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Urban stability

Vince Ugarow highlights the growing importance of a supporting framework, which can implement this model successfully on individual commercial development projects


The key aspects of sustainability are undoubtedly priorities at the visionary level of master plans and regeneration schemes, on individual commercial development projects. Long term sustainability aspirations can be realised by an influential delivery framework, engaging with the key design stakeholders including the landlord, design team and the future occupiers of the building.

To be successful, the over-arching principles of sustainable urbanism must be effectively applied, by filtering down the intent to individual building projects. It is important that the principles translate into every-day decision making, between the key stakeholders, which will ensure a collaborative approach to sustainability, helping to meet everyone’s corporate responsibility (CR) objectives.

To ensure buildings meet occupier environmental, social-cultural and economic requirements, developers are constantly gauging and consulting with prospective tenants, agents and the wider market. However, over the past few years it is noticeable that more and more leading businesses and organisations have developed and updated their CR policies and now declare more detailed, specific and measurable targets. On the sustainability aspects of CR, the following KPIs are commonly published: minimum BREEAM ratings; maximum EPC scores; year on year percentage reductions in CO2 emissions; reduction in waste tonnage ending up in landfill; minimising water usage, in terms of saved litres per year.

Ugarow believes these more measurable CR policies present a challenge to design teams. He explains: “Many first issue CR policies published by companies tended to be generalised, pronouncing overall environmental and sustainability intents, without committing to specific targets. However these days the situation has changed, which means we need to be far more aware of the detail. The key is on a project, to identify a tenant’s specific CR objectives as quickly as possible and integrate these with the developer’s targets. This will lead to a more tailored design solution, which will reflect both the landlord’s and occupier’s corporate sustainability goals and will achieve a long term, fully integrated strategy that matches everyone’s objectives.”

Towering above
In high rise buildings, this early collaboration between the landlord, design team and tenants, is even more important. This is because it is far more difficult to retrofit tenant specific requirements, once the building is fully constructed and partially occupied by a  multitude of tenants.

Hilson Moran is currently working on a significant number of next generation high rise commercial developments in London. Ugarow explains: “Our project teams have observed in today’s market, there is an ever stronger push to maximise rentable area and at the same time deliver a product which is flexible, future proofed and demonstrates the best green credentials, to meet future client expectations.”

With this challenge in mind Hilson Moran is now providing a ‘Sustainability Implementation Plan’ (SIP) on their projects. This plan is based on 10 overarching mantras of sustainability with key indicators for each mantra targeted at the design, construction and operation stages. The aim of the SIP is to provide key stakeholder engagement at the beginning of the project, record those key decisions and monitor and update those guiding indicators throughout the life of the project. The SIP if you like is an executive sustainability summary for the project which records some of the key features from important planning documents such as the energy strategy, BREEAM assessment, Code for Sustainable Homes assessment, water conservation strategy and waste management strategy to name a few.

These competing demands provide extra challenges for the design team, particularly in terms of the space requirements for cores and technical plant zones, which are now also expected to accommodate enhanced engineering systems, supporting LZC technologies and water, waste and plug load conservation measures.

To add to the mix, there is a recognised trend to pack more people into office space and provide enhanced levels of resilience and in house facilities to cater for ever increasing occupier needs. These include IT infrastructure, in house meeting suites, retail outlets, catering facilities, bicycle storage, showers and changing facilities. These requirements put greater pressure on the building services, in particular power, cooling loads, fresh air provision, vertical transportation and widespread toilet accommodation.

Knowing your user
Considering how the building will operate is another crucial step in achieving genuine sustainability. Some organisations have CR policies declaring what they have to achieve in terms of energy performance in buildings, but these are often left quite open to interpretation. You can have a fantastically designed building which, on paper is capable of delivering a high level of energy performance. But actual energy efficiency ultimately depends on user behaviour. Unless the building is operated in the right way, it will not live up to its declared environmental credentials. Many companies now integrate environmental, public and community aspects, into their CR policies, to ensure that targets are fully understood, measured and effectively delivered.

In order to close the gap between anticipated and actual performance of a building, there is another area in which the design team, landlord and tenant can collaborate more effectively on. Creating open book opportunities to carry out post-occupancy performance measurements will not only improve the running of the specific building, but it will also provide invaluable feedback for designers to consider when planning any future  development projects.

For best results over the longer term view, early collaboration between all stakeholders – landlord, design team and tenants, coupled with continued post-occupancy dialogue, together offer the most robust route to achieving real sustainability targets. By implementing this delivery framework, the approach will ensure the environmental, social-cultural and economic goals for a commercial development are reached, reflecting the master plan objectives. Only then can true sustainable urbanism be fully realised and harnessed.

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