‘We develop more than just four walls and a roof’
In an interview with Vastgoedmarkt, Sander Breugelmans, VP Country Manager Benelux, and Arthur van Kooij, head of Project Management Northern Europe, spoke about our vision on well-being of employees in warehouses and the redevelopment of existing parks.
Prologis not only develops logistics real estate, but also remains the owner, and therefore focuses on quality for the long term. Great attention is paid to sustainability, the well-being of the end users and an optimal fit of the premises into the landscape. ‘Our role is becoming an increasingly social one.’
‘Prologis develops the real estate of tomorrow, which is still high-quality in ten to fifteen years’ time,’ says Sander Breugelmans, VP Country Manager Benelux. ‘That’s reflected in the quality of the buildings and in our choice of location. We develop only at logistics hotspots and in clusters, in business parks with several buildings. Our locations have to be easy to reach – not just by road, but also by ship and by rail. We meet with local councils as early as possible to discuss the development of a park.’
His colleague Arthur van Kooij, head of Project Management Northern Europe, adds that in developing a business park Prologis looks further than just opening up the logistics. ‘We also look at the connection to existing green structures. By organizing our premises smartly, it’s possible to reinforce those structures. And by clustering our buildings, we can often have a big influence on the organization of the whole park: fitting buildings into green surroundings, with green façades and rows of trees. While they’re relatively simple measures, they do have a big effect on the appearance of the buildings in the landscape. We collaborate with landscape architects and ecologists. And we also pay attention to creating attractive surroundings that are pleasant for the staff.’ Breugelmans says, ‘Take football pitches, for example, or picnic tables and places where people can go for a run. This involves a main role for our Park Life concept, where we investigate needs in the design phase already and discuss them with the local council. We talk about accessibility, possible collaboration with training centers, opportunities for providing work and other facilities the council might need. So our role is becoming an increasingly social one.’
WELL Building standard
In addition, Prologis pays great attention to the well-being of the users of the premises, says Breugelmans. ‘Our customers have told us that recruiting and retaining staff in logistics is a challenge. And a good building can help with that. That’s why we embrace the WELL Building standard, which puts people at the heart of things, focusing on the health and well-being of staff.’ This focus on WELL gained a Gold certificate for the Pantos building in Tilburg, as the first logistics building in the world with a fully integrated design.
Taking WELL as the starting point puts a different perspective on distribution centers, explains Van Kooij. ‘We not only build to store goods as efficiently as possible, but also to create a pleasant workplace. For example, it has given us insight into materials that are circular, which radiate to the indoor space so that air quality remains good. Things like indoor planting and daylight admission ensure a more friendly work environment. Although you’re in a warehouse, the experience is different. We often get feedback that the staff feels more comfortable. Customers embrace these aims, so we work towards them together. It requires a joint effort, because getting a logistics building to meet these requirements is pioneering work.’
Besides new building projects, the redevelopment of outdated business parks and premises is also a major concern for Prologis. Breugelmans says, ‘Increasingly often, we use a combination of renovation and innovation. For instance, we retain the floors and steel structures, and breathe new life into old premises through adding different materials. This is the way forward for the future. If you choose smart solutions, it’s not always necessary to completely demolish buildings and you can continue to add to older premises. We’ve already done this successfully – and it’s a form of sustainability.’
Breugelmans says that Prologis is also continually looking (sometimes with the tenants) at possibilities for improving the sustainability of the existing portfolio in the Benelux, which comprises around 2.4 million m2. ‘In our current Prologis Essentials program, we look at which of our customers’ obstacles we can remove. For instance, we are fitting premises with LED lighting. We install the complete lighting system and guarantee the quality for our customers. And we are hard at work installing solar panels on practically the whole of our portfolio in the Netherlands. We now have a 40-megawatt capacity, making us one of the largest solar energy generators in the Netherlands.’
The two men are also proud of the smart wall developed in collaboration with Hello Energy. It is an information kiosk that offers a real-time view of energy consumption, in order to increase awareness. It also has a screen with information about the air quality and the indoor climate, as well as things like public transport information. ‘So it offers lots of possibilities for communicating with the users of the building. We’re now using it at all our new locations.’
All the innovations can first be tested in practice at Prologis Labs, a testing facility in America. Everything is put to the test here for Prologis worldwide – from data networks to forklift trucks. This is in line with the company’s ambitious goal to be more than just a developer of logistics real estate. Beugelmans says, ‘We offer more than just four walls and a roof. Partnering with customers and local councils, we aim to create a distribution center for the longer term, which fits into the landscape well and is a pleasant place to work.’ Van Kooij adds, ‘We maintain our relationship with customers and do our best to exceed their expectations. It starts already with the supervision of the construction process. For us, this is child’s play, but it causes concern and tension for many customers. So we guide them through it and explain what will happen. We make the process more pleasant for the customer, creating a feeling of solidarity and working together on solutions. In doing so, it’s important to make the process enjoyable and to laugh about things.’
Warehouses and distribution centers
Prologis operates globally as a developer of and investor in logistics real estate, with a portfolio in the Netherlands of around 2.4 million m2. Prologis Benelux provides warehouses and distribution centers, at locations in the regions of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, the Southern Netherlands, Antwerp, Brussels and Liège.