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TFT joins UKGBC Commercial Retrofit Task Group

With COP26 set for November 2021, a focal point for the conference will be the environmental impact of the built environment on our Paris Agreement targets for limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

The biggest question currently facing our industry is how do we reduce the built environment’s contribution of 39% of annual carbon emissions, and 36% of global energy consumption? The World Green Building Council (GBC) is tasking ten European GBCs, including the UKGBC, to answer this question with national roadmaps for decarbonising their respective built environment industries.

Ollie Morris, Senior Associate, Sustainability, has been selected to join this effort, focussing on decarbonising commercial real estate retrofit projects. Ollie will work with a group of other industry leaders to chart a course to drive down the carbon impacts of the sector.

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The UKGBC Roadmap will consist of two key components:

  • Carbon trajectory: A 1.5° aligned science-based trajectory for reducing built environment emissions that includes targets for relevant sub-sectors.
  • Report: A comprehensive report setting out the actions, policies and processes needed to manage the net zero transition in the built environment and achieve the trajectory targets, designed to complement the sector-specific roadmaps already in progress and ensure consistency between them.

What is the scope of the Commercial Retrofit Task Group?

The group’s task is to specify the decarbonisation implications of retrofit projects in commercial property and developing a timeline of solutions to bring them in to reality. This trajectory of carbon reduction targets and actions will contribute to understanding all the actions required across the lifecycle of the built environment in the UK. Furthermore, it will secure the support of relevant industry actors in delivering decarbonisation.

Specifically, the Commercial Retrofit task group will focus on three key areas of buildings’ carbon impacts:

  • Embodied carbon: reducing carbon emissions as a result of building construction, refurbishment and maintenance works
  • Operational carbon: reducing carbon emitted to heat, cool and ventilate buildings, as well as from lighting and hot water facilities
  • In-use carbon: reducing all emissions from services used in the course of a building’s daily operation, such as: lifts, IT systems, small power and plug loads

What comes next?

Ollie, along with the wider group will work on reviewing and updating the 2013 Low Carbon Route-Map produced by the GCB, considering the above factors against a 1.5 degree scenario.

Their recommendations will be formalised into a full report, which UKGBC will issue to the industry in a consultation this June/July, to capture a wider set of professional perspectives before presenting the findings at COP26 in Glasgow.

Find out more about sustainability at TFT.

Sustainable buildings: climate adaptation and whole life costing

As investors and occupiers place sustainability outcomes higher on their strategic priorities, TFT advice is helping project teams align their sustainable and commercial agendas. Here, we talk about climate change adaptation and whole life costing – two topics which directly marry up commercial and the sustainable concerns.

There are many opportunities to contribute to more sustainable outcomes across the building life-cycle, and to prove the commercial benefits of doing so. TFT Sustainability Associate, Oliver Morris, spoke at the RICS conference on this topic, drawing on TFT’s experience in project teams and as client advisers for building investors and occupiers alike.

Looking for an introduction to aligning commercial and sustainable outcomes? This article explains the importance of long-term thinking and TFT’s approach to design for performance, here.

In this article, we’ll discuss two issues which affect the whole project team and directly impact building longevity and value.

Climate change adaptation

One of the most acute risks to sustainable building performance for investors and building owners is the impact of extreme weather patterns.

The obvious impacts can include physical damage from wind, rain and flooding. But more extreme seasonal temperatures could negatively impact thermal comfort, or increase HVAC use to keep occupants comfortable through the year, which means more frequent plant maintenance or replacement.

Mitigating these risks means designing and building with future weather and climate projections in mind. The most adaptable and durable buildings will maintain their physical integrity and the comfort and wellbeing of its users – adding up to a better-performing asset in the long term.

Whole life cost analysis

In following a strategy for in-use performance, and factoring in the risks of climate change on a building’s future, whole-life costing analysis can help identify the value of building materials in terms of their contribution to a more useful lifespan.

Whole Life Costing allows us to understand the full picture of a building’s requirements across its lifecycle. It provides a commercial basis for improving specification and justifying sustainable materials or systems which improve the financial outlook across a building’s life.

By providing more transparency of potential costs through a building’s life cycle can give investors, development and asset managers more confidence in moving towards business ‘as unusual’ and realising the economic benefits of embedding sustainability as a core design principle. With the increasing Net Zero Carbon agenda within the industry undertaking Whole Life Costing with Whole Life Carbon (Confusingly the same acronym) assessments can highlight the relationship between reducing a building’s operational and embodied carbon emissions with operational costs.

These areas impact all aspects of the building lifecycle, and we at TFT have the scope to identify the opportunities and drive collective responsibility for acting on them. Challenging project teams and other stakeholders to move away from business as usual will be crucial to help us all advance better buildings for the future – and not a moment too soon.

Would you like more information on any of the subjects discussed in this article? Contact Mat Lown, TFT Partner and Head of Sustainability.

Sustainable buildings

TFT contributes to World GBC sustainable renovation report

The World Green Building Council (GBC) recognises the role of renovating building stock to boost economic recovery across Europe following the COVID-19 pandemic and its wider effects. To that end, the World GBC has issued guidance and case studies on leading sustainable building renovation programmes. Published under the EU-funded BUILD UPON2 project, the Starting a Renovation Wave Report (download link) is now available.

The report summarises the World GBC’s recommended approach to sustainable renovations:

  • Starting local with best practice case studies of sustainable building renovations.
  • Use leaders and regulators, including mandatory energy performance requirements to drive building standards such as the UK’s Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES).
  • Systemic impact tracking to enable cities and local authorities to understand the outcomes of their initiatives.
  • Convene diverse stakeholders across the building and construction value chain to solve sustainable renovation barriers together.

In terms of regulation, the UK’s MEES certification is a unique proposition in global real estate, because it imposes a minimum standard for a building to achieve before it is let or sold.

TFT is often brought in to advise investors and building owners on their buildings’ operational energy use, with a view to MEES and its impact on property or portfolio’s commercial prospects. No other country has a requirement as consequential as this in the market and, looking ahead, it’s possible the UK government will go on to introduce higher standards still.

Partner and Head of Sustainability Mat Lown contributed to the report’s deep dive on MEES in the UK, explaining how our clients are responding to the regulations and expect it to tighten in the near future.

“Of the several thousand properties and transactions that we’ve been involved in, we’ve only lodged two exemptions, which is because either we were able to improve the rating by accurately modelling the property and/or by our clients carrying out cost-effective improvements to secure a compliant rating. However, with the continue to let provisions kicking in for non-domestic property in 2023 and if the minimum standard tightens to a B in 2030, then I expect it will become more challenging to meet the standard and therefore, expect there to be an increase in the number of exemptions.

The future trajectory of MEES is very much on our clients’ radar with the acceptance that the minimum standard is likely to move to a B within the next 10 years.”

Mat Lown, TFT Partner and Head of Sustainability

How can construction projects achieve circular economy ambitions?

TFT has supported UKGBC's circular economy guidance since it launched in 2018

One of the greatest opportunities about the circular economy is also its greatest challenge: success will deliver, and relies on, systemic change. In the context of sustainable construction that means investors, contractors, consultants and construction supply chains must work together and follow the same strategies to do things differently.

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) highlighted that, of 50,000 buildings demolished every year, much of the 90% of waste which is recovered is then recycled into less valuable products or materials, as opposed to being reused. This leaves a huge environmental and financial opportunity for our industry to resolve.

The circular economy brings clear benefits to construction, including:

  • Reduced embodied carbon
  • Reduced landfill costs
  • Help to secure planning permission more easily
  • Reduced depletion of natural resources

TFT has supported UKGBC Circular Economy guidance from its conception in 2018. We do so because we believe it is becoming the most important tool for our industry to act on replacing material waste and carbon emissions with circular principles through our day-to-day work.

