Warehouse design process

Expert's Opinions Podcast

In this episode, Tomasz Szpyt talks to Joanna Lewandowska, Head of Construction & Design at 7R.


Listen to this podcast and find out:

  • What is the difference between designing a warehouse and designing, for example, a residential building?
  • What tools and systems does a modern architect use and what does he gain from them?
  • What are the latest trends in designing warehouse properties?
  • What can the warehouses of the future look like?

Tomasz Szpyt: Good morning everyone, my name is Tomasz Szpyt. Welcome to the series of podcasts 7R blog on. Today we have the pleasure of hosting Ms Joanna Lewandowska - Head of Design and Construction at 7R. Nowadays we will talk about how to design a warehouse well. How does it start? What is important in designing a warehouse? What makes it different from designing other types of buildings? Ms. Joanna, you have some experience from a residential company. Now a warehouse company. How does designing a warehouse differ from a block of flats?


Joanna Lewandowska: The process is very similar. One could say that within the scope of project preparation and then its execution, as well as the realisation of the investment, there are basically no differences concerning the proceedings. However, the product is obviously different. Therefore, all complications, threats, risks associated with one or another product are appropriately adjusted to this type. The residential sector is the scale of customers. There is a fundamental difference here, that we have, for example, a thousand or five hundred flats. Many families, and so on. We must release to all these people their imaginary, beloved, long-awaited and very expensive flats of their dreams. In this case, there are usually only a few of our clients or there may be only one. I think this is the main difference. But of course the technology is also different. Any risks associated with defects are completely different field, but the building permit is obtained according to the same regulations, according to the same requirements. They are based on similar documents, or even the same documents as a rule. We perform also all technical studies, related to the environment. We always obtain an environmental permit, technical conditions. We have to adjust to the local plan - meaning to the regulations. We organise a tender, we select a general contractor. The whole process of production, implementation of construction - and then also state acceptance and transfer to the client or to the tenant.


You mentioned that there are many similarities. However, the customers are also different - you mentioned that too. Which customer is more demanding? The residential one, or the logistics or warehouse one?


Everyone is demanding in their own way. I think that it' s impossible to say which one is more demanding. If I buy a flat for half a million zlotys and I spend my life savings on it, then I' m very demanding. But there are also people who are very trusting and have no remarks, whether they accept the product with no problems, for example. The tenants are an institutional client. There are different levels of costs, different levels of commitment, different levels of demands. Sometimes there are very demanding customers at this stage of adapting their space. It's very often the case that new ideas are introduced during the realisation, execution, construction of the project. These ideas are probably very good, important and essential for the future tenant. However, they cannot all be introduced at a given moment. All sorts of discussions, negotiations and such stories take place, which are sometimes very laborious and involving. Sometimes they are also stormy. It comes out differently. At the end of the day, we always talk to people. Whether we are in the area of arrangements (this so-called permitting), which means obtaining all decisions, opinions, and so on - then we talk to officials, they are people, too.  In my experience, regardless of the industry, this is currently the most difficult stage of the entire investment cycle in the property development industry that is the agreement stage. This means the project plus all the related studies, because sometimes these regulations are difficult and complicated, not even the regulations, but the way they are interpreted by specific officials in different regions of the country. There are many different interpretations of this. Also here is this contact with the person at the end of the day who accepts this interpretation. The person can agree or disagree with it. The situation is similar with tenants. And it is similar in this process with our clients - after that, the target clients who buy investments from us, who also have their expectations. They have their goal to achieve. It is difficult to arrange all these processes in such a way that, for one thing, they see this goal as a common goal. It's also often probably difficult to convince these people that it really is a shared goal.


You mentioned that designing even a warehouse is just not a piece of cake. Life is supposed to become easier for us thanks to technology. We live in times of a technological revolution which influences probably every aspect of our lives. I think that it also influences warehouses - and buildings built over ten years ago are a completely different product than those built now. If you want to build more complex systems and more complex buildings, you probably also need to use slightly more advanced tools. What is the arsenal of the contemporary architect? What is used?


Indeed, you have touched on an area which is very important at the moment in the design process, and also in the execution process and, later on, in the management process. Looking at facility management. As I said, it doesn't matter what kind of object it is. Whether it's residential, retail, warehouse or office - there is a way to design it. In the past, and quite recently, they used to design mainly flat. I mean, in two dimensions. Until now, a lot of design is still carried out in this way. However, the BIM technology, i.e. Building Information Modeling, has been developed for some time now. It is a whole technology which brings together many different elements and aspects of the design process. Three-dimensional design tools have been developed for this. That means that they are designed in 3D. Usually they use Revit or Archicad. From my experience I can see that Revit is more popular. However, completely separately from the design thinking, one could say that this BIM technology is very interesting, because it creates a virtual place in space, where all parties of the design process find their important elements. You create an object in three dimensions to which you assign physical characteristics, parameters. So you can, for example, specify thermal resistance in this object. You can specify the supplier of given materials. You can specify other physical parameters, thermal insulation, and so on. What's more - this object can be built or modelled not only in three, but also in four or five dimensions. Because to our three basic spatial dimensions you can add the cost dimension and you can also add the time dimension at the end of the day. This means that we have a certain investment in the money dimension and the time dimension - when it should be realised. After activating these parameters, we can see and model whether, for example, a given facility, a warehouse, is being implemented on time, according to the assumed schedule, and which of its specific structural and execution elements are highlighted in red - that is, they should have been already implemented, but they have not been today. This is a very complex tool for managing an investment or project, which provides opportunities. This is the world in which all the features of this object are concentrated and the number of these features, parameters which can be assigned - is really not very limited. So everyone who is involved in this process can benefit from it.


As far as I understand - this technology allows you to first create a digital model of a building - before it is built in reality, already on a specific plot of land, and to monitor the process of creation of this building. Does this technology also give any advantages later to tenants, to the final owners of the building, to investors? Could you say in a few sentences what are the benefits of this BIM?


There is certainly a benefit in the amount of information that is put into this design, in this technology made, that cannot be put into a design which is made in two dimensions in any way. The benefit is the rapid identification of collisions. The branches or the installation or the installation with the structure. In fact, all collisions which are usually found in traditional design very often - if not most often - at the stage of execution. This makes the investment very complicated and expensive. At the end of the day, of course, this facility has - as I said - the possibility to parameterise everything. This starts with the type of luminaires, the light sources, the type of façade, the series of types, the different types of elements. Therefore, for example, for someone who manages this facility - this is a great convenience, because if some element of the investment of the facility does not function as it should - it is very easy to find out from this model what kind of element is missing. Who was the supplier, what technical parameters does it have, where can you order it - this is a huge knowledge also from the point of view of managing an already functioning facility. 


We were saying that warehouses in a decade have actually changed from simple cubes, from simple boxes - as we used to say about warehouses. Now we have very high-tech buildings. Equipped with very complex systems. What do you think warehouses might look like, let's say... for the next decade? What innovations can we expect in the design of this type of building?


I think that all the technical innovations and trends in the market, which are probably the fastest to be adopted by office investments ( for various reasons), but which are based on the philosophy of caring for the climate, caring for the environment - generally understood. Certainly, these trends will be the first to follow. They will be implemented. They will be welcomed by the tenants, because such a feature of caring for the quality of our lives and therefore for the environment, climate and the future, the attachment to this feature will surely increase the prestige and awareness. This is very appreciated. In this direction, we will also very carefully monitor what is happening, what the competition is doing, what is happening on the market. Obviously not only in Poland, but also worldwide. I hope (... and I would like to get involved in this direction as much as possible) that our objects will be very elegant and beautiful. I would like them to be liked. They are well integrated into the surrounding environment - the place where they are built. In the surrounding community. So that they encourage tenants to settle there. Also those tenants who have their own resources. They have their teams, people, employees. So that these employees also feel valued, like these places, like being there - they have comfortable working conditions, elegant interiors. So that they simply like it. Our 7R brand should be highly praised. Not only by the tenants, but also by the users who work there every day. They come to work in the morning and go home in the evening. 


Tomasz Szpyt: Joanna, thank you very much for the interview. Today our guest was Joanna Lewandowska - Head of Desing and Construction at 7R. 


Joanna Lewandowska: Thank you very much for the interview. 

Author: Joanna Lewandowska

Head of Construction and Design

Joanna Lewandowska has over 20 years of professional experience in the development and executive branch, gained in managerial positions for foreign corporations. At 7R she manages a team of professionals who are involved with the design and architecture of warehouse and industrial buildings and also supervise the work of project managers responsible for the execution of 7R investments both in Poland and internationally.

Contact: [email protected]