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This Developer And Architect Want To Bring The Factory Back To The Centre Of The City

The Factura multi-storey urban factory concept

Factories and manufacturing buildings used to be common in the centre of cities. But as urban centres grew in the wake of the industrial revolution, other uses that commanded higher rents and prices — offices, residential, retail — pushed factories out. 

Now a developer and an architect have drawn up a prototype of how the factory can be reinvented for the modern age and profitably brought back into the centre of cities. 

The Livingstone brothers’ London & Regional and Haworth Tompkins have unveiled a new concept called Factura, a multi-storey manufacturing and distribution scheme. It is only a prototype concept at present, but the potential building could total 70K SF across 13 floors and could house up to 1,500 occupants, Haworth Tompkins said in a release on the concept. 

The idea of the urban “flatted factory,” a multi-storey building with units of different sizes for different tenants, is not new. Haworth Tompkins cited in the release the Starrett-Lehigh Building, constructed in 1930s New York, “which marketed ‘every floor a ground floor’ and addressed issues of industrial intensification with smart vertical planning, efficient vehicle & goods movement, flexible space strategies, and high density interrelated working communities.”

L&R and Haworth are trying to bring the concept into the 21st century. The lower floors would be larger and higher and offer space for logistics or heavy manufacturing; the middle floors are slightly smaller, offering space for smaller manufacturers, tech companies that need R&D space or companies that need significant workshop space; through to smaller units on the upper floors for lighter studios, makerspace and innovation uses.

The delivery area of the Factura concept

All of these are serviced by two large banks of goods lifts from a ground floor vehicle yard, with shared reception, business hub, food court, gym and rooftop amenity providing active frontage and engagement with the street.

Renewable power sources like photovoltaic cells could be used to power electric vehicles bringing and taking away deliveries.

These amenities would attract the kind of young, technologically savvy new-economy companies that the scheme would want as occupiers, and allow factories to be part of the urban fabric once again, as opposed to being exiled to areas far from city centres. These more advanced manufacturing tenants would need to pay the kind of rents that would justify not turning the building into another office or residential block.

Industrial and manufacturing sites are being pushed ever farther out of London. CBRE data shows that 45M SF of industrial land has been converted to other uses since 2011. The issue is deemed serious enough to have drawn measures from the capital’s authorities: The Mayor of London has responded in the New London Plan 2021 with the inclusion of Policy E7, which aims to protect strategic industrial land and promote the intensification and co-location of land for industry, logistics and services.