The Evolution of the Warehouse: Trends in Technology, Design, Development and Delivery

By: Steve Weikal and James Robert Scott

Release Date: October 2020

The rapid expansion of e-commerce sales has spurred demand for industrial real estate, including for large regional distribution centers and small fulfillment centers located in urban and suburban areas. The acceleration of delivery timelines has also reshaped industrial building interiors, as online retailers and third-party logistics firms have made substantial investments in new technologies such as collaborative robots and automated storage and retrieval systems. In addition to increasing the productivity and profitability of industrial assets, new technologies are also allowing retailers and building owners to add distribution uses to existing retail properties.

The NAIOP Research Foundation commissioned this report to provide the real estate development community with insight into current and future trends in building and logistics technologies and their implications for industrial real estate. Steve Weikal and James Robert Scott, researchers at the MIT Real Estate Innovation Lab, interviewed professionals specializing in industrial building design and automated systems to identify emerging trends that will be of interest to industrial developers, building owners and tenants.

This report:

  • Evaluates how the expansion of e-commerce sales and the acceleration of delivery times are supporting greater automation within distribution facilities.
  • Examines emerging trends in logistics technologies and how they affect the design and use of industrial buildings.
  • Explores how new technologies and supply chain patterns are creating opportunities for innovative building design and blurring boundaries between industrial and retail uses.

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