Urbanism Next
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Delivery Management

How will the increases in package delivery from e-commerce change the layout, access controls, and traffic flows of buildings?

What is driving change?

Competition for the Right-of-Way

To help mitigate competition for limited curb space, drop-off and pick-up facilities may be accommodated off-street as part of new building design. The City of Chandler, Arizona, for example, updated its code to allow developers to reduce the amount of parking provided by instead providing an off-street loading zone.

Changes in Goods & Meal Delivery

E-commerce and the sharing economy are facilitating the growth of on-demand delivery services. Today, goods and meals can be ordered online and delivered quickly. Real estate developers may need to dedicate a portion of the property for new forms of delivery stations and building services that address logistics and security concerns related to deliveries. Already some developers and residential building managers are adding and/or expanding package areas to manage the increase in deliveries and incorporating package concierge service stations.

Shifting Nature of Freight

Fulfillment centers are increasingly being built in urban areas in order to locate goods closer to final destinations and reduce delivery time. The design of fulfillment centers in or near urban cores is changing in order to reflect the characteristics of the built environment. Multi-story warehouses may be increasingly common in the future, while other buildings may be designed with smaller loading bays or the ability to accommodate delivery robots.

Reduction of Brick-and-Mortar Stores

With continued growth in e-commerce and increasing customer preferences for experiential retail, the size of new retail space may be smaller than in the past. Building design will likely change to reflect shifting consumer preferences, with stores using less square footage for floor space and potentially using more for warehousing to fulfill online orders.


Future Changes

What Could Happen?

  • Buildings could become overwhelmed with packages and packaging. Higher numbers of deliveries create challenges for the delivery, storage, and eventual disposal of these packages. Building lobbies are overflowing with packages and mailrooms are often not designed to handle this volume of shipments. Outgoing packages are also a consideration as certain types of e-commerce items, like clothing and shoes, have a high rate of returns. In addition to finding ways to securely receive, store, and send tenant packages, many building managers are also overwhelmed with the amount of packaging materials entering their waste and recycling streams.  
  • Deliveries of packages, food, and groceries could become increasingly difficult to complete. While doorstep delivery is an expectation of many customers using CNSs such as Grubhub or Instacart, delivery staff frequently have trouble providing this due to controlled-access buildings and keycarded elevators. If a concern over the amount of unknown people circulating within common spaces of buildings comes to the forefront, further access controls could be implemented, making it even more difficult for these delivery staff to provide the services their customers are paying for.
  • Securing packages could become more difficult. Most contemporary buildings are not designed to facilitate the higher volume of deliveries that e-commerce has spurred. When packages are left unattended in public or shared spaces, opportunities for theft arise. Depending on the delivery volume, tenant capacity, and design of a given building, delivery management strategies could entail a mixture of delivery vehicle traffic management, in-building package handling procedures, and/or physical modifications such as package lockers or mailroom remodeling.


  • The volume of packages being delivered is increasing. Part of the convenience of online shopping is the speed at which e-commerce items can be delivered. Two-day, overnight, or even same day deliveries are becoming more commonplace, leading to customer expectations of ordered e-commerce goods arriving quickly. To facilitate this on the shipper’s end, items from a single order may be sent from multiple warehouses, using multiple different carriers, to meet shipping deadlines. Not only are people ordering more things online, but these orders are commonly broken up into multiple packages to get them to customers as quickly as possible.
  • The amount of packaging materials in need of disposal is increasing. In addition to grappling with effective ways to handle incoming packages, multi-tenant buildings are already experiencing increased trash and recycling volumes as a result of an increasing number of deliveries. Plastic bubble mailers, air pillows, and plastic envelopes are not recyclable in many areas, and when single orders are shipped in multiple boxes this amplifies the amount of waste generated per order. Items are often shipped in ill-fitting, oversized boxes or mailers to save on packaging time to meet expedited delivery deadlines, further complicating these issues.
  • More time is being spent delivering packages. Package carriers are already spending extended periods of time making deliveries to multiple tenants within individual buildings. When drivers spend more time knocking on doors, writing call tags, or making multiple trips back to their trucks to retrieve remaining packages, their delivery trucks are also spending a longer time parked or idling outside. This could block access for others, creating spillover effects onto neighboring streets as other carriers or vendors also attempt deliveries. Centralized delivery receptacles, like secure package lockers that are provided by the building versus being owned by a retailer, have been explored as a possible solution for reducing delivery driver time within buildings.

Quick facts

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  • Transit services are limited in suburban and rural areas, and the rise of TNCs may be further drawing down the rider base, leaving fewer transportation options for the people drawn to the less expensive housing in these areas.
  • The decline in shopping malls across the US has led to reduced availability of goods and services in suburban areas.
  • The trend towards living near city cores has made housing more scarce and more expensive in many major urban areas.

What to do

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Not sure where to start? Below are four What to Do pages that we think are especially relevant to Delivery Management:

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