FOOTPRINT+ conference discusses a zero carbon future for the property industry
Brighton & Hove
UK event highlights state-of-the art methods to reduce carbon emissions
FOOTPRINT+, the UK property event for a zero carbon future, took place from 6th-8th June at an idyllic location on Brighton & Hove seafront, attracting representatives from every sector of the property industry to discuss state-of-the art methods to reduce carbon emissions and build the relationships necessary to help put them into practice. Many of our members were involved speaking on panel discussions and as conference sponsors, including Arup, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHHM), WilkinsonEyre and Feilden Clegg Bradley.
Taking time away from the research desk to join the delegates on the last day, we attended a session sponsored by WilkinsonEyre, investigating the findings of London Property Association report ‘Retrofit First, Retrofit Only’. The report illustrates the spectrum of recent Net Zero Carbon commercial projects undertaken to date across Westminster and the City of London. While considering various case studies, the panel emphasised that sustainability benefits are often hidden, and must be articulated fully to agents, while owner-occupier engagement is necessary to make sure buildings are managed efficiently. They highlighted the financial incentive to retrofit when appropriate, with AHHM project 1 Finsbury Square mentioned as an example of retrofitting that saved money for the developer, allowing them to spread risk across their portfolio and spend more elsewhere.
The next session on the same stage, ‘Challenging the Dominance of the Cat A Fitout’, did just that, proposing that the dream of shiny new office space for occupiers should be questioned, and that there could be: “a new dream: reuse is beautiful too.” The panel discussed the practicalities involved, explaining how early planning and combined effort is needed to maximise the possibilities of reusing materials, an example being Globechain and its mission to help enterprises reduce waste by providing a marketplace to redistribute items to charities, small businesses and individuals.
A case study session illustrated many of the points raised in other discussions, with WilkinsonEyre presenting a retrofit project for London Southbank University, where an existing 1970s concrete-framed structure – once described as ‘prison-like’ - was transformed into the LSBU Hub, an open, welcoming campus centrepiece. Nat Keast, WilkinsonEyre associate director, revealed how adapting the existing building meant that its embodied carbon was calculated at 40% less than a new build equivalent, with the reduction extended to 70% for the structural elements. There were problems along the way, with, for example, a kitchen area retained which needed more work than anticipated and would have been better to replace, and contractors discarding a concrete slab meant for strength testing – but the lessons learned are proving vital for future projects.
We will return next year to see how some of the challenges and opportunities discussed are playing out. The FOOTPRINT+ founders, based in Brighton & Hove, have clearly worked hard to create a unique exhibition and conference in their own city that has a countrywide and even global significance. It will surely grow in stature further over the coming years, as the property industry rises to the challenge to meet ever-increasing government goals and societal expectations for sustainability.
Tenderstream Head of Research