When Light Industrial Meets Neighborhood


Concept of Inland Empire Logistics Center
San Bernardino County, CA


Shea Eden Shores Industrial Park
Hayward, CA

When Light Industrial Meets Neighborhood, Landscape Design Strategies Make it Blend

By: Blair Evans, Principal, ima

One of the few development markets to not just maintain momentum, but to actually thrive over the course of the pandemic, is the Light Industrial/Logistics space. Over the past few years, ima has successfully completed multiple shipping and logistics centers across California. While the design opportunities beyond practical solutions for landscape may seem limited, landscape architecture plays a vital role in creating a successful project for the community and users of the site.

For most logistics centers, the public sees a large building and lots of paving. The only thing available to help screen the building and parking is the landscape. While many jurisdictions have minimum setback or planting requirements, pushing and pulling a few feet adds more substantial planting areas where they are needed the most, improving visual buffers and screening. Getting a planter wide enough for trees in front of the building or a second layer of landscape along the street goes a long way to blend the project into the neighborhood.

Along the same lines, correct plant selection is critical. Almost every city has requirements for parking lot planting. Checking the box to meet these is relatively straightforward. However, selecting trees able to succeed in small planters or shrubs that thrive in an exposed environment typical of these sites is a key part of the design. The more resilient and durable the plants, the better.

Furthermore, since the planting areas are limited, providing color, texture and layering provides visual interest and significantly enhances the design. Lantana is a great low growing shrub capable of thriving in many semi arid environments and blooms for a long portion of the year. Against the building, a Pittosporum hedge takes very little maintenance and looks fantastic for years.

One area we have noticed demanding more consideration is outdoor areas for employees. There have been studies performed showing contact with nature and the outdoors improves health and reduces stress levels. A small courtyard with lush landscaping, covered seating and comfortable furniture gives workers an area to relax and recharge and come back to work in a better state of mind. The benefits over time eventually outweigh the cost of construction.

Logistics and shipping centers continue to be developed as more retailers switch to delivery models of service. They continue to be located closer to neighborhoods where residents will want them to be screened, enabling the sites to blend in with the adjacent uses more effectively. This will be a challenge for planting design and site layout, and as landscape architects, ima looks forward to this challenge.

To learn more about strategies for effective Landscape Design for Light Industrial and Logistics projects, please contact Blair Evans, Principal, at bevans@imadesign.com.