Mountains Of Parcels Are Wreaking Havoc In BTR Blocks, But There Is A Solution
In the build-to-rent sector, a battle is underway: e-commerce versus building design. The exponential growth in parcel volumes in the last decade, accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic and national lockdowns, is throwing building management services into disarray and creating safety hazards.
The answer is to factor parcel management into building design right from the word go, according to Quadient Head of Real Estate Parcel Locker Solution Sales, UK & Ireland, Jon Hammond. Architects and developers need to engineer a process and develop the right facilities to handle parcel deliveries before the building is even constructed.
“Whatever the building, you have to consider the workflow for people working in the building or the foot flow of residents if it’s unmanned,” Hammond said. “That element of a parcel’s last-mile journey — how it actually gets to the resident’s hands — is vital to consider. Manage it correctly and everyone’s lives will be improved.”
Get Workflows Right From The Start
Hammond described a managed apartment block of 770 units he visited recently in London. Completed six years ago, it went in for planning about 12 years ago — roughly when the iPhone was first released, Hammond pointed out. In its first year of operation, residents received 4,500 parcels. In the 12 months before the UK-wide lockdown, residents received 47,000 parcels.
“Managing parcels for residents had gone from something done as a service to employment for three people,” he said. “The space wasn’t fit for purpose because by 11am the room was chest deep in parcels.”
This challenge is common across BTR blocks. Staff’s time is being commandeered by the need to accept and store parcels and facilities rooms are being blocked by the volume. Hammond argued that smart lockers, if designed into the fabric of a building, could provide a hands-free solution. To open a locker, a code is sent to the delivery driver and the recipient, which means no one else needs to get involved.
However, for smart lockers to provide an effective solution, the key is to make sure they are accessible for both the couriers and the residents. If they are hard to get to for the delivery drivers, they will be abandoned.
“Access control becomes very important — how can a delivery driver enter the necessary part of a building easily?” Hammond said. “Smaller buildings often have a lobby so lockers need to fit in that space, but in bigger buildings, the front area is prime real estate. A designer might plan a beautiful reception, perhaps even a lounge or café, and smart lockers form part of the utility space at the back of a building. How can a driver access this area but not the whole residential area of the building? All this must be considered from the start.”
Fire, Theft And The Environment
Accessibility and foot traffic aside, Hammond described three pressing issues with poor parcel management. The first is fire safety.
In 2018, the Building (Amendment) Regulations came into force that placed restrictions on the combustibility of materials used in residential buildings. While a stack of parcels in the corner of a room poses a clear fire hazard, this meant that many solutions such as shelving or cupboards is still deemed a high risk. Quadient designs its smart lockers to be as non-combustible as possible, so they don’t add to the building’s risk.
The second issue is loss and theft of parcels. This is costly for both the resident and the courier — someone will have to pay for a missing item. Even delivery to a facilities room does not guarantee a parcel will reach the recipient, Hammond said, if it is lost under a growing mountain of other deliveries.
“The third problem with ineffective parcel delivery is the major environmental issue,” Hammond said. “We know most parcels are not delivered to the hand of the resident at the first attempt, so they’re left in a pile or returned. If returned, the carbon footprint can become horrendous — the parcel is either redelivered or the resident has to travel to collect the parcel from a collection centre. Delivering the parcel to a smart locker means delivery is guaranteed each time and the resident can collect it whenever they want, which avoids this increased carbon footprint.”
Of course, it’s harder to engineer a solution in an existing BTR block but it can be done. Smart lockers can be used as a means to upgrade a building's service level and security, taking space that was previously used for other facilities, for example. In a world that needs to be as contactless as possible, they could provide a technological solution to deal with a mountain of deliveries that is unlikely to shrink.
This article was produced in collaboration between Quadient and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.
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