The business district of the future

by Tiffany Paczek
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Density is no longer a dirty word, as business parks and their industrial counterparts reinvent themselves to offer dynamic, sustainable workplace environments with all the amenities of the city, writes KEVIN ORR.

Since the first business park opened its doors in 1955, as a precinct in Alabama where employees could park their cars and walk straight to their desks, the concept has replicated itself across the globe.

Business parks are currently booming in Australian cities, largely due to population growth and the prohibitive cost and availability of land.

In the last few years, investors and tenants have been rushing to snap up lucrative positions in ever-expanding outer suburban growth areas, where floor plates can be larger, major arterial networks offer easy access and jobs can be filled by local residents.

Meanwhile, as governments look to create more employment zones, business and industrial parks are reducing the need to segregate traditional industrial activities.

EVOLUTION OF BUSINESS PARKS

Most people would still associate business parks with the proliferation of buildings that lack design in a ‘white collar factory environment’ where employees aren’t likely to hang out with each other after work.

But, as modern work practices and expectations change, business parks have been rapidly evolving to remain competitive.

Business park customers expect strong sustainability credentials and access to transport infrastructure, along with the retail and lifestyle amenities that will attract and retain talent.

As a result, business park owners are focusing on the delivery of direct and tangible benefits to customers by reducing total occupancy costs and operating expenses, while improving the health and well-being of employees. Initiatives include funky spaces with bean bags, free food, fitness classes and knowledge sharing workshops.

Sydney Business Park, still in development, is planning to offer a pub on-site, as well as childcare facilities, a gymnasium and plenty of walkways and running tracks for its people to get out and about.

Caribbean Park in Melbourne features wide roads, generous open spaces and a 15-hectare lake that, as the park’s managing director Ben Spooner says, “has been a real differentiator” that brings people together. The entire park is Wi-Fi enabled and close to transport hubs, providing modern connectivity within a natural setting.

THE SMART TRANSPORT REVOLUTION

As business parks crank up the style and functionality of these business centres, to truly make them appealing to customers, they also need to improve access. With many located in the suburbs, transport options can be limited.

Due to this, many business parks see a significant uptick in the number of cars on local roads. At the end of the day, you’re bringing in thousands of new employees to the area.

This leads to the one thing that every commuter hates – congestion. But smart business park owners are turning to new smart mobility technologies to help alleviate transport pains.

For instance, some business park owners are turning to carpooling solutions to help reduce the number of people driving to them. Essentially, the business park can utilise smart carpooling apps to offer all employers access to a carpooling solution, which matches employees based on their route to work.

To incentivise uptake of the platform, drivers are given fuel or other business park vouchers, while passengers get a free ride to work. In addition, business parks can also provide guaranteed parking spots to carpoolers, further improving the commute.

For commuters who prefer public transport, on-demand shuttle buses to and from key transportation hubs can ease the commute for employees. This helps encourage more commuters onto public transport, as it improves the business park’s connection to the network.

The benefits don’t stop there either. The on-demand service could also be used to help transport employees throughout the day. Need to go to the bank at lunch? No problem, all you would need to do is order the on-demand bus to and from the bank via the app.

By providing an ‘always-on’ on-demand public transit service, business parks can offer a unique differentiator to businesses, helping employees travel around the park and the surrounding area. Not only will this help support the local community but also enable business parks to go completely car-free.

SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORTATION

As an added benefit to improving the commute, smart mobility solutions also help business parks meet their sustainability requirements – often a differentiator for business parks.

Business parks represent a significant part of the property industry with millions of dollars invested in either acquiring or upgrading them every year. Owners and tenants are constantly seeking new sustainable techniques to drive efficiencies and significant cost savings, to future-proof their developments.

Smart mobility solutions are helping business parks achieve this goal when it comes to transport and access. Sophisticated reporting systems within these solutions offer real-time travel data, allowing owners to make instant decisions about their sites and reports on the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and other environmental goals.

Additionally, these solutions can scale with demand. So, if a business park continues to grow, smart mobility solutions can be scaled up to meet the demand in a sustainable manner.

Having this commuter data can be an extremely powerful tool for business parks. It enables business park owners to better understand how employees are accessing the business park, as well as providing details on the impact on the local community.

If business park owners can show they’re helping to address key transport challenges, there is an opportunity to improve relationships with local councils to better address the needs of employees and the community.

Business parks are going through an evolution, as they look to become the key business districts within our cities. By taking advantage of new, smart transportation technologies, they can quickly compete against highly connected city centre hubs, while staying on top of their environmental and sustainability commitments. ●

Kevin Orr is the CEO and co-founder of smart mobility service provider, Liftango. He has 10 years of experience in the corporate world as a business intelligence manager for a $10 billion SuperFund. Orr has a background and degree qualifications in GIS and mathematics, with strong analytics experience. Visit liftango.com for more information.

This article also appears in the August/September issue of Facility Management magazine.

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