Principle 1: Layout

Larger footprint commercial and industrial buildings are one of the more challenging developments to design sympathetically and effectively, however much of the success of these buildings comes from an appropriate and well thought out approach to the layout. The difference between a positively laid out scheme and one with poor consideration to layout can be huge, with one end being a building which contributes well to the built environment and responds to its context, to the other being a blot on the landscape which offers nothing by way of placemaking and good design.

Each commercial/industrial site should respond to its own specific site context, for example its relationship to existing facilities, road network and infrastructure. As a result, considerations into the overall street scene of the development will require thorough analysis of the existing urban form, grain, building heights, frontages and key views. This approach, by way of a thorough context appraisal, ensures that each larger footprint building will be responding directly to their own individual circumstances as opposed to a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

There is required to be a good balance between the orientation of a building for the optimum utilisation of solar energy, and the need for a proposed commercial/industrial building to link to the current site shape and boundaries, along with its spatial relation to adjacent properties and street frontage. Finding the correct balance between these two elements would assist in preventing issues where awkward spaces between built forms are created, thus negatively influencing the overall quality of design and impact on the street scene.

Segregation between vehicles and pedestrians is common on many large industrial/commercial sites which often brings with it the risk of conflict between users and is poorly thought out at the early layout design stage. To avoid inappropriate mixing of pedestrians and vehicles, accessibility and routes for all modes need to be carefully considered from the outset and certain elements will need to be introduced to help mitigate potential conflict. Examples of this include the provision of bus stops cycle stores, smart car/electric car charging facilities and priority parking spaces in accessible locations, combined with easily accessible, direct pedestrian, cycle routes/access with extra provision for wheelchair users. Careful and creative combination of these elements within the layout of the scheme will help to create a more inclusive landscape for all users, enhancing the internal and external connectivity of the site, whilst also maintaining safe separation between potential conflicting modes.

Every effort should be made to ensure that the layout of the larger footprint building assimilates and integrates well with the prevailing landscape and existing built form. As opposed to the default being a plateau arrangement as a result of land-forming, thought should be given to how the development could respond to the existing gradients and landscape features that exist on the site. This could involve ‘sinking’ elements of the scheme into the landscape, or utilising gradients to build into the landscape. Effective use of the pre-existing landform, from consideration to access points, building orientation and height can help to establish the building easier into the environment and reduce the sense of it being alien to the landscape.

In considering the proposed layout for a larger footprint building, a Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA) can be key to effective design decision making since it helps identify the effects of a new development on views and on the landscape itself. These effects can be quite different depending on the location, proximity to neighbouring developments, character of area, etc. Carrying out an LVIA on a proposed large footprint building at an early stage during the design evolution, will help identify areas where views of the built form would need to be screened, normally through the planting of trees and vegetation, or through some other physical measures, or whether the layout and form requires further refinement.

The contextual analysis of the local landscape should help to establish the correct boundary treatment on site, suggesting where existing hedgerows and lines of trees may be used to define boundaries and edges. Additionally, an LVIA would also suggest if bunds were to be appropriate to enhance screening measures if they were seen as a feature to help reinforce, rather than intrude, on the existing landscape character of a commercial/industrial site.

Large commercial and industrial buildings should be designed in response to the public realm – i.e. facing streets/roads with high pedestrian or vehicular traffic, as opposed to turning their back on these spaces. To achieve this, elements such as windows, display windows, escape rooms, entrance doors and appropriate signage should be located at ground floor level facing outwards onto public spaces, and are recommended to be designed to a high quality in terms of detailing, choice of materials and fenestration layout.

Thought should be given at an early stage to appropriate boundary treatment should be carefully designed around large-scale commercial/industrial building developments to provide a number of benefits to the local environment, such as:

  • Creating shade for building elevations and parked vehicles
  • Improve local air quality from increased vegetation planting helping to contain and absorb air pollutants
  • Maintaining and enhancing local biodiversity
  • Ensuring sustainable drainage on site

Amenities for waste management storage and other processing facilities, such as, sprinkler system tanks, are important issues for sites. Main issues faced for these types of facilities include screening, access and finding the required space to fit these built forms within the site without interfering with the main building frontage and therefore causing a detriment to the overall street scene and wider views. Therefore, these facilities should always be shown on design and layout drawings, with most convenient locations normally situated at the rear of the main commercial and industrial buildings, with straightforward access and suitably screened from the remainder of the site’s users.

Futureproofing is important to take into consideration in the layout of large footprint buildings, so that they can easily adopt over time to changing market conditions and demands. Buildings should be flexible and offer the opportunity for both expansion and sub-dividing should it so be desired in future. Consideration should also be given to meantime and temporary uses for larger buildings should the demand for a particular use reduce. This could include easy partitioning to create small start-up units, communal working spaces etc.

Page updated: 11/09/2019

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