British Land, one of the UK’s largest listed developers, delved into some of its successes – and challenges – around sustainability in its recent half-year report.
The report provided examples of features that British Land uses in new developments to cut its carbon footprint along with updates on the performance of some of its major buildings.
Here are some of the highlights from the FTSE 100 REIT’s ESG update:
Second net zero building
British Land completed its second net zero carbon development at 1 Triton Square following 100 Liverpool Street.
The embodied carbon in the development was 436 kg CO2e per sq m, which was below the company’s 2030 target of 500 kg CO2e (but above the 389 kg CO2e recorded at 100 Liverpool Street). British Land achieved this by reusing existing material in the building, including “virtually all” of the superstructure.
The remaining carbon was offset through investments in reforestation and afforestation projects in Ghana and Mexico, certified by the Verified Carbon Standard.
Embodied carbon remains a challenge
While 1 Triton Square and 100 Liverpool Street have met British Land’s target, the 1 Broadgate development’s embodied carbon is 80% above that threshold at 901 kg CO2e.
To compensate for this, British Land said it will “design out” as much carbon as possible to make 1 Broadgate’s operational carbon intensity one-sixth of the previous building’s. British Land expects 1 Broadgate, set to complete in 2025, to be its most operationally efficient building to date.
Sustainable materials and processes
The Canada Water development – phase one of which comprises 582,000 sq ft of mixed-use space, including 265 homes – represents another hurdle. As a ground-up redevelopment, the site has limited opportunity for re-using existing material, British Land said.
As a result, the developer said it will use “the most sustainable materials and processes we can and [pilot] more innovative techniques”.
- Capturing waste heat from the office building on plot A1 and re-using it to heat the development’s homes
- Using cement-free concrete – as the first company to do so in permanent piling works in the UK – which will save 240 tonnes of carbon emissions, a saving of 45% compared to the embodied carbon of traditional piling concrete mix
The company added that it committed to achieving BREEAM Outstanding on all the commercial space at Canada Water, BREEAM Excellent on retail and Home Quality Mark Beta 3* for residential.
The site’s commercial space will use the UK NABERS system to help achieve energy efficiency targets.
Meeting minimum energy efficiency regulations
British Land’s office portfolio already complies with 2023 Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards legislation that requires buildings to have an EPC rating of at least E. More than a third (36%) of office space is rated EPC A or B, as is 29% of the entire portfolio.
However, buildings will likely have to reach a minimum EPC B by 2030. British Land has estimated that retrofits will cost the company £100m over the next eight years – although a “significant portion” will be recovered through the service charge.
The developer is undertaking “net zero carbon audits” (12 completed and another 15 on track to complete by the end of the year) in its portfolio to identify areas where it can improve energy efficiency.
Typical improvements include LED lighting and replacement air or water source heat pumps.
How to fund sustainability
A “transition vehicle” funds British Land’s sustainability goals. Every tonne of embodied carbon the company produces between April 2020 and 2030 triggers a £60 payment. £20 of this goes towards buying carbon credits, and the rest goes into retrofits.
For context, embodied carbon in British Land’s major developments and refurbishments totalled 28,180 tonnes of CO2e in 2021. The embodied carbon of its assets in use added a further 15,834 tonnes to the total.
British Land invests an additional £5m into the transition vehicle every year.
Recognising that ESG goes beyond the environment, British Land also included several community projects that it supports.
- Support for Brixton Finishing School’s AD-Cademy, which offers employability workshops on marketing, creativity and digital skills
- Providing 10,000 sq ft of affordable workspace at 1 Triton Square to Camden Giving and the Diorama Theatre
- Partnering with the Construction Youth Trust, which aims to engage more than 1,000 secondary school students a year in careers in the built environment
- Funding research into the link between reading for pleasure and life chances
The half-year report was full of operational insights on other topics such as flexible work and the future of retail.
For example, British Land reported that its flexible work product Storey is now operational across 345,000 sq ft and occupancy has increased to 81% among “stabilised buildings” (those two years post-fit out or fully let).
Since April, British Land has agreed leases on 100,000 sq ft of Storey space with a further 23,000 sq ft under offer. Viewings are back to pre-pandemic levels, the company said.
On the future of retail, the developer is planning £600m of urban logistics projects to meet changing customer demands. British Land said that customer requirements are “evolving rapidly” but that it will take innovative solutions to increase density and repurpose space to meet those demands in Central London.
In order to create more urban logistics space, British Land plans to convert retail parks, such as Thurrock Shopping Park near the M25, increase densification by adding additional floors to warehouses, such as Heritage House in Enfield, and repurpose other sites in Central London, such as the car park in Finsbury Square.