News

Reliance on EPC metrics will hold back better buildings

The Times recently highlighted the carbon load of prominent tall buildings on the London skyline, using data gathered from their Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs). But EPC measurements are often inaccurate and can be a red herring for building performance and sustainability.

Mat Lown, TFT Partner and Head of Sustainability, outlines a more realistic and practical approach to understand building performance.

A recent article in The Times described the ‘CO2 challenge that towers over tall buildings’, by rating key buildings in the London skyline according to emissions, using figures from their energy performance certificates (EPCs). It did so to highlight the need for more action to mitigate carbon load and ultimately environment impact.

While I can’t fault the aims of the piece, its reliance on EPCs is problematic. The EPC has become a widely recognised marker of a building’s energy efficiency, but that doesn’t mean it is a reliable standard. The EPC-based CO2 emissions of the buildings listed in the article could be far greater or lower in reality. In fact, the highest-rated buildings (EPC A+) do not necessarily produce zero carbon in operation.

TFT has examined over 1,000 EPCs in London alone, which have shown the shortcomings of focusing on their ratings in isolation. We found that EPC performance predictions often overlook significant variables, instead making assumptions to ‘standardise’ ratings across different buildings. The result is that EPC certification won’t accurately consider the impact of: actual occupational densities, usage profiles and additional services such as lifts, external lighting and other equipment which isn’t included in its predictions.

EPCs may appear to be a go-to sustainability credential, but these shortcomings mean that EPC adherence must sit alongside a more viable strategy for performance measurement. We believe a more robust approach to sustainability is to assess how buildings perform in use, not just how their designs stack up.

The good news is that more advanced modelling approaches are in use, which will predict a building’s operational performance during design, construction and occupation. Emerging initiatives such as Design for Performance developed by the Better Buildings Partnership (BBP) and based on Australian NABERS experience allow owners and occupiers to understand the reality of how the building will use energy on a day-to-day basis in operation.

It means we can more accurately measure and optimise buildings for an occupier’s needs and regulatory demands, minimising energy use and boosting performance.

The EPC will continue to be a regulatory sticking point which owners will need to overcome when selling or letting. But we must also employ realistic and practical measurement to prevent red herring regulation from holding back progress towards a more sustainable built environment.

Restorative spaces: Birmingham

Giulia Mori, Energy & Sustainability Consultant at TFT, continues to talk about mental health and wellbeing in the workplace and the role of restorative spaces to help us disconnect and revive away from the working environment.

In this series, we’ll explore cities in which we have TFT offices, gauging how each provides restorative space, starting with Birmingham city centre.

Birmingham, the second largest UK city, has a rich working history which grew rapidly after the industrial revolution. It has ancient monuments, conservation areas as well as over a thousand listed buildings, but it is missing something more important to our everyday lives: ample spaces to improve one’s mental and physical wellbeing.

The TFT Birmingham office is located in the middle of the city centre and neighboured by the historic Victoria Square with its pedestrian and cycle access, featuring the Birmingham museum and art gallery and some green space: St Phillip’s Cathedral Square, home to the 18th century Gothic church. There are certainly cultural as well as commercial destinations in the city centre.

There are also areas integrating biophilic features* within the wider city, such as Eastside City Park and the City Centre Gardens, but it is easy to imagine how such a densely built area could do with more public biophilic amenities that might rejuvenate some areas, tempting residents and workers to indulge in a different lunch time walk every day or even encourage them to change their commute. 

The private and the public sector could work together to integrate connected public green space and car free areas to support the wellbeing and activity levels of people living and working in such a central neighbourhood and possibly help mitigating the urban heat island effect and support the local fauna.

One solution is an initiative, such as Wild West End in London, where large property owners are working together to encourage flora and fauna back into central areas of the city by ‘re-wilding’ their rooftops, terraces and other spaces in to better and healthier places for residents, workers and visitors to enjoy. The progress of Wild West End shows that companies need not wait for government intervention to improve spaces, and that one’s own real estate can contribute to a wider impact.

Using supportive biophilic design in our local spaces we can help communities thrive, inside as well as outside the office.

*biophilic features: this includes green features as well as water fountains and use of natural materials such as stone and timber.

TFT chairs RICS Dilapidations Conferences in Scotland and England

TFT Technical Partner Jon Rowling recently chaired the RICS Dilapidations Conference, Scotland. Jon is jointly based in TFT’s Edinburgh and London offices and heads TFT’s Dilapidations, Service Charge and Dispute Resolution service lines nationally. 

