Embracing the Unknown: The Forward-Thinking Approach to Designing Speculative Warehouses

Stafford Logistics Center Buildings 2 and 3
Stafford Logistics Center Buildings 2 and 3, a speculative warehouse project in Aurora, Colorado, is slated for completion in September 2023.

Ryan Lack – Project Director, Brinkmann Constructors

Constructing speculative warehouses presents a unique opportunity for innovative design strategies that support a broad spectrum of end-user requirements. While built-to-suit warehouses are created to meet specific occupant requirements, speculative warehouses take an open-ended approach that caters to the needs of an ever-changing market and an increased demand for flexible spaces. This forward-thinking design approach requires the thoughtful collaboration of general contractors, architects, developers, and other investors to create spaces that showcase unparalleled value in comparison to industrial warehouses of the same size and scope. The following are several key proactive planning and design aspects to consider to ensure that your next speculative warehouse project is equipped to accommodate a wide array of potential tenants. 

Multifunctional, Flexible Designs

From fulfillment centers to manufacturing hubs, warehouses are built to sustain a variety of operational needs. It’s important for leaders of the project team to understand these needs to create easily modifiable spaces that will effectively support different end-user activities. Examples of these practical design elements include movable partitions, modular shelving, and adjustable lighting systems.  The building’s overall design should also take into consideration the placement of its standard, widely used features, including auto parking spaces, trailer parking spaces, and drive-in doors. It’s also crucial to strategically position the location of underground plumbing and loading docks and account for important aspects such as overall square footage, column spacing, clear height, floor thickness, fire protection systems, maximum electrical capacity, and floor load capacity to ensure a simplified approach to making future modifications.

High-Quality, Durable Construction 

A building constructed with quality, durable materials will stand out in comparison to others because potential tenants will be able to see the true value of the project and place their trust in its reliable craftsmanship. Companies will also take into consideration the benefit of minimal maintenance, and in turn, low maintenance costs. 

Advanced Technologies and Software

In a forward-thinking, technologically-centric economy, builders should consider the various systems and software required by possible end users. With proficient logistics operations rooted in modern digital processes, these technologies are positioned to equip companies with multifunctional and innovative solutions. By integrating smart technologies into the initial building layout and design, developers can automatically boost the overall appeal and attract diverse tenants on the front end of construction. Technologies to consider include enhanced climate control systems, IoT-enabled sensors, and robotics-supported automation. These tech-ready environments should also uphold an advanced network infrastructure, offering a competitive edge for attracting digitally driven organizations that prioritize efficiency and connectivity. 

Sustainability As a Top Priority 

As more companies move towards incorporating eco-friendly practices into their regular business operations, designers and builders should determine the best opportunities for integrating functionality with sustainability. Possible sustainable features to consider when planning the design and layout of an industrial warehouse include solar panels, the steel design needed to add solar panels in the future, skylights, LED lighting, low-emitting paint, proper ventilation, and ethically sourced building materials. By incorporating these features into the building during construction, tenants can avoid the significant costs associated with making environmentally focused upgrades in the future. 

Strategically Planned Locations

When it comes down to attracting high-performing, growth-oriented tenants, a high-traffic, easily accessible location will often be a main determining factor for tenants deciding between one vacant speculative warehouse over another. A warehouse located near major transportation routes, including highways, airports, railroads, and seaports, is likely to attract the attention of any potential tenant, regardless of the industry. This will allow companies to offer quick, efficient distribution to local, regional, national, and international destinations in addition to attracting qualified candidates from a robust, well-established talent pool. It’s also important to make sure that the selected location for the new warehouse complies with state and municipal zoning regulations and can receive the required building permits prior to the start of construction.

Without the formalized commitment of an intended end user, some commercial real estate developers may be intimidated by possible risks associated with the uncertainty of building a speculative warehouse. On the contrary, speculative warehouses provide potential tenants with the distinctive opportunity to evolve the functions of their facility alongside their ever-changing business needs. 

By thoroughly researching and understanding the operational functions of potential tenants and proactively planning for expertly designed, multifunctional spaces, general contractors can set themselves apart from competitors by constructing industrial warehouses that offer flexible, high-quality features suited to meet the needs of end users across a wide spectrum of industries. 


Ryan Lack is a highly experienced construction professional with more than 20 years of experience in project planning, preconstruction, and operations management. He has extensive expertise in industrial/warehouse construction and serves as a Project Director in Brinkmann's Denver office.