Trends in Architecture for Industrial Facilities


The following article was published in the Utah Construction & Design Magazine February 2020 Issue.

Rise of E-Commerce Influences Architecture of Today’s Industrial Facilities

You’re going on vacation and realize you need a new pair of shoes, some golf balls or a swimsuit. Rather than drive to the nearest mall or big box store, you go online and with three or four clicks you’ve placed your order and taken advantage of two-day shipping.

The speed and convenience of online shopping is hard to beat. Fast Company estimates 165 billion packages are shipping in the United States each year. And current trends indicated the number could reach 285 billion by 2021.

We’ve seen the lure of potential business and trade opportunities with the creation of Salt Lake City’s Inland Port Authority. The presence of a logistics and distribution hub could be a boon for Utah’s economy and local brokers, architects, and contractors are responding to industrial facility business operations and strategies.

Jarrod Hunt, an Executive Vice President with Colliers International, specializes in the leasing and sales of industrial real estate. As Utah’s business economy continues to perform well, Hunt identifies E-commerce as a growth market. “E-commerce is popping up everywhere. Small and medium companies are growing at a fast pace. And the industrial / warehouse space of yesteryear really doesn’t provide an efficient solution for this pace.”

With older structures, Hunt finds building systems are often inadequate to address fire suppression ratings, pallet racking configurations, clear heights and even the number of loading doors. “Twenty-five years ago, one dock-loading door for every 15,000 square feet was adequate. Today’s business demands one dock-door every 6,000 to 7,000 square feet of space to maximize loading door capacity.”

Hunt turns to a trusted design partner, Curtis Miner Architecture. He’s come to rely on the firm’s knowledge of building and energy codes, material science, engineering and construction method advancements.


The West Lindon Business Park Office and Warehouse, designed by Curtis Miner Architecture, is a two-story, 36,602 SF office and warehouse facility.

Mike Anderson, AIA, NCARB, works closely with Hunt to first identify a project’s unique determinants. “It goes well beyond your typical budget and timely delivery priorities,” says Anderson. “Whether the facility is a warehouse, manufacturing or distribution center, the functionality and productivity of the industrial process is critical. Today’s owner relies on our team to address energy efficiency, storage and processing space including clear height requirements, processing efficiency, logistical and safety challenges.”

“It’s our job to quickly respond to the needs of our clients and their workforce,” explains Anderson. It starts with how a building is oriented on a site and continues with the architectural design. Lighting, aesthetics, break areas, gathering places, outdoor amenities and even branding are critical for employee recruitment and retention. “It’s more than a concrete box with asphalt around it,” says Hunt.

Industrial building design issues, construction materials and methods continue to evolve as industrial processes stretch to reach maximum productivity. Because transportation accounts for a significant cost in today’s supply chain, Colliers International sees more attention being paid to higher density loads, more efficient packaging, autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles, inventory management tools, and route optimization software.

Owners are looking for efficient and functional facilities. New energy technologies such as LED lighting and high-efficiency HVAC can offer dramatic reductions in utility consumption. “Many companies utilize motion-operated LED lighting so if certain aisles don’t have traffic, lights are not on until someone enters the area,” says Hunt. “Building ventilation systems are also becoming more sophisticated and better at circulating air and keeping the air flow consistent and destratified not only for employees but for temperature-sensitive products.”

Such was the case with International Precision Casting in Lindon. The owner looked to provide enhanced temperature control both from exterior exposures as well as internal room-to-room conditions to its new facility. Curtis Miner Architecture worked closely with the owner and contractor to utilize a thin wall composite action insulated precast concrete wall system. The composite action allows for the two concrete wythes to have a shear connector, engaging both wythes to form one composite panel with continuous insulation sandwiched in between. These panels were cast in a plant, stored in yard for curing and testing, and then shipped to the job site for installation.

With the contrasting space temperature demands, building heating and cooling systems were tailored by Curtis Miner Architecture’s design team to harness energy to the degree that production capacity in the new facility more than doubled. And utility costs were reduced by less than half when compared with the existing building.


Curtis Miner Architecture has noticed construction cost reductions for tilt-wall systems versus concrete masonry unit (CMU). “The energy requirements for a building envelope make it difficult to justify building an industrial facility with CMU because of discontinuity in the envelope insulation,” explains Anderson. “The tilt-wall system is nearing the cost per square foot of the pre-fabricated metal building. The larger the facility, the closer in cost the tilt-wall building gets.”

Colliers International and Curtis Miner Architecture recognize the shift in the team structure and the value general contractors bring to project development and systems selection early in the design process. “As an integrated team, we can hit the ground running without the pause we see with the traditional design-bid-build delivery method. We welcome their input related to cost and schedule as they weigh real time material and labor demands,” says Anderson. “We also see great value in tapping the expertise of specialty engineers early on as shop drawings are being developed or completed at the time of building permit review and approval.”

One thing is certain — the continued rise of e-commerce will continue to impact our state’s rapidly evolving warehouse and distribution center industry. And the partnership of industrial real estate and architecture promises to adapt and grow with it.

Mike Anderson, AIA, NCARB is an Associate Architect at Curtis Miner Architecture. Mike has a Bachelor of Science and Master of Architecture degrees from the University of Utah. His project experience includes multi-family housing, mixed-use, office, municipal, institutional, retail, light industrial, automotive, healthcare and interiors.