Review of NAIOP’s Rules of Thumb for Distribution / Warehouse Facility Design (2nd Edition)

When NAIOP recently released their Second Edition of Rules of Thumb for Distribution / Warehouse Facility Design (“Rules of Thumb”), I quickly jumped at the opportunity to pay $150 (or $300 for non-NAIOP members) to get it. Outside of the knowledge gleaned from experience, there are few resources which comprehensively cover the design and construction of industrial real estate and none I am aware of like Rules of Thumb.

The First Edition was released in 2005 and is produced by a partnership between HPA, Inc. architects and NAIOP. One of the founders of HPA, Byron Pinckert, serves as the lead author for the publication. While much of the structure from 2005 remains, HPA and NAIOP decided in 2019 to update the prior edition in light of several critical changes to industrial real estate design and construction in the past 15 years.

My purpose in reviewing this publication is not to specifically discuss any of its many insights on the design and construction of industrial real estate, for which there are many. Instead, I want to share generally what it covers, add some of my thoughts, and ultimately encourage other industrial real estate professionals to purchase a copy for themselves.

The overall structure of the publication is divided into five chapters which review the exterior and interior design of warehouse / distribution centers today, commentary on smaller industrial buildings, and recent changes and trends.

Rules of Thumb does a great job of relating building design to the concerns of the developer and the occupant. For the developer, designing a building only makes sense if it ultimately will be profitable. For the occupant, the property needs to be functional for the business. Finding that balance in a form that adds to the community and location is the key.

Rules of Thumb provides real world standards by which developers and occupants are currently developing and using their buildings today. Among the topics covered include some of the most important features in industrial real estate today:

  • Truck court depth
  • Truck circulation
  • Dock door spacing
  • Dock equipment
  • Storage
  • Clearance height
  • Bay spacing and types
  • Sprinkler systems
  • Slab construction and features
  • Roof and skylights

Although I have been involved in industrial real estate for almost 20 years, I learned at least 50 new things by reading Rules of Thumb (about 1 new nugget per page of content). Granted I work primarily with occupants and are not involved with a tremendous amount of design/build projects, but I really appreciated how a significant portion of the development information related to the practical requirements of the warehouse / distribution companies I represent.

Rules of Thumb is understandably less concerned with office space within the warehouse and other tenant-specific improvements such as power supply and warehouse HVAC. I greedily would have loved to have more information on those topics as I seem them becoming more important to some of my customers, but again I understand not getting to far in the weeds.

Rules of Thumb provided much more of an education than I expected and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in industrial real estate.

Published by Chuck Berger

I partner with industrial companies to develop real estate strategies and solve real estate challenges. Based in Orange County, California, USA. Find me on Twitter @chuckberger and on LinkedIn at

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: