TFT to monitor The Interchange, Cardiff, as the Welsh capital continues to transform

Photo Credit: HMA Architects

TFT has been appointed by Legal & General Capital Investments Ltd to undertake technical due diligence (TDD) for the acquisition and subsequent project monitoring for the development of The Interchange, Cardiff.

The Interchange is part of Central Square, Cardiff, a new live and creative business district built around the principal transport hubs (train, bus and future metro) and incorporating sustainable cycle highway connections to the rest of the city.

The instruction will span over a 3-year period and is the latest element of the city’s largest redevelopment scheme. TFT Partner John Newton will monitor the project following his involvement in Plots 6 & 7. Interchange is one of the final phases of the scheme and will comprise Wales’ biggest build to rent scheme, 84,000 sq ft of grade A offices, as well as a new and upgraded central bus station.

TFT’s continued involvement on Central Square, will enable best practice to be adopted on these latest works, to ensure the project achieves the investor’s time, cost and quality goals.

Development is underway at The Interchange (Photo credit: TFT, July 2019)

The scheme paves the way for economic and social growth in the Welsh capital, responding to the growing population’s demand for more private rented schemes and government calls to make housing more affordable.

The bus station, a 14-bay interchange with a concourse, is set to be operating at the end of 2022. The scheme will significantly improve passenger experience and efficiency in and out of the city centre as well as simplifying the travel to and from the new offices for visiting and permanent staff.

In response to the appointment, John said:

This fantastic development ticks all the right boxes incorporating Wales’ largest buy-to-rent scheme, creating new jobs via its office/retail elements and providing Cardiff with its new eagerly anticipated central bus station. The scheme’s developers – Rightacres Property Co Ltd – have worked tirelessly with Cardiff City Council to assemble the site and instigate development preparations. Now, together with the essential funding of Legal and General, they are ready to make things happen.

The Central Square development has created an impetus to redevelop the nearby old Brains brewery site and extended land into a large mixed-use scheme by the same developer. If plans come to light, the two schemes will transform the central area of Cardiff, enhancing its reputation as one of the fastest expanding capital cities in Europe, and improving its capability of attracting prime inward investment.

Fire safety update: Approved Document B 2019

An updated version of Approved Document B – the government’s guidance for how to meet the requirements of Building Regulations 2010 – has been published. It includes guidance for demonstrating that new buildings meet the required standards of fire / life safety.

New government guidance has implications for new building fire safety in England and Scotland.

From a cladding perspective, the headlines in England, as introduced under the November 2018 regulatory ban, are as follows:

  • Regulatory restrictions apply to the external walls of certain buildings with sleeping accommodation over 18m. The buildings within the scope of this restriction include: hospitals, dormitories, student accommodation, sheltered housing and apartment blocks.
  • All significant external wall materials on the building types listed above must essentially be non-combustible (i.e, European Class A2-s1, d0 or Class A1).
  • The restrictions do not apply to hostels, hotels, boarding houses, commercial buildings, or any buildings below 18m. However, the commercial and reputation implications of using combustible cladding materials need to be carefully considered.  

The situation in Scotland is more robust. A ban on combustible cladding materials will apply to buildings with a storey height above 11m, both to domestic and non-domestic properties and comes into force on 1 October 2019.

TFT has experience of navigating this evolving situation, including the coordination of cladding safety investigations and remedial works.

Please contact Simon Young for more details.

HMRC Stratford hub celebrates topping out ceremony before it becomes home to Brexit preparations

The HMRC hub topping outs are well underway and we recently witnessed the new HMRC London office, Stratford, reach its highest point.

The 297,328 sqft headquarters will home 4,400 public servants and is due to be complete in late 2020. When it was leased, the hub was projected to base 3,800 staff, but this has now risen in numbers to accommodate work on Brexit.

TFT has been appointed as fund monitor by L&G since January 2018 and is providing monthly reporting to the fund on various aspects of the project.

Katie Brooks, Associate at TFT who lead the monitoring team on the development said:

We are pleased to represent L&G on this exciting and high profile investment. The team at Westfield has been focussed on delivering the building to programme, and we have been impressed with the speed at which it has been constructed.

The ceremony was attended by the developers, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, funders Legal & General, senior executives at HMRC amongst numerous other stakeholders.

This is one of a portfolio of 9 similar developments funded by L&G that TFT is monitoring across the country.

Restorative spaces: Bristol

In the third of this series, we look at the English city of contemporary art and great engineering feats: Bristol. Bristol may be known as a pioneer of many green initiatives, but how do they help improve the lives of the people in the city?  The answer is in its use of infrastructure and natural features. 

In 2008, the city pioneered a new Government scheme aiming to double the numbers of cyclists on the streets in the UK within three years[1]. Today, the South West capital boasts a network of cycle routes that connect the city centre to suburban areas, encouraging active Bristolian commuters and giving Bristol the title of England’s first ‘cycling city’.

