The importance of green construction has been highlighted widely in recent years, as the construction industry has come to understand its role in creating better environmental outcomes.
Whether that has been reducing the amount of embedded carbon in concrete, retrofitting existing buildings to make them more energy efficient, adding green roofing or constructing new buildings with the latest in carbon-neutral and renewable energy features, builders and architects have set about innovating with such goals in mind.
The latest project that will require providers of building supplies in London to offer green materials is a new office scheme in Southwark, which developer Landsec has just gained planning permission for.
Red Lion Court is part of a wider plan to build a new cluster of green offices in the borough, which will feature a total of one million sq ft when completed. Red Lion Court will have 230,000 sq ft, as well as retail space and public open realm outside.
The building will include partial re-use of an existing building as well as the use of low-carbon and recycled materials, so that it will be net zero in “both construction and operation”, Landsec stated. It will also be fully electric, have a green roof, urban drainage designed to re-use rainwater and aim to achieve WELL Core Platinum and BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ status.
Other elements of the development include a new pocket park and wellness garden, an enhanced Thames path and a bike repair shop to encourage cycling.
It adds to other developments in progress like the cluster like The Forge, the first net-zero commercial building in the UK, and Timber Square.
Head of Workplace at Landsec Oliver Knight said: “This approval at Red Lion Court will unlock the next stage of the one million sq ft green office cluster we’re developing in the borough.”
It might be imagined that these days every building firm is focused on improving their environmental record, both as a contribution to making the world they and their children will have to live in a better place and in order to boost their own reputation. But it is not always the case.
A good example of this is residential construction firm Bellway Homes. It has just had to give £100,000 in donations to environmental charities after being hit by an enforcement undertaking by the Environment Agency for dumping contaminated soil at one of its housing projects in Northumberland in 2017.
The Environment Agency said the soil contained “wood, metal, wire cables, rubber, plastic and vehicle tyres”, with this being dumped around a rainwater retaining pond at its’ Mary’s Park development near Stannington.
While the donations of £50,000 to Northumberland Wildlife Trust, £30,000 to Wear Rivers Trust and £20,000 to the Tyne Rivers Trust will all be happily received by those bodies, Bellway will no doubt be regretting the reputational damage as much as the financial penalty.
Other companies may take note and avoid such hard-learned lessons, not least in London where environmental issues like air quality are already such a big concern. That is why the capital may remain in the vanguard of green building in the UK, something construction material suppliers must respond to.