking that they are very simple structures of some columns and beams to support four walls and a roof (after all, most people still refer to them as ‘Sheds’). To some extent that is still true, but many other elements are changing to incorporate modern-day requirements, functionality and efficiency. The building quality and standards practiced by the majority of developers are extremely high and quite often incorporate measures to achieve green certification, whether that be LEED, BREEAM or other. In this aspect of building design and construction we can see various elements being introduced to help reduce energy use and wastage, or indeed to become self-sufficient in many regards. Renewable energies, such as photovoltaic (solar) panels are now becoming more common on the roofs of I&L properties and furthermore, is a great use of the space.
This can provide landlords and tenants with competitively priced access to energy and contribute to sustainability initiatives, but it doesn’t stop there. Property owners and the tenants themselves are implementing improved technologies, both hardware and software, to monitor and report on a very wide range of services, equipment and machinery. For example, electricity usage by the property or various equipment can be monitored at regular intervals to help improve efficiencies and drive down costs by looking at ways to maintain productivity but consume that energy during off-peak times and monitor reserve energy parameters. Another example would be to have building and operational equipment reporting into a centralized system, such as a BMS, so that equipment revision’s and potential faults can be more easily tracked and acted upon, potentially making significant savings in both money and time from lost productivity due to failed systems or components. What’s more, by using this data, building systems can be adjusted in real-time so they are always performing at optimum efficiency levels.
Moving on to some of the requirements and technologies that tenants are now implementing inside these facilities, you really start to see the need for why many I&L properties are being built around the operations and needs of the end user. For some this could mean higher buildings, (where local planning rules permit) or even multi-level properties leased on a cubic metre basis. The latter is so far quite rare in CEE but may well become more common in future if suitable land becomes scarce. Robots have been used in manufacturing for years but are now become ever more a familiar sight in all kind of operations. In the e-Commerce and logistics sectors for example, we can see all sorts of autonomous picking robots and forklifts, smart racking and lighting systems to name just a few. In light of the supply chain issues seen in recent times, but also a key driver for all manner of applications is technology that can solve the quest for true End to End visibility. This is where a material, component or product for example can be tracked throughout its life cycle enabling better planning and ultimately happier customers. It’s a bit like tracking a parcel on route to you but having the added detail of where it is in the production process as well. Like most of these things, it is considerably more complicated than described here.
Now this might all seem a bit science-fiction to some, but the future is already here and is moving ahead swiftly to cope with modern day demands. As a result of this, there is greater demand for electricity, miles of data and electrical cabling and connection/ charging points are becoming more common alongside private telecom/wi-fi networks to run the communications between it all. Not to mention the cyber security and data ownership that go hand in hand. In brief, the days of simple sheds are fading into the past and landlords and tenants are having to adapt. The days of autonomous delivery vehicles and delivery drones are not quite with us yet but, along with these and many other technologies that are in development, there will certainly be additional change and challenges, but also great opportunity.