The latest stage of its guidance focusses on three changes of mindset and practice. Together, they will drive us closer to a circular process which results in a better environmental impact and lower project costs too.

1. Use the circular economy to inform building design (not the other way around)

Some investors and developers – those initiating the build or works in question – are more aware of circular economy principles than others, but invariably the steps they take to achieve them must come sooner.

Material inventories and assessment tends to be part of the design process, which results in a diminished scope for designing a building for circularity, so the advantages of the process are already proportionally reduced. These steps need to begin as early as RIBA Stage 0-1.

Our circular economy consultancy typically kicks in before this stage. At this point, we can advise on setting ambitions for the work then organising and communicating the process so that design teams can understand what existing materials we are working with, and coming up with the best design to suit their re-use.

2. Procure products as a service (PaaS) to improve installation, maintenance and replacement

As well as reuse, the UKGBC has released guidance on embracing products as a service (PaaS). The principle is to create a feedback loop which engages suppliers of building products such as lighting fixtures, steel tubing or flooring on a contract basis. This way, products are installed, maintained and decommissioned for refurbishment by the supplier, as opposed to being bought, used and discarded or recycled by different parties through the building or product lifecycle.

UKGBC describes lighting as a service (LaaS) to illustrate and encourage the demand for servicing over purchasing. The model results in greater efficiencies, longer product lifetime and specialist refurbishment and reuse or, as a last resort, recycling.

This How-to Guide takes project teams which are working on projects that are replacing lighting, through the process and project teams’ roles and responsibilities for applying LaaS. This guide provides an understanding of what information is required, who to involve and at which point in the programme.

A huge advantage we see for this approach is in re-evaluating the way maintenance contracts are procured. A closed loop approach owned by the manufacturer lends itself to better-performing fittings and a fully accountable maintenance regime by the product experts.

Furthermore PaaS can help support dilapidations-free leases and more flexible models of tenancy. If components are created and installed with ease of removal, dismantling and re-use in mind, that could be one less hurdle for tenants and landlords to negotiate at the end of a lease.  

Illustrating how the circular economy applies to product procurement, maintenance and replacement. From the UKGBC Circular Economy How-to Guide

3. Share circular economy responsibility across the whole design and construction team

Though the impetus will come from the client at the outset of a project, responsibility for meeting a circular ambition rests with the client’s entire delivery team. Over the course of the works, everyone from procurement, project management, main contractor, demolition contractor, design team, facilities management and inventory auditor will play a vital role and have responsibilities in progressing circular outcomes.

In our Development and Project Consultancy roles, TFT helps to orient project teams toward greater material reuse and waste reduction, using resources such as the UKGBC guidance. Doing so effectively means early involvement, as we suggest in point 1!

Further reading: UKGBC innovation insights

You can find out more about the UKGBC’s Circular Economy work, including the above points, here. In our support of the programme we have also been involved with two further pieces of guidance relating to how apply circular principles to construction works.

You can find out about those, here and here.

Newcastle’s The Gate: creating the future of leisure and retail

We know all too well that the retail sector is undergoing a period of transformation, but whether that means decline or rebirth seems to depend increasingly on the vision of a brand or store in question. Yes, shopping habits are changing, rendering many tricks of retail past irrelevant and unproductive, but we’re seeing new innovators and fast-moving incumbents take steps to get ahead of the curve. Familiar shopping centre and leisure brands are highly exposed to these challenges but, equally, by leveraging their large estates in the right way they can create a major advantage in a changing landscape.

The Gate is a retail and leisure complex situated in central Newcastle, which originally opened in 2002. It now plays host to 19 venues including nine food and drink outlets and five unique leisure activities including increasingly popular activity: escape rooms. With 18.65m tourists visiting Newcastle & Gateshead in 2018, a 3.5% increase from 2017[1], the Gate has had to rethink its offering to remain a popular destination for a broad range of visitors.

