Developing sustainable buildings


Sustainability sits at the core of what we do. The integration of sustainability throughout the design, construction and operation of our properties is key to ensuring that our buildings continue to meet the requirements of our occupiers, enhance local communities and minimise their environmental footprint. To see how we are supporting our local communities through our projects see our Social impact strategy and report.

Our Guiding Principles for Design set out our aims and aspirations for building design. Our Sustainability Statement of Intent sets out our commitment to:

  • Decarbonise our business to become net zero by 2030;
  • Design climate change resilient and adaptable spaces;
  • Create a lasting positive social impact in our communities; and
  • Put health and wellbeing front and centre.

Our Sustainable Development Brief provides clear direction and deliverables to our project teams in respect of energy and carbon, water, waste, responsible procurement, transport, ecology, flexibility and adaptability, smart technology, wellbeing, community and social value. We use building rating tools such as BREEAM and SKA to ensure a consistent approach, requiring all new build developments and major refurbishments to achieve a BREEAM Excellent rating. Smaller refurbishments must achieve a minimum of a silver SKA rating with gold preferred. 

Our business model is based on repositioning properties, often selling the assets we have created and recycling the proceeds into new opportunities. We will therefore often purchase lower rated assets with a view to improving their sustainability performance through the refurbishment and development process.

See Our performance for our current performance on sustainability ratings for our assets.

Climate change adaptation and mitigation

The buildings we are designing today are likely to still be in use well after 2050. This is why we have committed to ensuring that all our new build developments achieve net zero carbon from 2030. Our Roadmap to Net Zero details how we will achieve this. 

We consider resilience and adaptability from the start, undertaking a climate risk assessment process for all developments. When considering energy and carbon, in addition to ensuring that our properties exceed building regulations requirements for energy efficiency, we are also prioritising renewable energy technologies and transitioning away from fossil fuels across our portfolio. We will also seek to use local heat and energy networks to optimise operational performance and reduce embodied carbon.

Our Soft Landings processes, seasonal commissioning and Post Occupancy Evaluation, undertaken six months after the property is let help to ensure that our buildings operate efficiently once in use. We use technology to help improve efficiency and productivity. For more on how we achieve this see our Sustainable Development Brief.

As part of our review of the physical risks of climate change, we identified a longer term risk of water shortages and drought in London. We are seeking to address this through building design incorporating water efficient processes and fittings. This includes our cooling strategy, washroom facilities and irrigation of green spaces, considering rainwater and greywater harvesting where practical.

Embodied carbon is a key part of our business carbon footprint, through our Sustainability Statement of Intent and our ESG-linked RCF we have committed to a target of reducing embodied carbon across our developments and refurbishments by 40% by 2030. Reducing embodied carbon in our development processes is key to creating net zero carbon buildings by 2030. We are therefore working with our supply chain and design teams to improve data, consider alternative materials and improve construction processes to drive improvements across our development sites. In 2020, we delivered an embodied carbon reduction of 22%, averaged across our developments. Our carbon footprint is shown below and this is outlined further in our Sustainability Performance Data Report 2021.

Designing in wellbeing

A sustainable building should also contribute to the wellbeing of our occupiers and the local community, supporting healthier, happier and more productive lives. We know through our review of material risks that internal and external stakeholders rate wellbeing as one of our top three issues.

We are putting Health and Wellbeing front and centre. Through our Wellbeing brief we take an integrated and inclusive approach to ensuring that relevant health and wellbeing aspects are considered during the design process. Where appropriate we collaborate with our occupiers to achieve certification and consider elements such as:

  • Indoor air and water quality;
  • Thermal, visual and acoustic comfort;
  • Urban greening; and
  • Healthy behaviours.

Through use of technology including sensors and our occupier app we also help support the wellbeing of our occupiers.

We also look to retrofit wellbeing into our existing buildings, working with our occupiers to implement additional facilities and services where possible, improving access to open spaces, integrating urban greening and retrofitting cycle and shower facilities where possible.

Improving biodiversity

Through our Sustainability Statement of Intent “The Time is Now” and our ESG linked RCF we have committed to a Key Performance Indicator of improving biodiversity net gain across our portfolio by 25% by 2030. During the year we increased biodiversity net gain by 62% through a complete change of approach to urban greening at three developments. Hanover Square, 16 Dufour’s Place and The Hickman. To ensure that the target remains appropriately challenging, a new target will be set for the year ending March 2022. 

Biodiversity helps support the climate-resilience of our buildings, through reducing the urban heat island effect and improving building shading which supports the cooling of our buildings. Improved biodiversity in our cities also assists in improving local air quality and supports improved health and wellbeing. We therefore install urban greening measures wherever possible, maximising biodiversity through appropriate design and selection of species. We look to select drought resistant plants and look to use water harvesting to reduce water consumption for irrigation. Please see more on our plans to support community urban greening projects in our Social impact strategy here and our Social impact report.

Air quality

Air quality has a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of people living, working and socialising in London. Through our Community strategy we are supporting a number of air quality initiatives. By installing green roofs and green walls and increasing planting on terraces we can help to improve local air quality and by installing cycle stores, locker and shower facilities in our buildings we help support our occupiers who prefer to run, walk or cycle to work. 

We also address local air quality by collaborating with our construction contractors using more off-site fabrication, increasing the use of off-site consolidation centres to minimise vehicle movements and through the introduction of strict guidelines such as prohibiting idling engines on our sites.

This is further addressed through the design of our building services to ensure that waste collections, deliveries and post and parcel services are properly considered.  

Enhancement of the public realm

We believe our developments should play an active and positive role in building strong communities in and around them. We provide opportunities for communities to network through the provision of public realm. For example, through our Hanover Square development, we provided a financial contribution to the enhancements of the public realm to transform Hanover into a revived garden oasis for residents, workers and visitors. We work to understand local priorities and related strategies through engagement with the local authority and community stakeholders. To see more of what we're doing in the community, see community relationships.

Smart and flexible spaces

We must be able to adapt our built environment to ensure that our spaces encourage maximum productivity and provide the flexibility our occupiers need. Through design we ensure that our buildings integrate new technology where applicable, helping to increase efficiency and improve wellbeing. Integrating building systems provides us and our occupiers with real time information on energy consumption, which allows better utilisation of space, improved productivity and provides data on where energy savings can be made. Through technology we can also provide feedback on occupancy levels, temperature, light levels, air quality and noise, helping our occupiers to thrive as their business needs evolve.

For more on how we are designing in sustainability, wellbeing and innovation from the start see The Hickman.

Reducing waste

We are committed to reducing waste and using water responsibly.  Our ultimate aim is for 100% of waste from our demolition and construction activities to be diverted from landfill and to generate a maximum of 7.5m³ (or 6.5 tonnes) of construction waste (excluding demolition and excavation wastes) per 100m² of GIA. For more on our performance see our Sustainability Performance Data Report.

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