What happens to older commercial buildings that no longer serve the needs of their tenants? They sit vacant for a long time and become underperforming assets in an owner’s portfolio. But these buildings also present opportunities to create a space for today’s tenant and customer needs without starting from scratch.
In this episode of The ChangeMakers in CRE, Charlotte Brabant, Founder & Director of Calibrate Property Consulting in Sydney Australia, explains how industrial assets are being repurposed in diverse ways, what landlords need to consider before repurposing, plus much more.
Watch the full episode
The growing trend of repurposing assets
As the commercial real estate industry continues to adapt to the impacts of the pandemic and new tenant or customer needs, owners and developers are looking to repurpose or reuse their assets.
This involves repositioning an existing building for a new use, such as converting a factory into an office. In her consulting capacity, Charlotte provides clients with development management advice in the industrial sector. This includes market insights, development strategies for greenfield projects as well as asset repositioning. Charlotte says the repositioning work is a trend that’s increasing in popularity, especially in the industrial sector.
“Re-purposing and repositioning assets is becoming a growing trend for two reasons. Firstly, the growing demand for industrial that's been supercharged by COVID and the e-commerce boom, coupled with the lack of land supply.
“It means that a landlord has to go back to their portfolio and identify existing assets, which they could repurpose to meet customer needs, but also where then can continue to realise value from their portfolio.”
Adaptive reuse for a major client
Alongside her work as a consultant, Charlotte is also the National Development Manager for Industrial at 151 Property, which manages Blackstone’s real estate investments in Australia & New Zealand.
One of the repurposing projects she was a part of in this role was for an international customer that was looking to grow and consolidate its current facilities. The client had originally wanted a new build and to remain in their current area, but the development company didn’t have the land to provide that.
“We did, however, have an estate down the road, which had a number of facilities, one of which was an old data centre and that was located next to a vacant warehouse.
Working closely with the asset management team and the national leasing manager, we came up with a scenario where we could relocate this tenant into this data centre which we repurposed as their new head office.
We then created a weather-protected structure to connect to the warehouse and they were able to grow into this brand-new facility.”
Considerations for landlords when repurposing industrial assets
When you’re setting out on any repurposing project, Charlotte says it’s critical to do your due diligence on the building, such as understanding what it was originally approved for.
Whether it was built to be a factory or a warehouse will dictate what you can and can’t do within the building standards. It’s also important to audit a building’s current use and features to understand what you are working with.
“Some questions to ask are: is the building access still suitable for the size of trucks that people are now using? Are there enough roller shutter doors, loading docks, awnings and car parking? Does it need new technology? If you do an audit of the current condition of the building, that's a really good place to start.”
The investment asset class of choice
The industrial sector has been thrust into the spotlight in the past two years and that has seen activity rise as landlords, investors and customers seek to get in on the action. This added interest has also spurred the acceleration of industrial’s focus on new initiatives such as ESG, and smart technologies.
“I'm excited about the sophistication of the industrial sector not just from a work environment point of view, but also from the ESG initiatives, the new technologies, and what customers want in terms of automation and digitisation.
It is now the investment asset class of choice and will get a lot more attention that will force the ongoing growth and sophistication of the sector.
One other aspect of the industrial sector that Charlotte is also helping to drive change in is the representation of females. The industry has experienced a growing number of females who are pursuing careers across different aspects and there are no signs of that momentum slowing down anytime soon.
“When I started 10 years ago, I was probably one of the few women in development. But now whether it's in development or project management or design or construction or leasing, you're definitely seeing greater female participation. I'm really excited to see that. And I'm really excited to see leaders in the industry really champion that as well.”