Causes of Decline of Industrial Sites

  4 March 2016  |    Blog

Jasper Beekmans wrote an interesting thesis on the Causes of Decline of Industrial Sites. He summarizes the results as follows: “(…) the explanation for the differences in decline between industrial sites are for a large part a result of the age of industrial sites, the region in which industrial sites are located, the accessibility of industrial sites and the type of economic activity of firms on industrial sites”.

So what are the implications of these results for the development of new business parks (industrial sites)?


With the aging of business parks there comes a risk of decline. Unfortunately nothing can be done about the passing of time. Buildings will deteriorate physically and there is also a chance of obsolescence. Beekmans describes a supply-side obsolescence (changes in the environment, changing infrastructure) and a demand-side obsolescence (changes in demand from users regarding aesthetics, accessibility).  It is crucial that the initial design quality is resilient against deteriorating and obsolescence. However obsolescence can and should not always be prevented. A business park may become a future housing location or may turn (back) into agricultural use. Therefore it is important to incorporate circular developing principles: “modular design, performance-based use of components and granular embedded product inventories allow for cheap repurposing and a faster turnover of usage.” (report Ellen MacArthur Foundation / Intelligent Assets: Unlocking the circular economy potential)


According to Beekmans, decline of industrial sites is more likely in economically weaker regions. Needless to say that stimulating economic development should be a top priority for local governments. The big question is how to identify and facilitate the sectors that are the drivers for future economic growth. At SADC we work closely together with Amsterdam Airport Area, which aims to strengthen the position of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area as an ideal location for logistics and/or international companies related to the airport.


There is a correlation between accessibility and the chance of decline. Most business parks are planned on locations with a good accessibility. However this might change due to congestion. The Amsterdam Area invests therefore heavily in upgrading its infrastructure grid: the rerouting of the A9, the new A5 and the new N201. These investments are crucial for ensuring the future accessibility of the business parks.

Economic activity

The research shows that a mixed-use site might be more prone to decline than a site dedicated to one type of firm (for example logistics or heavy industry). The explanation might be that firms who have more in common, are more likely to cooperate as a collective to ensure a high quality of buildings and public space. I think that the focus should not be so much on creating mono functional business parks, but on creating strong business ecosystems. SADC facilitates these ecosystems by implementing area management on all business parks.

While no one can foresee the future it is necessary to brace new business parks against future challenges. A strong business ecosystem combined with circular design principles can prevent the decline of industrial sites. A supporting infrastructure network and healthy economy are necessary preconditions.