The event covered pressing issues for our UK clients, including: comparisons between Scots law and England and Wales; a mock cross-examination which highlighted why one wouldn’t want to get as far as litigation; and accession of movable items and fixtures.

Of the nuanced and challenging issues facing tenants and landlords, of great importance for both sides will be to avoid litigation procedures, which can be done with the right approach to dispute resolution.

Jon authored the go-to text book on these matters: The TFT Purple Book, which offers guidance and reference to make the right decisions through the process. Jon has also authored the RICS Dilapidations Guidance Note and the Dilapidations Dispute Resolution Scheme. He also chaired the London edition of the RICS Dilapidations Conference from 2010 to 2014.  Since then the event has been chaired by TFT Partner Paul Spaven

With Jon Rowling as the service line lead, TFT leads the way in dilapidations across the UK, while in Scotland our Expert Determination and Dispute Resolution offerings are gaining notable traction.

Neil Wotherspoon, TFT Partner and head of the Edinburgh office

Please do get in touch with either Jon or Neil if you would like any assistance with a dilapidations issue.

Combustible material and residential balconies: new Government advice

The Government has urged building owners to remove combustible materials from residential balconies. This follows a number of significant balcony fires in London in the past 12 months and is an acknowledgement that balconies constructed from combustible materials can promote rapid external fire spread.

Timber has become increasingly popular in recent years to provide balcony decking, solar shading and privacy screens. Amendments to the Building Regulations in December 2018 specifically prevent the use of combustible material such as timber for balconies on certain residential buildings over 18m in height, but the new Regulations do not apply retrospectively. However, the latest Government advice relates to existing buildings, particularly residential properties with multiple dwellings and includes low-rise buildings under the 18m threshold.

Building owners need to establish what materials have been used, assess the risks, keep residents informed and advise the fire brigade if urgent concerns exist.

The Government Advice Note states that: “the clearest way to prevent the risk of external fire spread is to remove and replace any combustible material with one that is non-combustible (classified as A1 or A2-s1, d0)”.

TFT has experience of coordinating external wall/fire safety investigations and overseeing remedial works.

Please contact Simon Young MRICS if you have any concerns.

Mental health and wellbeing in the workplace

By Giulia Mori – Energy & Sustainability Consultant at TFT

Mental health is coming to the fore as a national concern, and a topic which government and businesses alike are trying to support with new or improved policies, products and services. On top of these initiatives, it’s important to consider how the built environment itself can shape our experience of the world.

Though few people pay close attention to them, many elements of our workplaces can impact our overall wellbeing, enjoyment and performance of work. Increasingly, at TFT we are engaged to measure and improve workplaces with mental and physical health as a priority.

One of the key issues to consider in supporting mental health at work is to understand what ‘restorative spaces’ are within and around the workplace and how they affect us. Research shows that access to these places encourages us to take adequate breaks during the day, restoring energy and concentration levels, so we can go back to our work refreshed.

Restorative spaces are defined by the leading industry wellbeing certification – WELL Building Standard™ v.2 – in which TFT is an accredited partner and assessor. The WELL standard describes the role of restorative spaces in the following way:

M07 – “Restorative spaces […] can help alleviate the negative effects associated with workplace fatigue or mental depletion. Through incorporation of nature, among other restorative elements, these spaces can help relieve stress and mental fatigue, support focus and encourage overall mental well-being. Exposure to plants and other natural elements has been linked with decreased levels of diastolic blood pressure, depression and anxiety; increased attentional capacity; better recovery from job stress; increased psychological well-being”[1]

M01 – “Increasing nature contact at work may offer a simple, population-based approach to enhance workplace health promotion efforts.”[2]

Indoor breakout areas and outdoor terraces that feature natural elements such as plants, flowers and natural materials, can be considered as restorative spaces. Easy access to outdoor amenities such as a nearby park, a lake or river can motivate us to go for stroll during lunch time and have an even bigger impact on our tranquillity at work and on our general wellbeing.

This effect is due to a concept known as biophilia – the innate affinity we have with other forms of life and nature. Biophilia plays a significant role in defining places and spaces for mental health and wellbeing. The presence of natural or man-made biophilic spaces within a reasonable walking distance (≤1km) that are accessible via safe and secure routes is key in supporting mental health both inside and outside the workplace.

