If you thought forecourt design that incorporates environmental aspects was a passing fad, you’d be wrong. According to Richard Ezard, director at Bayliss Design, nods to the environment will cease to be a trend and will definitely become a reality.
"Future projects will be developed from conception to incorporate energy efficiency such as LED lighting, energy management, condenser packs and doors on chilled cabinets," he says.
There are legal requirements too. Indeed Ezard points out that "enhanced thermal building fabric design" came into force as Part L (conservation of fuel and power) of Building Regulations last year. This requires an improvement in retail building energy efficiency.
Ezard has worked with many of the leading lights in forecourt retailing including past Forecourt Trader of the Year winners. One if his recent projects was working with Cambridgeshire retailer Jonathan James of James Graven, on his Littleport site development.
Says Ezard: "Jonathan is very forward thinking. He had very specific requirements which were incorporated into the design such as rainwater harvesting to supply his jet washes (and flush the toilets), LED under-canopy lighting, and doors on the chiller cabinets.
"With careful consideration and his ’local passion’ he has developed a modern efficient site, incorporating ’green’ issues, which customers are increasingly more aware of."
There’s no doubt that Jonathan’s Littleport store is a modern marvel.
The £1.5m greenfield development has been incredibly well received even a local councillor personally congratulated him on bringing a ’world-class store to the area’. But it meant a great deal of hard work Jonathan worked tirelessly for three years to make the store a success, seeing through the whole process from buying the original greenfield site, to gaining planning permission, to finally getting the store ready for opening.
Although the store has the Spar fascia, Jonathan was keen that the James Graven family name was promoted throughout. This has been achieved through the use of plaques (both inside and out) and the use of photography. Jonathan explains: "Although this is a Spar store, I wanted my customers to know that it’s owned and run by a family firm. The store is as Spar as can be, but I wanted to show that it’s also an independent business."
Environmental features include the fact that all the chillers have sliding doors and POS has been provided to promote the environmental savings/advantages of using these doors.
The store is re-using rain water for the jet wash. And natural wood and exposed brickwork has been used in the design to give it all a more ’natural’ feel. In addition, as the site is situated within the Fens an area famous for Bog oaks, a Bog oak is displayed in the forecourt with an educational lectern to explain its significance.
Bigger and better
Tom Garwell, senior designer at ADS Architects, says there’s a lot of competition between forecourt retailers. "Every site we do has to look a little bit better or be a little bit bigger," he says.
He adds that the most important consideration in any forecourt design today is the shop and that’s because shop sales are key to a forecourt’s success. "From an architect’s point of view we have to arrange the site so we can get the shop as big as we can."
As for the environment, he says it’s definitely moving up the pecking order but retailers are obviously concerned about payback and how cost-effective environmental features are.
Garwell loves working on forecourt design because of the new concepts that are being added such as Starbucks drive-thrus. ADS was part of the consultancy team that worked with Euro Garages when it opened its first Starbucks drive-thru. The company is also working with Euro Garages on its redevelopment of the M61 Services.
Once dubbed ’Britain’s worst motorway services’, the new-look M61 Services will feature a Spar store, Burger King, Starbucks and Subway.
Meanwhile, Ezard says site design depends on location as well as the client’s requirements.
"The independent retailers we work for are very conscious of the local population, and their requirements, so it’s important to develop a design that will incorporate these and obviously their own business requirements.
"Attention to detail is very important, as is notifying the local community of your intention to redevelop.
"Encouraging locals to get involved and to comment is important too, especially if that involvement is continued after completion of the development to ensure a good retailer/customer relationship is maintained."
Ezard says his company has recently redeveloped the Fraser Group’s Blenheim Service Station, where the shop was constructed in materials sympathetic to the locality, and also retained the Post Office facility, which was an integral part of the local community.
"Through careful attention to detail, and customer ’involvement’ (meetings prior to, and during construction works) the Frasers have maintained their customer base," he says.
So it seems any checklist for a new forecourt development needs to include the shop, the environment and customer involvement if you want it to be a success.
designed to optimise sales
Mohsin Issa, director of Euro Garages, says his company’s fast growth has largely been driven by its strategy to acquire and redevelop sites in high-density locations. The design model used for developments is focused on optimising fuel sales and driving additional revenue through convenience and retail services.
When sites are acquired the forecourt is designed to include a raised canopy which ensures enough space for a car wash, an Air Vac and a convenience store. To maximise retail sales the forecourt is organised around the convenience store and larger sites include a food retail unit either within the store or as a stand-alone amenity.
Issa believes that great forecourt design comes from putting the customers’ needs at the heart of the business.
"Our aim is to offer convenient amenities and excellent customer service to attract passing trade and build true customer loyalty. Innovative design is crucial when developing a site so that it simultaneously provides more space and added-value services.
"Our Newtown site in Lancashire is a prime example of how we achieve this. It demonstrates how our design strategy maximises the potential in our forecourts so they ultimately become an attractive retail space rather than a traditional pump and kiosk operation.
"To appeal to the high number of passing motorists some of our sites now feature drive-thru services. We provide fast food through our Burger King outlets and fast coffee through our partnership with Starbucks."