CTP: Future of logistics is sustainable hubs that support communities

CTPark Amsterdam City is equipped with solar panels, wind turbines, energy storage, EV charging points and an energy management system (Image: CTP)

Sustainable operation, biodiversity, wellbeing and communities will be key components of any new logistics facilities in future, writes CTP’s Bert Hesselink.

Logistics and industrial real estate are playing a more important role than ever, not only for businesses with increasingly high-tech requirements, but in people’s everyday lives and in the communities where they live. The days when a logistics facility was little more than a box for storage are long gone. Today’s logistics space must underpin society and help address many of the challenges it now faces, from achieving net zero to localising supply chains. This will increasingly be the case in the future.

These are key reasons why, as Europe’s largest listed developer, owner and operator of industrial and logistics properties by gross leasable area, we are striving to be climate positive, embed our ‘parks’ in communities, and stimulate social impact and wellbeing. It’s also why we call ourselves ‘Parkmakers’. We don’t just build assets, we build vibrant sustainable business ecosystems of the future for people: our clients, their staff, and the communities where we work and live. And we do it green, with solar power, energy-efficient buildings, forest conservation, and a vision for the future.

Logistics has a significant role to play in achieving society’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions. But the challenges of reducing carbon emissions and negative impacts on the environment are complex. Our recent Sustainability Report, which can be read on our website, looks at some of the approaches our business and wider industry can take to mitigate these challenges. 

Minimising carbon footprints

One important point raised by the report is that future logistic hubs will need to minimise their carbon footprint both upstream and downstream. Upstream are the carbon emissions generated by suppliers of the materials and contractors involved in a facility’s construction. Downstream are the emissions generated by facilities through their operation. The whole lifecycle of the logistics hub must also be considered, including redevelopment and upgrades.

As an owner-operator that holds our properties for the long term rather than building them to sell, we are well placed to work with our occupiers to ensure our properties continue to be as energy efficient as possible throughout their lifecycle.

Renewable energy generation is at the heart of tackling emissions in the operation phase. Photovoltaic panels and wind turbines will increasingly supply the energy needs of occupiers for HVAC systems, LED lighting and transportation. Excess energy will be exported to benefit local communities.

Not only will this reduce occupier energy bills and carbon emissions, at a national level it reduces dependence on fossil fuels and vulnerability to their price volatility. CTP has an ambitious renewable installation programme. In 2022 we increased PV power output from 6MWp (megawatt peak) to 38MWp – and we are aiming to install at least an additional 100MWp during 2023.

Future logistics hubs will have advanced renewable energy production and management systems, similar to our logistics hub, CTPark Amsterdam City. This multi-tenant 120,000 sq m scheme is equipped with solar panels, wind turbines, energy storage, EV charging points for trucks and delivery vehicles, and a dedicated energy management system, all in a biodiverse setting.

Electrifying transport

To help decarbonise emissions, transport is increasingly being electrified. Logistics hubs must have the infrastructure to support this to enable the vehicles of the hub’s workforce and delivery vehicles to be charged. The electrification of HGVs is more challenging, although hydrogen and fuel cells, or a leap in battery technology, might offer a low-carbon solution.

Next-generation logistics hubs will need to be ready to adapt to developments in new low-carbon transport technologies. For employees, hubs will need to encourage active travel by supporting cycling, and be better integrated with public transport facilities.

CTPark Brno has biodiverse surroundings to promote employee wellbeing (Image: CTP)

The logistics sector, perhaps more than most areas of the economy, is set to see sweeping changes, with increasing automation and implementation of digital and data technologies. The rise of automation already means more employees with backgrounds from robotics to electrical engineering need to be on site.

Logistics space therefore needs to be an attractive place to work, within landscaped environments and connected to local communities where people want to live. Rather than being buildings in isolated locations, the future lies in vibrant business hubs, with cafes, convenience stores, gyms and more, all close to urban centres where people live.

This also connects to the social element of ESG, whereby businesses’ logistics owners and operators rightly need to take more responsibility for improving the wellbeing of their stakeholders. Greater integration with communities also means asset owners will need to be more closely aligned with local governments to manage successful integration for the benefit of everybody and to forge constructive connections with communities.

Resilient local supply chains

Finally, Western businesses have a greater need for robust, resilient and local supply chains than they have for decades. The pandemic and a changing geopolitical backdrop have disrupted supply chains. Until recently, many had almost taken for granted the vulnerabilities of complex global wide supply chains on which modern civilisation had come to depend.  Not anymore. Now there is a new focus on de-risking supply chains, an emphasis on flexibility and localisation, with Central and Eastern Europe being well placed to benefit from new investment in these areas due to their proximity to Europe’s major markets.

Supply chain disruption and international politics have led to an increasing demand in Europe for de-risking supply chains and nearshoring, where goods are made and located closer to where they are sold. This, combined with the rapid pace of innovation and satisfying occupier growth requirements, means logistics hubs must have flexibility built into their design.

Overall, a multitude of factors are set to dictate the future shape of logistics hubs and their facilities. We see the future as mixed-use logistics parks integrated into the local communities which they serve. They will be in the vanguard of renewable power generation and of the technology and processes to reduce carbon emissions over their whole lifecycle, in creation, operation and redevelopment.

Bert Hesselink is group client relationship director at CTP Group

Discover more about this topic at a CTP-hosted seminar: Future Trends: Demand, Supply Chains, ESG & Logistics Real Estate at Transport Logistic, Hall A4, 335, Am Messesee, Munich, 81829, Germany. 15:00 – 16:00, 10 May 2023