Beneficial outdoor spaces can also include public art, museums, food markets and festivals – all of which are highlighted by the International Living Future Institute’s ‘Living Building Challenge’, citing ‘design features intended solely for human delight and the celebration of culture, spirit and place appropriate to its function and meaningfully integrate public art.’

Furthermore, the Urban Land Institute and the Centre for Active Design emphasise the importance of providing access to nature, both indoors and outdoors, which in turn facilitates social engagements and healthier lifestyles.

What are some real-life example of these places? And do you have enough of them near you?

Over the coming weeks, we will be releasing a series of articles showing some of the restorative spaces around TFT’s offices located across the UK.

Stay tuned for our first piece covering our office in Birmingham. Who knows, if you work nearby, you may find some new spots to explore, or share some hidden spaces with us!


[1] Kant I, Beurskens a JHM, Amelsvoort LGPM Van, Swaen GMH. An epidemiological approach to study fatigue in the working population: the Maastricht Cohort Study. 2003:32-39.

[2] Largo-Wight E, Chen WW, Dodd V, Weiler R. Healthy Workplaces : The Effects of Nature Contact at Work on Employee Stress and Health. Public Health Rep. 2011;126:124-131. doi:10.2307/41639273

Flexibility, wellbeing, and social value: three marks of the future office

TFT Partner Alistair Allison chaired the judging panel for the British Council of Offices’ recent South of England and Wales Awards. From a strong pool of entries, Ali and his fellow judges visited and reviewed a selection of the best offices from around the region, which stood out for their forward-thinking designs focused on the needs of occupiers. 

We asked Ali: what stood out from this year’s selection? And what can we expect from leading office designs in the future?

Alistair Allison gives his Judge's Chair speech at the BCO South Awards
Alistair Allison giving his Judge’s Chair speech at the BCO South Awards

In my speech at the BCO Awards, I called out buzz-words like ‘sustainability’, ‘wellbeing’, ‘agile working’ and the like, which we’re all too familiar with but, thankfully, are becoming better understood as part of the client brief and design process, graduating from more superficial marketing claims.

Accordingly, I noticed that the best offices on the judges’ visits delivered tangible benefits through design, improving the experience of occupants and, therefore, the long-term prospects for owners.

While occupational density has remained consistent, design is making offices into places people want to be. Space is increasingly given over from the traditional office floor plate for specific activities, such as group working, hot-desking, concentration, relaxing or even yoga.

Perhaps it’s the rise of new developments, which dominated the entries this year, providing a ‘blank canvas’ for these design decisions. It’s an encouraging sign of a confident market; by comparison, the previous two years featured refurbished or recycled buildings in almost half of the entries. The fact that the ratio has changed this year is a result of where we are in the cycle, but nonetheless reassuring. If these new buildings are enabling the next generation of office development to flourish, I’m excited to see quality and occupant-centric design become more widespread across the sector.

We’re pleased to help our clients embrace these fundamentals too. 400 & 450 Longwater Avenue is a new office development in Green Park, Reading, targeting a WELL accreditation along with an ‘excellent’ BREEAM rating, assuring a high standard of wellbeing for its occupants alongside high sustainable credentials. When complete the scheme will offer a flexible, premium space which is set up for speculative occupiers with all kinds of requirements thanks to an easily-divisible floorplan, and these credentials provide further incentive for businesses which understand that wellbeing and sustainability in the workplace is becoming a minimum requirement for employees and customers alike.  

But what sits beyond these badges or certifications?

One area which shows a great deal of potential for us is social value; the extent to which a place or space contributes positively to its neighbouring environment and community. It’s defined in different ways by different stakeholders, so risks becoming a nebulous and complex subject, but in terms of meeting the challenge of sustainable development it has huge potential. We foresee that as social value is more clearly defined, so occupiers and therefore owners will rank it more highly in their criteria for buildings – in much the same process as wellbeing is seen today, and that sustainability was once seen.

We are hugely excited by this opportunity, and are working with the UKGBC to produce a framework and guidance for the industry which formalises and clarifies the role of social value for a range of applications in the industry. 

In the coming years, I hope these steps will drive more interest in positive social impacts and that ‘the best of the best’ is seen increasingly in terms of what a building adds to the community within its walls and beyond – who knows, maybe we can skip the buzzword stage this time! 

