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  • Dominic Stinton

Beds & Sheds: Warehouse living 2.0?

What problem are beds and sheds solving?

Whilst you’d be forgiven for thinking that Beds & Sheds is a new Phil & Kirstie reboot, it’s actually a concept that has been gaining considerable traction in the real estate industry for several years now, so much so, that this month developer Regal London announced grand plans to sink £500m into a Beds & Sheds development in London’s Docklands. 

From a design thinking perspective, the idea of Beds & Sheds sounds like a solution to a problem primarily experienced by logistics & delivery businesses and city planners; namely, how can the twin problems of lack of space for residential housing, and low emissions targets and traffic congestion in regard to increasing retail deliveries, be solved in one fowl swoop. 

The idea of combining industrial/utility type buildings with residential housing is nothing new; the ‘old’ London Bridge which ferried millions of people from one side of the river to the other, and allowed the shipping trade to flourish, propped up housing for many centuries until the latter were demolished, and examples of houses on bridges can still be seen today in cities like Florence. 

It is therefore not difficult to make the leap to see how residential housing and integrated logistics hubs could turn tired and decrepit old car parks, business centres and inner city railway hordings into smart new Beds & Sheds concepts. 

Why would people want to live in a beds and sheds complex?

But what about the people who will live here, what problem will this new concept solve for them? Sure, the need for affordable build to rent schemes will be right at the top of the heap of rational problems that London and its metropolitan neighbours present as far as young (and downsizing) renters and buyers are concerned. But what will people really think of living in such schemes? How will these initiatives become aspirational?

Again, the idea of industrial living is nothing new. One of the most significant residential urban innovations in this writer’s lifetime, concerned the reappropriation of old warehouse buildings into smart ‘yuppy’ flats during the 1990s; areas such as Shoreditch and Hoxton, which were once dark and dangerous places to visit at weekend (the epitome of what sociologists like to call innercity holes of deprivation) were transformed by proto-hipsters jumping at the chance to live in these rickety but fabulously lateral spaces. But it’s one thing living in a repurposed industrial space, but quite another living in a space where industry is working literally under your feet 24/7. 

At Built-ID, we think there couldn’t be a better time for visionary developers to really get under the skin of potential residents of their proposed Beds & Sheds schemes, to properly understand both the rational and emotional drivers that will make these not only a success for town planners and logistics and delivery businesses but future residents too. 

Getting under the skin of why people would want to live here

What could these benefits be? Whilst enjoying state of the art delivery of goods and services for residents sounds tempting, this will surely only be the cherry on top; the vast number of deliveries will be made to people who do not live in these developments, and besides, where will these resident eCommerce junkies find the space to house all these deliveries? 

It’s tempting to think that logistics and delivery hub workers will benefit from being able to live above the office as it were, and tech companies like Google have demonstrated that neo-paternalistic workspaces that feed and entertain their employees 24/7 can provide an attractive riposte to the tired old city office, where one has to step outside and cross busy traffic into an oxygen-choked street to buy a Pret sandwich. But equally, cynics claim that such workspace benefits are actually thinly veiled strategies for squeezing every last drop out of an already exhausted workforce. And in the COVID era, it would be disastrous if an entire Beds & Sheds development got sick simultaneously. 

How will these developments be soundproofed, to mask the noise of 24/7 lorries delivering parcels day and night to these ‘last mile’ logistics hubs? How will pedestrian access work for visiting friends and family? These are all questions which developers will need to put to potential residents, as well as the communities that must live beside them.

Warehouse living 2.0

Perhaps these developments will appeal to a new, warehouse living 2.0 clientele, that literally wants to eat and sleep above the very latest industrial design thinking in motion? Perhaps warehouse living, so aspirational during the 90s and 00s, will once again become a badge of cool urban living for the 2020s and ‘30s? 

If you are a developer or town planner that is considering how Beds & Sheds can best be delivered, please reach out to us today; Built-ID’s platform, Give My View, is the perfect platform with which to get to the heart of the dreams, aspirations and challenges of your potential residents, as well as the communities that will surround these new spaces, and the logistics and delivery tenants that will lease the space ‘downstairs’. 


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