When it comes to functional designs in business it takes a lot more that a college design student or a super star design architect – it takes that too, but mostly you needs someone with a hell of a lot of industry experience, someone who understands the flow of the business model, hardships, and how to garner the efficiency of the process. It doesn’t matter if we are talking retail, restaurants or service businesses. So, let me use an example here in my case study; a carwash building for the Southern China market.

First, space and real estate are hard to come by, and they fetch quite the premium whether buying or leasing. Still, if the property values are expected to rise, owning the property might also be wise. If the ground space comes at a high cost you have to build up, but when was the last time you saw a two-story carwash in the US? Well, forget that for now, we need to design something new from scratch because China is a whole different world in that regard.

Major Concerns Of the Southern China Market:

1. Limited Space
2. High Real Estate Costs
3. Smaller Vehicles and More of Them
4. Rapid Property Value Inflation – Might Have to Sell
5. Auto Sector – No Real Brand Recognition Amongst Auto Services

Okay, let’s talk shall we? If you can compete on quality and price at a carwash, detailing center (1-bay), and oil change (1-bay), then you have three bays. Can you go up? I mean two-story, I mean the cars in China, “some” of them are lighter vehicles; BYD Motors, Tata Motors sized vehicles right? So, detail the cars upstairs, wash downstairs, oil change upstairs, used oil drains easily to small holding tank down stairs, office downstairs. Take a look at “Markline Modular Green Buildings” with an array of two-story commercial buildings, as an example to help better visualize what I am talking about here.

Now then, if the real estate values continually go up in Southern China, and if you are going to have to move your facility, you need it modularized, so you can pick it up and move it quick. You also need to be able to put in the carwash fast to start making money quickly to get a solid return on investment (ROI) because the land costs are so high. Income Property Analytics noted in an article on May 21, 2011 that “China Real Estate Activity Stalls,” by Landon M. Scott that the property values had slowed temporarily and then noted the next year they were climbing again.

Thus, it would make sense to create a strategy to avail yourself of the real estate investment under the auto-services and carwash business model. Perhaps, the entire building could be a pre-fab, basically the size of 6-shipping containers, three-wide, two high. Your quality can garner brand recognition, attract the best labor, and bring you abundant business by word of mouth, but, building quickly to the number of units you need to regionally dominate the market is not so simple. The place is huge; Southern China is a huge potential market, and so many cars. So, being able to deal with space and rapidly grow are important.

Concentrate on making the building with one major thing in mind; efficiency. You can make the outside of the building or fa├žade anything you and your design architect team can dream up. Back to efficiency; always remember in this type of service business is in the “time” not the “job” and if you can create a huge efficiency mini-assembly line, go for speed, with inspection person on the end of the line, perhaps up-selling for more services upstairs, you could increase revenues, but you can’t “force sell” and also create strong brand loyalty because it has to be a soft sell for people to feel it is their choice, thus, reinforced, thus, feeling good about spending their hard earned money with you.

A semi-automatic wash, with manual interior makes sense for what you suggest. But I can show you that it is possible to wash-soap-and-dry a small sized vehicle in under 3-minutes with one person, all by hand, not including interior, and that is as fast than most 60-second to 90-second automatic washes if you include drying time – plus, you don’t have to buy equipment, and move it when you re-sell property and parlay rapid real estate deals. Why not solve all the challenges and harness all the opportunity into your building design? Please consider all this and think on it.


1. YouTube Video; “Genesis Delivers BP/ARCO Car Wash to Victorville, CA.”
2. Wash Trends Magazine, Spring 2008; “The Wonders of Modular – Today’s modular car wash buildings can do wonders for your bottom line,” by Sydney Petty
3. “For New Balance, a Surprise: China Partner Became Rival By Gabriel Kahn, Wall Street Journal, December 19, 2002. Focusing on the challenges of business licensing particularly in Southern China
4. Bloomberg, May 1, 2012; “China’s Cash-Poor Developers Fuel Commercial Property Deals.”

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