TFT at BCO Conference 2019

BCO Conference 2019 will be held in Copenhagen

The British Council for Offices (BCO) kicks off its annual conference next week (June 5-7) in Copenhagen. We at TFT are proud to support the event and to join its focus on the theme of arbejdsglæde, the Danish word and principle of ‘joy at work’.

Employers are increasingly diversifying their workplaces to represent their culture and to help occupants feel more ‘at home’ while at work. But the built environment can do more to improve the joy and wellbeing of occupants of offices and other kinds of spaces, by improving how we create, manage and inhabit buildings.

Three TFT partners attending the BCO Conference share some of the issues they’ll be interested to discuss in Copenhagen, when it comes to creating and maintaining the office of the future:

Alistair Allison: customer experience becomes building performance

As a recent judging chair for the BCO’s Southern Awards, it’s fantastic to see a more confident marketplace emerging which puts all the familiar buzzwords we’re used to hearing about, at the heart of a client brief. The outcome is attributes like sustainability, wellbeing, flexible working and so on aren’t just for marketing messages, but built in to the office from the outset.

I expect to see this become more mainstream as customer experience becomes widely adopted as a defining criteria for building performance. What could that look like? To start with, a more consultative process where building owner and occupants define these performance metrics together, to make sure the ‘lived-in’ space is well tailored to those who use it.

In our ongoing work for 400 & 450 Longwater Avenue, this speculative development is deliberately designed for flexibility to serve a diverse set of occupier needs, including close working with the building management team to ensure that the building would perform as required for different kinds of occupiers through its life.

Mat Lown: linking better buildings with social value

What would a ‘better workplace’ contribute to the city’s wider agenda? BCO’s 2019 venue in Copenhagen recognises the relationship between buildings, the urban ecosystem and our cultural/social needs – in that spirit, I want to explore the social value buildings can bring not only to their occupants but their neighbours too.

Where to start? Taking a Danish cue, offices can do more to support sustainable transport infrastructure with the appropriate facilities in-house for changing, storage, equipment maintenance and so on, all of which make it easier for travellers to choose to cycle, for instance, rather than get the train or drive.

Otherwise, stimulating greater biodiversity inside and out, understanding that we feel more relaxed and happier with natural greenery around us. Offices in particular could also contribute directly to the city’s clean energy credentials fairly simply, with photo-voltaic panels on a roof supplementing the building’s energy use or even feeding power to the grid.

There are many more opportunities besides – realising them is less a question of building type or function than the priorities of its owner for long-term wellbeing of occupier and local community alike.

Dan Henn: realising sustainable value in legacy buildings

It’s tempting to think that the greatest opportunities for better buildings lie in new development, where we can start from scratch and implement best practice from the outset. But repurposing and refurbishing existing buildings is for many cities a more sustainable means of meeting the needs of modern businesses and the talent they rely on.

There are efficiencies and savings to be found and more scope for alteration than many might believe. Our work on the likes of Wellington House and Pinnacle House in London highlight the scope to grow an existing space and upgrade a building for a better occupier experience. The considerations to do so run the gamut from engineering challenges, conservation and keeping the surrounding area (including businesses and residential communities) running as normal.

Finding the right project management skillset is crucial to navigate these challenges, where collaborative and attentive specialists can make sure the office spaces of the future find a productive home in legacy buildings.

TFT at RICS Building Surveying Conference


Last week TFT decamped to the Royal Lancaster Hotel to join the 2019 RICS Building Surveying Conference (May 2), an industry gathering with a full programme of seminars and panels tackling the state and future of surveying.

Katie Brooks, Associate Building Surveyor, chaired three sessions on two topics across the day, hosting almost 600 people as part of her role in the RICS Conference Working Group which shaped the day’s agenda and content.

Katie’s first session was on offsite and modular construction, a topic which is regaining recognition in the industry due to the cost saving opportunities it offers, and the scale which modular building techniques can provide. A recent RICS report on Modern Methods of Construction declared modular methods could be a route to accelerate home building for the Government’s target of 300,000 homes per year by 2020.

Katie chaired a presentation and Q&A by Tim Prosser of Hawk Technical, who examined the pros and cons of modular and off-site construction methods. Tim drew on case studies he has witnessed over the past few years, and weighed up the benefits for different kinds of developer, and he also showed how differing approaches would result in implications for building sequence, logistics, sustainability and design process on top of the core considerations of time, cost and quality.

