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Landsec unveils plans for UK’s first net-zero office in London

Property developer Landsec has revealed that it is progressing plans for what it hopes will be the UK’s first net-zero commercial building – an office block in Southwark, south London.

Pictured: An artist's impression of the finished project. Image: Landsec

Pictured: An artist’s impression of the finished project. Image: Landsec

The building, called The Forge, has been designed in line with the UK Green Building Council’s (UKGBC) net-zero buildings framework and energy performance requirements.

The UKGBC framework covers both embodied carbon – the emissions generated in the construction phase of the building, and through the materials used to create it – and operational carbon, emissions produced throughout the building’s use-phase. Most previous definitions, frameworks and certifications account only for the latter.

To minimise the embodied carbon of The Forge, Landsec has used a digital platform approach, whereby all components for the building are designed and ordered through one channel. This approach is believed to minimise energy “leaks”, improve productivity, reduce costs and prepare the building for any future retrofits. Previous trials of this approach by Landsec led to a 20% reduction in embodied carbon, a 30% reduction in installation time and a 55% improvement in productivity. The UK Government is now set to trial digital platform approaches on its own estate.

Landsec has not yet confirmed to what extent it will be using offsetting to bring the embodied carbon of the building in line with the UKGBC’s net-zero framework, but admitted that it will not be able to reduce its Scope 3 (indirect) emissions for the project to zero internally, due to the challenges in decarbonising resource extraction and transport.

As for the operational emissions footprint of the building, Landsec has designed the structure to maximise passive heating, cooling and daylighting, thus minimising its energy consumption. It will also be fitted with a digital building energy management system (BEMS) and automated energy-saving features. Once complete, The Forge will have 139,000 square feet of space, to be used for retail and office purposes. 

Broader plans

Landsec is notably striving to become a net-zero business by 2030 – 20 years ahead of the Government’s legally binding target. It will reduce its absolute emissions by 70% over this decade, then invest to offset the residual 30%. The commitment applies to all of the FTSE100 firm’s new developments as well as its operations.

In order to reach this target, Landsec’s chief executive Mark Allan said, it “has to start making changes to the way it does things now”.

“We know that property companies have a vital role to play in addressing the climate emergency,” Allan said. “We’re clear, therefore, that our sustainability strategy must be deeply embedded in our development programme and we will continue to be ambitious in our approach.”

edie recently spoke to Landsec’s sustainable design and innovation manager Nils Rage, who explained how cooperation with suppliers was helping Landsec decarbonise its buildings. You can read the piece here.

edie’s editorial team additionally explored the role which the UK’s construction and retrofit sectors will play in its Covid-19 recovery plans through a recent feature, in which we spoke with UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) deputy challenge director for transforming construction, Mike Pitts. Pitts is a strong proponent of the digital platform approach. You can read that article in full here.

Sarah George

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