Place Making for an Online World

Tuesday 03 November 2020 @ 10:00am – 11:00am GMT


The continued growth of online retailing, combined with the effects of the global pandemic have highlighted the ever-growing impact this way of consuming goods will have on our future masterplans. In our latest re:think discussion, we will explore the potential impacts and solutions to this issue.

As masterplanners, Leonard Design Architects have the incredibly privileged position of shaping the future of our towns and cities; a future that will see the internet play a huge, and in many cases, essential role in our lives. In all of our masterplans, we have to consider how buildings are serviced, not just from a utilities’ perspective but the way in which they receive (and remove) goods. There is now a more consistent need to consider the rapid change in the way consumers acquire goods and the growth of online retailers. As such, Leonard Design Architect’s next re:think discussion will explore the effects of last-mile logistics on masterplans of the future.


As with all re:think topics, we first discuss as a team before opening up for commentary from a wider audience. During our internal team debate, these were the main points raised:

  1. Last-mile Logistics isn’t just about amazon

Although during our discussion it was agreed that amazon may currently have the best service if using prime same or next day delivery, many products or services may not be delivered in this way. Many local producers have started to offer delivery, to their small customer numbers, which are proving successful, however, are currently being fulfilled individually. There’s nothing ground-breaking about the process: a staff member in their own car delivers a small amount of product to you. Simple. This will only become a problem when the number of deliveries we receive a day reaches a number at which cannot be sustained. If a dense residential development houses 3000 units and each unit receives. For example, 3 parcels a day from different delivery suppliers, 9000 parcels a day may become a problem. We must also consider the myriad of items that are now purchased online. From cars to TVs to frozen chickens, all are now offered for home delivery, but all require specific methods – more items mean more traffic, more pollution, more congestion, more delivery vans on roads that children may play on.

  1. The issue is very live

The internet’s dominance over bricks and mortar retail has predominantly been due to its ability to change according to consumer demand as has, but perhaps not to the same extent, the delivery mechanisms available, making the impact of ‘last-mile logistics’ on our masterplans an ever-changing one. Planning for the way in which deliveries will occur in five-years-time is incredibly difficult and therefore the best way by which we can make our masterplans succeed is to be as flexible as possible.

  1. Variety is convenience – there’s no one-size solution

Being stuck working from home for what feels like forever may make it easy to think this is it, just as it seems like the easiest way to receive our goods is for them to be delivered to our homes. We’re sure that at some point in time the general working population will move to working, not solely, but predominantly in offices and therefore the requirements for collecting items purchased online will shift to whichever is the easiest for the individual consumer at that time. This may be a package delivered to your office, to your home, to a local pick-up point/centre/locker, or delivered to a store convenient to you.

  1. The last 300m may be more difficult

When delivering products to individual dwellings, the last mile may be the best way to measure the final section of the process; however, when a dwelling is part of a larger, more densely populated development, the last 300m of a product’s journey may become far more complicated and so does the responsibility. If your address is Flat X in Block Y… Is the responsibility to get the parcel to the front door of the main building or to the front door of your apartment. If it’s the former, how much space will need to be allocated to house a day’s parcels for one 3000-unit development – will there need to be a small-scale distribution warehouse in the building? If the responsibility ends at the door to your apartment, will delivery drivers/couriers need a form of carrying multiple items around a building only serviced by a small passenger lift?

  1. It’s not just about delivering things, it’s about taking them away too

I’m sure anyone that has received a delivery from an online retailer has had the same problem: you’ve ordered a pack of batteries, or maybe a kitchen utensil… What you’re presented with at your door is a shoebox-sized brown parcel containing said item + a giant piece of crumpled brown paper. Although, in theory, all additional pieces are technically recyclable, this is rarely done in our own homes. When this occurs for every delivery to every household, the number of brown boxes piling up in waste disposal bins will start to become a problem – more waste means more servicing requirement to remove it. We mustn’t forget that particularly with fashion retail – many purchasers order multiple items as it’s commonly known that garment fit can be hit and miss. With an ever-increasing number of deliveries, there will be an equal number of returns – if these are collections, does it in-turn double the number of visits by couriers? Leonard Design Architects have looked at many city-centre repurposing projects when retail has changed use to residential – one of the fundamental problems of these projects is the waste management issues, particularly with a move towards town centres with strict servicing timescales as to create a pedestrian bias.

To take part in the event, RSVP by clicking the button below