Industrial N Illinois

Industrial Insider: Current trends in industrial property construction

Industrial Insider: Current trends in industrial property construction,ph1

With the construction of new industrial buildings currently in full swing, we thought it would be helpful to be aware of the latest trends in planning and implementing the development of a new spec and/or user facility.

Based on our discussions with several industrial developers and architects, some of the current trends are further outlined below.


Decisions about where to locate are increasingly being made with an emphasis on the availability of labor versus transportation costs.

Other important locational items that require advanced research include municipal receptivity, pro-active temperament for business expansion and zoning and building codes and regulations. Business park CC&Rs and PUD regulations, such as parking and green space requirements are also significant.

It’s also imperative to look at traffic patterns, road and site access qualities and availability and size of utilities. Finally, don’t overlook topography for flooding in determining grading expenses, storm water requirements and property environmental issues, which can all limit the useable area of a site.

Clear heights

The clear heights for industrial distribution warehouses continue to increase for larger buildings. On the east and west coasts, any building of +/-100,000 square feet or more is typically at 36 feet clear.

In the Midwest and central regions of the country, all industrial buildings of approximately 200,000 square feet or larger are being built at 36 feet clear. At 500,000 square feet and larger, the 40-foot clear height has become a strong consideration especially in areas where vacant land is scarce or expensive.

There are new sprinkler/fire safety and NFPA rules that are emerging to allow more economical strategies for taller clear heights (more specifically in terms of bottom of roof deck heights).

The building community is continuing to talk about multi-story warehousing. This is particularly true where land is scarce and more expensive. The market will obviously dictate the need and feasibility for these types of buildings which are primarily designed to accommodate complex and automated multi-level warehouse management systems.

Floor slabs

While storage heights have been increasing, a 7-inch unreinforced concrete floor slab remains the most common specification. Many developers are also looking at investing some additional money in floor slab designs initially to better accommodate heavy fork lift loading, improve slab performance and reduce floor maintenance costs over the life of the building.

Some of the design features being incorporated include the installation of load transfer plates at control joints (sawcuts) within floor pours and incorporation of alternate slab designs that can significantly reduce the number of joints within the overall floor system. Systems being considered include steel fiber reinforcement and Ductilcrete. Also, some developers are adding another inch of floor thickness to accommodate a broader variety of users at higher warehouse ceiling heights.


The need for additional power, or the ability to easily add more power in the warehouse, has begun to increase. This is being driven by increased automation in the warehouse and multi-level mezzanines.


Most developers are now installing LED lighting as a building standard. The front-end costs are a little bit more than the T5 fluorescent lighting fixtures, but the energy savings over time can justify the additional expense. Nearly all of the warehouse lighting fixtures being installed today include motion sensor controls which are a nominal additional cost but generate utility savings.

Bay spacing

When the main racking aisles are designed to run the depth of a building, the column spacing in the length can vary widely. Fewer columns mean less rack positions that are encumbered by those columns. More flexible spacing means the same thing, however aisles can vary widely as well.

Current column spacing is typically 50-foot, 52-foot, 54-foot or 56-foot, with 50- to 54-foot being the most common. The larger bay spacing exists in larger buildings. Spacing in the depth direction is a little less important, but fewer columns are more functionally efficient.

Bay spacing in the long direction of the building can also be based in dock spacing. Some developers prefer to have docks only in between column lines to account for demising walls only on column lines, although there are many ways to achieve proper demising. Examples of dock spacing include a 13-foot dock spacing within a 52-foot bay, 13.5 feet in a 54-foot bay and 14 feet in a 56-foot bay.

In the Chicago market, 60-foot staging bays have been the recent standard. The new, larger buildings are beginning to utilize 70-foot deep staging bays.


Parking ratios are staying high despite all the discussion about driverless cars and ride-share apps. In buildings below 300,000 square feet, parking ratios are 1/1,000 square feet or higher. This drops slightly as buildings increase in size.

Parking for on-site trailer storage is also important for many industrial users and that requirement varies depending on the size of the building and its primary function.


Underground detention has become a major change in development strategy and is being utilized more frequently in the last five years. This enables a developer to achieve a greater FAR on the site, however the additional costs must be factored into the overall development pro-forma.

Energy efficiency design is an important consideration, however the energy efficiency codes dictate most of the necessary requirements. Energy efficient programs such as LEED and Green Globes are important tools to show corporate response to these items, but can be a cumbersome process. We have not experienced much popularity for LEED on a speculative basis, but consideration of Green Globes appears to be growing.

In terms of building materials, precast concrete wall panels are always evolving for energy efficiency and aesthetic flexibility. Currently manufacturers have reduced the amounts of concrete and minimized thermal bridging in their design. As of this writing, precast concrete wall panels are currently the most critical lead-time item in the industrial building list of components.

The information above represents a general overview about current industrial building trends, however specifications will vary depending on the size, location and function of the facility.

A sincere “Thank You” to Susan Bergdoll (Duke Realty), Howard Green (Meridian Design Build), Kelly Harris (Harris Architects) and Cameron Trefry (Ware Malcomb) for their valuable contributions of information for this article.

Elise A. Couston, SIOR is a Senior Managing Director in Newmark Knight Frank’s Chicago O'Hare office. She has more than 30 years of real estate experience, particularly with industrial and commercial sales, leasing, business park development, build-to-suit and marketing expertise.