Landsec opens its first net-zero office, unveils social impact fund

The Forge, in Bankside near The Tate Modern, was officially opened this afternoon (20 April) at a ceremony attended by Chris Skidmore MP, author of the Net-Zero Review.

Plans for the Forge were first unveiled in mid-2020 and topping out was celebrated in December 2021. It comprises almost 140,000 sq ft of office space across two buildings, Bronze and Phosphor, which are positioned around an open public courtyard.

The building, designed by architects Piercy & Co and Bryden Wood, is the UK’s first commercial development to be 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.

Landsec estimates that the Forge’s embodied carbon footprint is now 36% lower than it was in the initial design stage, thanks to interventions made to improve material efficiency and incorporate lower-carbon materials.

Government funding from Innovate UK was partly used to support the development of the Forge, as it was the first office to be build using a digital platform approach called P-DfMA, 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. Construction was led by a joint venture between Mace and Sir Robert McAlpine.

“The Forge is a landmark space with the potential to transform the way the industry approaches sustainable construction,” said Landsec’s head of workspace Oliver Knight. “The techniques we’ve used have allowed us to deliver a truly net-zero space which doesn’t compromise on design, amenities or location.”

Chris Skidmore MP (pictured right) added: “Transitioning to a net-zero economy will require innovation, collaboration, and a willingness to take risks.  By pioneering different approaches and taking learnings from other industries, Landsec has been able to create new construction techniques that can be applied across the entire industry.”

Landsec Futures

The opening of the Forge comes shortly after Landsec unveiled details of a new £20m social impact fund, developed with the aim of creating “a fairer, more equitable real estate industry that better reflects the communities it invests in”.

It is hoped that the fund will deliver £200m of added social value by the end of the decade. Between 2020 and 2022, Landsec has supported over 4,500 individuals facing barriers towards employment to enter the world of work and has delivered £20m in social value, so this is a major scaling up of that work,

Four programmes will be supported by the new fund, providing those wishing to enter the sector with internships and bursaries, and increasing grants to local charities.

On internships, Landsec will open a new programme whereby, every six months, eight candidates will be able to undertake an entry-level placement in a department of their choosing. On top of this, Landsec will offer at least five students from marginalised backgrounds a three-year bursary of up to £30,000, to put towards their studies.

Beyond supporting individuals, Landsec is seeking to forge additional partnerships with education and employability charities in areas where it operates, and to increase grants to charities local to its developments. On this latter point, it will administer unrestricted grants of between £1,000 and £3,000 in partnership with the Charities Aid Foundation.

It is estimated that almost half (45%) of professionals working in the real estate sector attended private schools, with those from lower socio-economic backgrounds often still struggling to secure a career in this space.

“Despite a greater focus on diversity in recent years, we know the real estate industry is not where it needs to be if we want to create more inclusive, sustainable, and successful places that support people and businesses to thrive,” said Landsec’s head of ESG and sustainability Jennie Colville.

“We need our industry to include a more diverse representation of people from all walks of life, empowering them to lead change in the places they know the best.”

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