In the commercial and industrial property development space, as well as its supporting infrastructure, there is demand for high-quality, diverse assets with strategic locations and offering optimal planning and design, says consultancy firm WSP.
This is to function optimally as a sustainable, futureproof asset in a trying economic climate, and well into the future.
Subsequently, there is now more focus on the diverse nature of infrastructure development and the building of mixed-use developments that integrate residential, commercial, retail, industrial and social developments, as well as healthcare and education, says WSP property team and structures regional director William Johnston.
He notes that, despite the pressures caused by the unstable economic conditions that affect developers’ financing, with more expenses incurred to continue existing operations, development is all about risk management.
“Property developers still need to invest as it is their livelihood and there are still tenants willing to pay top dollar for premium space and location,” he notes, adding that developers are keen to put down high-quality, sustainable and operationally efficient assets to attract those tenants.
Further, there is also more focus on light commercial infrastructure projects for light manufacturing companies to optimise warehousing and distribution centres through the strategic build of storage space and the management of stock, Johnston highlights.
“It is a tough market and one has to be astute in one’s supply chain and procurement to make sure you are offering the best value for money. Manufacturing and distribution companies are looking for that advantage in a trying economy to stay ahead of the competition.”
He adds that the state of the economy offers processing plants and light manufacturers an opportunity for repairs and maintenance – which was otherwise not possible under better economic conditions, owing to peaking operational requirements.
“Lean times can be a good opportunity for ‘ship repairs’. During peak times, companies are often reluctant to take process lines or portions of manufacturing plants off line for maintenance, upgrades or expansion, however, lean times provide good opportunity to implement these projects.”
Meanwhile, WSP, one of its clients and a public-sector interface are working on a large infrastructure project in Lanseria, Gauteng. Johnston says this megadevelopment entails the construction of 50 000 residential units, along with a sustainable town centre, including healthcare, education and public- transport facilities.
WSP is currently in the early stages of planning the “node that can look after itself through its own diversity”.
Planning to date has entailed primary infrastructure, and connection with sewage works, power lines and water pipeline systems.
Johnston notes that the project will include a fibre backbone to its infrastructure with the intention to make it a smart city development. It includes an agile, modern way of building that is integrated with connectivity technology.
“This way, we can develop a centralised system to optimise the asset.”
A centralised system can ensure quicker build in the construction process and optimal functioning of the asset after construction, ensuring ease of property management and maintenance.
“WSP uses its Integrated Design Centre, which is the company’s design and planning hub, to design buildings in an integrated and holistic manner to make the separate factors, such as various facilities and utilities, work with and for each other, rather than just alongside each other,” Johnston points out.
He concludes that tough economic times shape a leaner, meaner and smarter infrastructure sector and hopes the overall industry holds true to the lessons learnt now and continue to apply them, even when the economy makes a positive turn and the market picks up.