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Towards Net Zero in London's Bankside Yards

22 September 2023

Overlooking the iconic St Paul's Cathedral and Tate Modern, Lewis Silkin hosted another fantastic ESG focused event “FutuRE Proofing the Office: Journey to Net Zero”. The event, held at the stunning new Lewis Silkin office with its panoramic 360-degree views, brought together Native Land, the Carbon Trust, Lewis Silkin, and a group of invitees from across various business sectors. The purpose? To engage in a conversation about proactive strategies for future-proofing buildings, achieving net-zero emissions, and enhancing landlord’s and tenant’s sustainability credentials.

Expert Panel

The panel featured distinguished experts in their respective fields. Laura Bougourd and Rachel Francis-Lang represented Lewis Silkin, while Felicity Masefield shared developer insights from Native Land, and Jonathan Winston provided expertise from the Carbon Trust. Together, they delved into crucial topics and shared their views on the obstacles occupiers and developer/landlords must overcome to achieve a greener future for real estate.

One highlight of the discussion was the Arbor Building, a cornerstone of the Bankside Yards development. As part of the UK's first fossil-fuel-free major mixed-use development, the Arbor Building boasts impressive eco credentials. It operates carbon-neutral and comprises a pioneering fifth-generation energy-sharing network. This example of sustainable architecture was chosen by Lewis Silkin for its office move with its ethos of kindness and bravery and own commitments to sustainability in mind. It also serves as an inspiration for occupiers considering similar moves towards greener headquarters.

Demystifying Sustainability Jargon

The panel took the time to demystify the jargon often associated with sustainability, particularly concepts like "net zero" and "science-based targets." The Carbon Trust’s floor in the Arbor Building is a pioneering example of sustainability in practice.  Guests were invited to tour the Carbon Trust’s office space which was met with admiration for its design and thoughtful execution. 95% of the materials in the Carbon Trust’s fit-out are from re-used and recycled sources. The remaining 5% is still sustainably sourced, despite being new.

Jonathan nonetheless emphasised that occupiers can reduce their carbon emissions by up to 15% with smaller immediate wins. By gathering data and communicating with landlords, occupiers can analyse and modify their existing M&E and building management systems to decrease energy waste and increase efficiency.

Challenges and Collaborative Solutions

The floor was opened for discussion, and questions arose about the challenges of retrofitting older buildings versus constructing new green structures. It was clear that while "green offices" are making strides, other asset types like smaller warehouses and storage solutions lag behind leaving a limited number of options for prospective occupiers.

The issue of green leases was also examined. These agreements encourage data sharing between landlords and tenants, with a focus on sustainable alterations. However, the debate continued regarding who bears the cost of upgrades and how tenants can ensure landlords implement the advanced building control systems they are paying for. Perhaps environmental legislation like the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES), which by 2030 may oblige landlords to obtain a higher rating of EPC B to lawfully let a property, will compel landlords to futureproof their assets and ensure that both parties are mutually obliged to fulfil their green commitments.

Looking Forward

The panel discussion was not only the background for an enjoyable event but also an exemplar of collaboration between a landlord (Native Land) and its tenants (Lewis Silkin and the Carbon Trust). As the real estate sector evolves to achieve its net zero targets, landlord-tenant discussions like these will be the catalyst for future proofing the office space.

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