It’s interesting to explore whether sustainability has impacted the development industry since COP26 by taking a look at one building under construction by The English Cities Fund in Manchester: Eden, one of the most environmentally friendly office buildings in the UK
There is no doubt that COP26 raised the sustainability bar in terms of awareness. Although there was no huge milestone agreement, it seems that the multi-national get-together has brought about a collective recognition that bad things are happening with our planet. Coupled with a Pandemic, people are now seeking out different ways to live and work and as such the office environment has changed its requirements.
There is now a need for the work environment to be sustainable in every aspect not only in its construction but from its walk-up approach to how it performs operationally. Wellness areas, including yoga studios, meditation areas and treatment rooms are sought alongside extensive external public realm areas for relaxation, events and socialising.
Eden, one of the most environmentally friendly office buildings in the UK
Eden, currently being developed by The English Cities Fund in Manchester is an example of an evolving approach to sustainable development. Two-three years ago, Muse, a partner in The English Cities Fund began to change the way how it designed and constructed its developments. It created a pioneering framework for each of its developments, known as Our Sustainable Future.
Due for completion in May 2023, Eden is a £36 million, 115,000 sq. ft, 12-storey office development which will feature Europe’s biggest living wall of 350,000 plants that are currently being nurtured in a UK nursery. To add to the sense of well-being and biodiversity, insect hotels and bird nesting boxes will be combined with plants specifically selected for their pollinator-attracting features. Eden will be built to the UK Green Building Council’s 2035-2050 Design for Performance standard and is currently being marketed to businesses that prioritise sustainability in their corporate agenda.
Eden’s living wall
The living wall is central to Eden’s design philosophy. Its 32 species of plants are ensuring that workers, visitors and people passing by are connected to nature for years to come. It is hoped that Eden will inspire other developers and encourage them to change the cityscape from a metropolis built structure to a green and biodiverse work and play landscape. DEFRA’s policy on biodiversity net gain on new developments is set at 15%, Eden is striding ahead with a massive 174% biodiversity net gain thanks to its 43,000 sq ft living façade.
Planning to be energy efficient took place long before the rise in energy costs, so it is fortuitous that Eden will be an attractive option if and when fuel costs continue to rise. It is designed to enable an all-electric, fossil-fuel-free servicing strategy, with photovoltaic panels generating on-site electricity, as well as rainwater harvesting serving the green wall.
Eden is targeted to be rated 5.5 stars by NABERS UK
NABERS UK is a rating body that occupiers should look for if they have a net zero carbon target. It is a simple, reliable system that assesses the estimated energy efficiency performance of an office building and then awards it a star rating. It is a more meaningful and effective guide to how energy efficient an office building is in comparison to the traditional EPC ratings or BREEAM. To illustrate how sustainable construction has changed over the years, most buildings built in the past 20 years wouldn’t even achieve two stars. Eden is targeted to be rated 5.5 stars, which makes it one of the most pioneering energy-efficient buildings in the UK.
With the change, there are challenges. Sustainable solutions are not cheap and are not always convenient. The development team’s approach for Eden has been to thoroughly interrogate each cost not in terms of price but in terms of sustainability. It takes more research and more time. But they are building an office that is pioneering and supplying a demand.
Life-cycle cost assessments
The future is always the focus and there can be cost benefits. At Eden, the life-cycle cost assessment is estimated that the building will cost £23.50/m2/year to run compared to a good-quality office (NABERS 4.5) at £20.00/m2/year, which is a 44% reduction. Compare this to typical office stock and costs are being presented as £59. Eden is projected to be 62% cheaper to run operationally.
Covid-19 is now under relative control. Encouraging people back to the workplace is also challenging building occupiers to seek offices that provide a healthy and safe working environment. Making buildings beautiful and providing an environment to thrive in is key. Eden will offer enhanced ventilation rates (2l/s/m2) in excess of the latest BCO standards. The ventilation is designed to provide more fresh air whilst also featuring demand-controlled ventilation with CO2 monitoring.
Its wellness area is encouraging relaxation with a yoga studio and a quiet, contemplation space, ensuring that workers are happy and comfortable in their workspace.
It is encouraging to see that the sustainable conversation is now commonplace and not seen as an exception in property development. There’s comfort in bringing sustainable, transformation change to our town, cities and urban landscapes.