TFT has been lucky enough to be part of the transformation of The Gate, Newcastle, since it has been in the hands of investors The Crown Estate. As lead building consultant, we’re supporting its reinvigoration as a modern leisure destination by incorporating new and unique features to position it as a one-of-a-kind destination.

Jake Honor, project lead and Associate at TFT said:

“Since our involvement commenced on site in 2013, we have seen a shift in the retail and leisure market to becoming a much more challenging environment for landlords and tenants alike. We have also seen individual tenants more and more determined to overcome these challenges and best position themselves with a unique market offering.”

With several vacant units at the start of the 2019, it was all hands-on deck to achieve a complete makeover over the last 12 months. The transformations are clearly oriented towards a new generation of entertainment, including Cineworld’s first 4DX cinema in the North East which boasts ‘extreme sensory cinema’ capable of simulating effects like water, wind, scent, strobe lighting and motion to put you in the middle of the action. It was the largest project to date at The Gate at a value of £7m. But that’s not the only immersive entertainment on offer, with one of the largest gaming and virtual reality entertainment centre in the UK, YuMe, and The WonderBar and Mayfair Pub & Kitchen which offers guests interactive multiplayer darts tournaments, live music, sports events and more.

The 220,000sq ft retail wonderland is now able to set itself apart from its competitors by combining forward-thinking market insight and a readiness to adapt for a changing leisure sector. Supporting this transformation, TFT provided proactive and technically informed advice to ensure that the works would achieve the vision of The Crown Estate and the expectations of The Gate’s many future visitors. As more venues appraise the potential of a new generation of retail, leisure, or perhaps more accurately a hybrid of the two, the specifics of how such projects are carried out could be a deciding factor in their long-term viability.

Our projects and work streams for the site have been diverse; ranging from large scale full common area refurbishment work to individual unit enabling works, dilapidations and fit-out reviews, which has covered multiple TFT offices, disciplines and skill matrices.”

It is no secret that there is a high street crisis in the UK and the decline in shoppers is at a growing rate, but do experience-led retail offerings promise to reverse this loss? The Global Wellness Institute have reported that fitness and wellbeing industry sales have been thriving as more and more health-conscious individuals are making efforts to incorporate fitness into their daily regimes. Similarly, we are seeing more funding going into inclusive leisure activities for a wider customer profile, including disabled, elderly and young consumers.

“Looking forward we see significant potential for growth in the North East, with key infrastructure programmes rolled out with this family-friendly leisure centre paving the way for the sector, proving to be the best in its class.”

If you need a team of consultants with retail and leisure experience, and deep understanding of building materials and systems which those sectors demand, get in touch with us, we’d love to hear about your challenges.

To get in touch with Jake Honor, click here.

TFT’s involvement in the 2019 upgrades to The Gate included:

MAP Works: Project Management, Principal Designer & M&E services for The Crown Estate to replace sections of the main roof, the air handling units and provided a building management system and fire alarm upgrade works for the centre. 

Empire to Cineworld Refurbishment: Fit out review and monitoring of £7m refurbishment of the whole second floor level at The Gate to convert the old Empire cinema into Cineworld.

Sam Jacks to Mayfair Refurbishment: Fit out review and monitoring exercise of G10 fit out for new bar area.

Tiger Tiger to Eden Refurbishment: Fit out review, cost consultancy and monitoring of G11 fit out of new restaurant and bar area.

Bar Beyond to Wonderbar Refurbishment: Fit out review and monitoring of G5 to create the new Wonderbar from the former Bar Beyond.

Handmade Burger and Vacate unit F4 to YuMe Refurbishment:Landlord enabling works to facilitate YuMe occupation. Fit out review of YuMe to create one of the largest virtual reality units in the UK.

General Building Surveyor Roles:Maintenance Action Plan (MAP) for the next 10-years’ worth of maintenance works. Dilapidations of various units. Further feasibility appraisals for proposed projects.


[1] Major Events Help Tourism Grow In Newcastle and Gateshead. UMi. 2019.

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?

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.  

Longwater Avenue

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 worked 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!