The second session on Katie’s agenda was a presentation on the building regulations, and specifically enforcement. A presentation from David McCullogh (who chairs the RICS Fire Safety Leaders Forum and sits on CIC’s specialist Grenfell panel) reminded the audience that the industry has a duty to self-regulate, and to take responsibility for proposing improvements.

We also saw TFT Partners David Mann and Chris Gibbons take the stage to give an update on Technical Due Diligence (TDD) as the RICS prepares to launch the latest Guidance Note on TDD. The pair presented best practice updates on assessing risk, how to approach surveys for different building types, how to use technology such as drones to maximise access and value from a survey, and what clients expect from the best surveyors.

In summary, those are: sharp detective instincts, a commercial perspective on what impacts value the most, and clear, timely communication of the key facts.

Scotland and M&E Partners named amid national team development

We’re pleased to announce a set of promotions across TFT which strengthens our position in Scotland and our M&E offering, as well as growth across several key service lines and regions:

Promotion and new joiners, clockwise from top left: Marc Hill, Lorna Melton-Scott, Andrew Ferrznolo, Jon Grimes, Neil Wotherspoon, Greg Curtis, Clayton McClean, Dan May, Oliver Morris and Shanika Fraser.

Neil Wotherspoon becomes Partner. Having headed up TFT’s Edinburgh practice since it was established in 2016, Neil has grown our presence in the region with major projects including the landmark Edinburgh St James redevelopment, which we monitor for APG.

Marc Hill becomes Partner for M&E, based in our Bristol practice. Marc joined as part of independent M&E consultancy Wye Solutions, which was acquired by TFT in 2014. Today Marc leads a 15-strong team across Bristol, Guildford, London and Birmingham, maximising the value of property portfolios with enhanced building services which combine sustainability and performance.

Reflecting continual growth in our Development and Project Consultancy, Andrew Ferrznolo and Jon Grimes both become Technical Partners, in London and Cardiff respectively.

Oliver Morris is now an Associate in TFT’s Sustainability Consultancy, following commendation as a UKGBC Future Leader. Dan May becomes Associate, specialising in commercial building consultancy, based in London

Regional growth around TFT’s Birmingham office has also led to the promotion of two Senior Building Surveyors, Greg Curtis and Clayton McLean – and the arrival of Shanika Fraser to the practice as a Project Manager from Allen Construction Consultancy.

In Guildford, we welcome Nathan Smith, BS graduate from Atkins.

With new joiners and team shifts underway, we’re also very happy to name Lorna Melton-Scott as HR Manager, based in Guildford. She’s here to provide higher-level HR advice and support across a diverse team of specialists, as well as lead recruitment for further new roles on the way.

Reported in Property Week. Read the article here:
https://www.propertyweek.com/news/tuffin-ferraby-taylor-shakes-up-team/5102336.article

UKGBC, TFT and partners produce new Circular Economy guidance

Many people will be familiar with ‘the circular economy’, as the concept and terminology rises up the political and business agenda. But how can we turn thought into action in our own industry? UKGBC and TFT teamed up with stakeholders across the industry to publish new guidance to do just that.

Circular economy principles can have different implications across different industries, products or services – but The Ellen MacArthur Foundation identifies these three key traits of a successful circular model:

  • Design out waste and pollution
  • Keep products and materials in use
  • Regenerate natural systems

It’s hard to name an industry which is doing all these things, but as we face more strain on resources of all kinds, it’s incumbent on everyone to improve models which generate waste and pollution for sustainability.

“…the quantity of reused materials in construction has actually decreased since 1998. At the same time, the rates of extraction of materials in our fast-developing world are already way beyond planetary capacity.”

Sunand Prasad, Founder Penoyre & Prasad and Trustee of UKGBC

We face a big challenge to employ circular principles across the built environment and the supply chain which feeds it, due to the systemic change which is needed. Closer coordination is one way to achieve this.

To that end, TFT partnered with UKGBC and a range of construction industry stakeholders to formalise the steps to meet an industry-wide circularity objective.

The first output of this work is a guidance document, focusing on RIBA stages 1 & 2 (Preparation & Brief and Concept Design, respectively). Looking closely at setting a project up for circular success, the guidance provide practical steps to realise the commercial value of circular construction, from ensuring supply chain effectiveness to informing project management and mitigating risks along the way.

If you’re interested in learning how the guidance can be applied to maximise the long term value of your building project or your wider portfolio, contact Helen Newman.

The full guidance can be downloaded from UKGBC, here.