For decades, business and industrial parks have been functional places where people parked, did their work and then drove home again. Run by entrepreneurs with a keen eye for business, their main focus has always been on economic development. Still, as today’s society and businesses increasingly choose the sustainable path forward, it’s time for business parks to reinvent themselves. Here’s how that goes, how that will help you flourish – and how to get started.
From municipalities and other public authorities, to companies, employees, customers and investors: business parks have a host of different private as well as public stakeholders. And each and every one of these understands the need to become more sustainable. By collaborating as a business park ecosystem, they can transition to a sustainable, innovation hub that takes into account economic as well as social and environmental aspects, while also reaping the rewards.
How and why to kick off a business park transition
Lead the way to net zero and climate adaptation
Whether it’s installing joint solar power and battery energy storage systems, or windmills and heat pumps: business parks have ample opportunities to embrace renewable energy. More than facilitating decarbonization, on-site energy generation will offer greater resilience to face the challenges of the constrained grid and help you save costs. On top of that, joint investments in green roofs, green lanes, natural water storage such as ponds, to name just a few, will help business parks adapt better for climate change – and become truly climate-robust business sites.
With buildings accounting for around one-third of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions, business parks sector have a serious impact on climate change
Pave the way for the mobility of the future
While business parks have been overly reliant on cars, employees increasingly prefer alternative commuting methods. As a business park, you could cater to that shift. Construct joint bicycle lanes, make public transport or car-sharing an attractive option, convert parking spaces into mobility hubs, install EV charging stations, or co-manage parking space to make the best possible use of the parking capacity. It’ll make your industry park more sustainable and more accessible, not to mention safer and quieter.
Convert the park into an attractive place
Investors, customers, talent and any other stakeholders are becoming more drawn to green, clean places that are mindful of the climate and care for employee well-being. By converting your business park into a green park with open spaces that invites employees to take a walk over lunchtime, you’ll reduce stress and boost employee well-being – and win the battle to attract and retain talent. More than that, (potential) customers and the locals will appreciate your investments. And new businesses might consider making your park their (new) home.
Break out of your silo
Transforming your business park will require intensive collaboration with every stakeholder – both private and public. By teaming up with other businesses as well as public authorities, you’ll get access to new ideas, insights and financial, as well as material resources. Invest in renewable energy together, launch joint infrastructure works to make the park greener, organize collective waste management or logistics, share services for the employees and businesses (catering, childcare, shop, ironing services, …) manage the park in close cooperation (parking space, greenery, security, events, …), conduct joint research and development or simply do business together: the possibilities are endless.
Where do you start?
As a public authority, you might start by gauging the interest of the firms in your municipality’s business or industry park. As a business yourself, you can start talking to neighbouring companies. If there’s a business park association, they could help you kickstart your journey and coordinate the efforts? With so many entrepreneurs around, it should not be difficult to spark enthusiasm about shaping the future.
“With so many entrepreneurs around, it should not be difficult to spark enthusiasm about shaping the future.”
Need some help anyway?
- At Sweco, we have recently finalized an intensive study of three business and industrial parks in West Flanders. Thanks to research, in-depth interviews and workshops, we gained an in-depth understanding of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of today’s business parks. Based on those insights, we were able to map six topics that are crucial in any business park transition: space usage, circular economy, mobility, park management, ecology/landscape and social services, people and communities. And we designed a roadmap to gradually evolve towards a future-proof business park.
- If it comes to helping your (city’s) business park move to net zero, then our Futureproofed offering can help. Combining our easy-to-use carbon accounting software for cities or businesses and expert advice, we can help you every step of the way.
The ideal starting point? Join our webinar on 6 June (currently only in Dutch or French). In just 45 minutes we’ll dive into the 6 pillars of a business park transition, explain our approach and inspire you with cases, like that of Kortrijk Noord business Park. Of course, there will be plenty of time for questions and feedback.