Image by Frans Berkelaar
Any request for new industrial spaces in Utrecht fits into existing industrial areas. This is at least the conclusion of a study by the Provincial Spatial Quality Advisor (PARC). In order to free up the necessary space and achieve maximum social benefit, it is necessary to scale up at the cluster level. Intervening at plot level yields little.
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Rationing space while demand for space remains high means that available space must be put to better use. A ‘guide to inspiration and advice‘ titled INTENSE, which culminated in the above study last year, offers detailed guidelines for densification interventions, from low-hanging fruits to extensive interventions.
For the actual research work, Paul Roncken (provincial spatial quality advisor) set up a multidisciplinary team. “I am a landscape architect myself. I know how difficult it is to oversee everything as a designer. Together, we were able to come up with an attractive prospect in a short time, using financial data and analysis,” says Roncken himself.
Place for intensification everywhere
To start, the team mapped the demand for industrial space for the next ten years and compared it to the existing space in the 160 industrial areas of Utrecht. The team categorized the pitches into S, M, L, and XL pitches and categorized the pitches based on their location. This showed that the smaller the industrial area, the more it is integrated into the urban environment. Category L and above, a site is usually isolated somewhere along a highway. The province of Utrecht does not have XXL industrial zones with large logistics boxes at all, and the province does not want them either, assures Roncken.
“Restructuring from front to back is not the most efficient”
By making this classification, the research team tried to estimate the possible transformation opportunities. The designers on the team found there was room to step up everywhere. But the extent to which varies greatly by location. At the level of the location itself, the greatest opportunities for densification are often concentrated in a sub-area. Roncken: “It’s often a densification zone within an existing site. The most effective is not to restructure from front to back, but to start with a side of the site that borders, for example, buildings, water, nature or an agricultural area.
The team’s data analysts have found that the business park approach can also include broader transition tasks related to circularity, climate, biodiversity and health, which are part of environmental visions that governments are preparing as part of the entry into force of the environment. Law.
Roncken: “Based on correct geographical data, it is possible to know exactly where and in which parts cohesion is strongest. In this way, the province can see in which industrial areas it is most interesting to invest in order to unite (broader) political objectives.’
More gain with more intensification
In their search for concrete densification possibilities, the designers of the team were inspired by concrete examples in Europe, Japan, Sweden and China. This resulted in a toolbox with four types of interventions: 1) in the industrial space itself (B), either by requalifying the storage space (O), the offices (K) and the parking lot ( P).
‘Storage is often open. By integrating the storage into the company buildings themselves, it is often already possible to achieve a simple space saving,” says Roncken. This also applies to the parking space. “Parking spaces are now often out in the open. It consumes space and it is often smarter to combine it with industrial space. Storage or parking space could also be shared with neighbours.
“Parking takes up space”
The EMO, which implements the province’s intensification policy, uses several levels of intensification. Level 0 corresponds to the elimination of arrears based on the zoning plan, level 1 concerns interventions on the individual plot. It is only from level 2 that there is a collective intervention by attacking a cluster of workplaces.
“With only ambition levels 0 and 1, you mainly make a profit in square meters. Level 2 is more complicated, but the return, also from a social point of view, is much more important,” says Roncken. “One of our conclusions was that you can only achieve additional quality goals with a fairly high degree of intensification, above twenty percent. For many installations, the benefits of the cluster have a critical lower limit.
It refers to the sustainable profit mentioned above, a better business climate and a better relationship with the environment of a business park and a more efficient infrastructure layout. An external social cost-benefit analysis carried out by the economic studies office Ecorys would show that the social return of a densification greater than 20% is favorable. Achieving this degree of densification requires Level 2 interventions, Roncken points out, which therefore transcend the level of the individual plot.
For 100% scaling up, the high costs would again outweigh the benefits, according to the PARK study. Roncken therefore pleads for prioritizing ambition level 2. “It brings a lot of social return, without the need to overhaul the whole thing immediately.
“Only with a high enough degree of intensification can you achieve additional quality goals”
The key question is how to get all these municipalities and all these entrepreneurs to do it. “The critical factor at Level 2 is that there must be an organizational structure larger than an entrepreneur.” If this organizational structure is not in place and governments have the ambition to start with a level 2 scale-up, then someone needs to be in charge of organizing this properly. This takes time, on average three years, as practice at the Werkspoorkwartier in Utrecht shows.
OMU: level 2 densification is very complex and expensive
While Roncken advocates prioritizing Tier 2 (cross-lot) interventions for the greatest possible social return, SMO initially aimed for Tier 1 (at the individual plot level). This choice was practical and financially motivated. “I would like to work with a cluster of owners (level 2), but I think that in many cases we don’t have enough resources for this yet. Also, my experience is that each part you add to the development of an area includes new issues and makes an escalation process more complex,” OMU Director Frank Hazeleger said in February.
“Because OMU has little control over individual landowners to encourage them to intensify the use of space, the approach was for OMU to buy, redevelop and increasingly intensify the land and then resell it. . When issuing, we will include requirements for use and furnishing. In any case, we do not intend to be an investor.
If the SMO succeeds in acquiring more land positions, interventions could in principle also be taken at the cluster level (level 2). “That’s ultimately the goal, but there are still hurdles to overcome,” added Hazeleger. “Between dream and action, there are laws and objections”. The agreement of intent is in any case the next step.
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