The impact of the city’s investment is evident in TFT’s Bristol office where more than 50% of our Bristol team cycling or walking to work. This is one of the greatest ways to lower levels of sedentary behaviour, which is linked with physical and mental wellbeing, in particular lower cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality, cancer incidence and all-cause mortality[2].

But what about during the working day?

Being close to restorative space can make all the difference to your wellbeing and productivity at work, and Bristol has good access to many of these. Our office is located on the alluring Queen Square near to the canals and the river Avon, which is not only a green space but a social space too, as the surrounding office workers and residents can enjoy activities from reading in the park to playing volleyball, or exploring the many festivals and events set up on the square – like Harbour Fest, boules tournaments, Bristol Comedy Garden and many more.

Just around the corner from the Square is the vibrant harbourside, with cafes, bars, restaurants and waterfront views. Throughout the summer locals and tourists will dangle their legs over the harbourside walkways and enjoy the views of Bristol’s characteristic rainbow houses and ship masts.  

While green spaces offer venues for activity and relaxation, blue spaces – rivers, lakes, water features – have huge benefits for relieving stress and helping us focus too. It’s a great reason for businesses to consider making their home nearby waterways and allowing access for their occupants to get the most benefit from them.

With the city’s expected growth in population over the next 10 to 15 years, it is paramount that the private and public sector work together to focus even more on designing spaces for wellbeing. A great example is Finzels Reach, a developing area of Bristol’s CBD which saw last year the introduction of a hive of honeybees, supported by developer Cubex who are creating vibrant public spaces to live and work. They also built a Castle Bridge to connect Castle Park to Finzels Reach, allowing and encouraging access to the nearby park.

Bristol has demonstrated that ambitious initiatives can be well-embedded in the city’s structure and that people are healthier and happier when the environment around them is taken care of. Maybe that is why it is the happiest city in the UK![3]

[1] DfT press notice. Bristol appointed UK’s first cycling city £100m package for cycling in 12 towns and cities. 2008.

[2] Celis-Morales CA, Lyall DM, Welsh P, et al. Association between active commuting and incident cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality: prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2017;357:j1456. doi:10.1136/BMJ.J1456.

[3] Baker, H. Bristol named the happiest city in Britain. Bristol Live. 2019.

Embrace the circular economy to #MoveTheDate of Earth Overshoot Day

Earth Overshoot Day was July 29th this year, which means the global population is now using more natural resources than our planet can renew in a whole year. As of now, that gives us another 154 days of eating into the planet’s ecological overdraft before we start the count down again.

It sounds like an extreme predicament, but the body behind the metric – Global Footprint Network – believes we can act to mitigate it, pushing the date back to December 31st to represent equilibrium with ecosystem regeneration. As a major source of carbon emissions, the built environment has a major role to play in delivering this.

Our normal mode of living, which relies on the consumption and disposal of energy, water and materials, means we are on track to vast resource depletion, wide scale accumulation of solid waste in landfills and waste mountains, pollution across all natural cycles and, of course, global warming and the resultant climate change.

The behaviours driving the change are systemic across our lives and industries, and to common practice in the development and management of buildings.

While government regulations for sustainable construction are running late and still not ready to be issued, leaders in the building industry should be proactive to shape a restorative environment, both socially and ecologically, which fairly consumes and distributes resources.

Some parties are making these steps. But for those who aren’t, how should they proceed?

The circular economy has recently gained momentum among industry professionals and the media as a solution to waste and carbon reduction. Yet our industry is still far from closing the waste gap, because of a deeply ingrained culture of disposal which is hard to transition to a ‘reuse, recycle, repurpose’ model. This is a potentially complex transition, on which TFT is working with the UK Green Building Council to create guidance for the industry to navigate.

The pursuit of a fully circular economy involves safeguarding resources, minimising waste and considering local labour – which requires thinking more broadly beyond traditional silos.

For instance, our industry is well aware of regulations and design guidelines which set targets for energy efficiency and thermal comfort in use. However, the design approach often makes these targets hard to achieve, or even works against them.

One issue is the disproportionate amount of glass often used for tall and medium density buildings, which is not in line with the basic principles of energy conservation and environmental architecture. This design can lead to a higher energy demand to achieve optimal thermal comfort, causing additional carbon emissions in the process.

We need to design for the climate and location the building will be in, allowing enough flexibility to account for climate change adaptation in any future refurbishment. This will help to reduce our buildings’ energy demand and air pollution, with a positive contribution to thermal comfort as well.

Better collaboration and systemic understanding of the drivers and challenges to account for is essential to making the changes required to get our industry closer to circular economy.

TFT is currently involved in supporting our clients to define their climate change impact and reduce it by sustainable practices and procurement and energy efficient measures across the whole life cycle of a building.

We know that lifestyle changes can contribute to reduce global heating but changing our approach to the work we do can take longer and have a far bigger impact. As more developers and investors recognise how sustainable practices can be integrated to the built environment, we can as an industry help #MoveTheDate back to equilibrium, the 31st of December.

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 the cities in which our TFT offices are based, 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 examples 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