Urbanism Next
University of OregonUniversity of Oregon

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?

How will the increases in package delivery from e-commerce change building design? What will happen to the ground floor of buildings? Will delivery lockers, mailrooms, and storage areas serve a more prominent role?

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.

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.

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. Some building lobbies are already overflowing with packages and mailrooms are often not designed to handle the volume of shipments they’re experiencing. Outgoing packages are also a consideration as certain types of e-commerce items, like clothing and shoes, have the highest 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 on-demand delivery services  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 doorstep delivery. A survey of SNAP participants found that challenges with delivery logistics was a frequently-cited barrier to online grocery delivery, in addition to higher prices and concerns about spoiling goods.
  • 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. Urban residents are especially at risk for package theft. The New York Times reported that 90,000 packages are stolen in NYC every day. 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, same-day, and even same-hour deliveries are becoming more commonplace, leading to customer expectations of orders 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 and have been proven to significantly reduce the time spent per delivery.

Quick facts

What to do

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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Policies, pilots, and approaches

Report – Academic
University of Washington

Common carrier locker systems are a way to provide secure, high density delivery locations in public spaces while improving delivery drivers’ efficiency. The University of Washington’s Urban Freight Lab conducted a pilot project of this locker system in the Seattle Municipal Tower.

Journal Article
Manali Sheth
European Transport Research Review

"Completing urban freight deliveries is increasingly a challenge in congested urban areas, particularly when delivery trucks are required to meet time windows. Depending on the route characteristics, Electric Assist (EA) cargo bicycles may serve as an economically viable alternative to delivery trucks. The purpose of this paper is to compare the delivery route cost trade-offs between box delivery trucks and EA cargo bicycles that have the same route and delivery characteristics, and to explore the question, under what conditions do EA cargo bikes perform at a lower cost than typical delivery trucks?"

Communication tools

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