Sustainability

World Green Building Week special: When value engineering costs the earth

In the run up to World Green Building Week, we’ve been thinking about its #ActOnClimate campaign. In particular, we’ve been thinking about how project managers and quantity surveyors can drive design teams to improve an area that is often missed out on in climate talks: value engineering.

Carbon reduction in buildings has come a long way but we are still behind the curve compared to other industries. Why? Put simply, the willingness to pay for it is still lacking. Quantity surveyors control the purse strings and understand how funds can be spent wisely, but can we factor more sustainable decisions in to the process?

This week, we are releasing an article written by Natalia Ford, Energy & Sustainability Consultant at TFT and Eva MacNamara, Associate at Expedition Engineering to highlight how the design team can do better for our future.


When value engineering costs the Earth

As part of multidisciplinary project teams, members collaborate to achieve a balance of several drivers whilst meeting the client’s brief.

Over the last year, over 1500 organisations comprising architects, engineers, contractors, consultants, and project managers have signed up to the ‘Declare’ movement[i], committing to undertake design and construction with significantly less carbon. This is a leap forward in terms of sustainable development intentions by a large portion of the built environment sector.

However, moving away from bolt on sustainability services towards integrated, holistic and sustainable system design requires a fundamental rethink of the design process. And yet one of the fundamental steps that the sector needs to take is to integrate three key gatekeepers of our build processes: project managers, quantity surveyors and the procurement chain.

“Value engineering is used to solve problems and identify and eliminate unwanted costs, whilst improving function and quality.”


Designing Buildings Wiki

Value engineering for good

In its best possible incarnation, value engineering can get the best out of a design. Some everyday examples of how value engineering can benefit the environment around us include:

  • Using a salvaged/reconditioned raised access floor system instead of installing a brand new one. 
  • Prolonging the life of well-maintained HVAC systems rather than automatically replacing them because the original systems have exceeded CIBSE life expectancy guidelines.
  • Using natural materials to replace more carbon intensive, mass produced materials such as PVC.
  • Designing out components – e.g. avoiding the use of mastic and sealants to waterproof joints.
  • Careful modelling of building performance in use to optimise plant size.

However, at its worst, value engineering could literally cost us the earth. The decisions designers and contractors make now must move us towards Net Zero and it is fundamentally important that those in control of budgets understand the impact of changes to an optimised low carbon design. A tight specification that integrates carbon is essential for good intentions not to be undermined by contractual ‘opportunities’.

Never has a good brief been more important

Clients need to lead in their requirements for moving towards Net Zero. Our respective Declare movements demand that we design and build in the right way. However, if the same goal isn’t shared by our clients, it is quite possible that whilst the value engineering process may satisfy increases in value for cost, programme and quality, the effect on climate and carbon isn’t quantified in the same way. 

So, how do we change our processes to achieve a sustainable built environment?

1. Baking and knitting skills – a Project Manager’s discipline

Firstly, project managers are responsible for a setting the tone and the ambition of the project, not to mention the considerable amount of “knitting” that has to happen between the different disciplines. Knowing that sustainability should be baked in from RIBA Stage 1, and not the last thing on the DTM agenda, or bringing in sustainability consultants purely for a planning submission, changes how sustainability is managed and considered throughout the design phase. Advocating to clients at RIBA Stage 0 for a sustainability process to be included can drastically change the project outcomes and value (Yes, even at RIBA Stage 0 there are issues that sustainability professionals can shed light on such as future proofing and circular economy!)

2. Carbon – a Quantity Surveyor’s dream

Secondly, the best Quantity Surveyors (QS) understand the balance of drivers that a design team works with and how best value is attained. Many of these drivers are qualitative and subjective. Carbon, on the other hand, is mostly quantitative* and is highly suited to being part of the QS domain. They measure what they can measure very well, and not what they can’t. Carbon needs to be another column on the QS cost plan.

*Using PAS 2080, EN 15978, the RICS Methodology and some LCA software

3. Procurement – a direct cost link we can’t ignore

Procurement is where the rubber meets the road in terms of carbon. Whether the years of low carbon design work and planning is seen through to the end of construction will be determined by how closely the procurement chain, which can be highly fragmented, follows the product and performance specification.

Designers and contractors need to bring the PM and QS communities and the procurement chain with us on the multiple sustainability narratives we are working through as a sector including low carbon, whole life carbon and cost, and circular economy. Sustainability professionals understand how a value engineering tweak can significantly impact on these sustainability outcomes. QS professionals are well placed to understand how the desirable sustainability outcomes can impact on the other traditional client drivers. Striking that balance and finding our new normal is difficult but currently, the balance is still weighted towards cost and business directives.


Including these disciplines to achieve the sustainability objectives of a project will contribute to making sustainability a front runner in the value engineering balancing act.

Let’s value engineer the Earth in.

[i] Construction Declares www.constructiondeclares.com covering Architects, Building Services, Civil Engineers, Contractors, Landscape Architects, Project Managers and Structural Engineers Declare pages.

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: long-term thinking and design for performance

Sustainable buildings are no longer a specialist’s responsibility. Every stakeholder in the building design, construction, management and maintenance processes can contribute to more sustainable outcomes, so long as they work towards a common goal. They key to aligning these different roles is in matching up sustainable best practice with a better commercial outlook for the project.

TFT Sustainability Associate, Oliver Morris, recently joined a RICS conference panel to discuss how this can be achieved, drawing on our experience as part of project teams and client advisers for building investors and occupiers alike.

So how can project teams and clients contribute to more sustainable buildings and the commercial outlook for their next project?

Sustainable buildings are more valuable in the long-term

Developers and investment funds are increasingly following property strategies which prioritise long-term sustainability and occupant well-being. Their confidence is bolstered by an industry which is proving its experience in delivering these outcomes but also providing greater certainty of the costs involved. The good news is that project teams engage more fully with the proper application of sustainable design and construction principles from the outset.

However, major schemes tend to embrace this process more fully than smaller or less high-profile buildings. Budget limitations can mean that projects aim to simply meet regulations, not exceed them. The problem is that regulations are evolving continually: while buildings may still be ‘compliant’ in the future, in a market of newer and higher performing buildings those assest are at risk of becoming under-valued or stranded.

Our solution is to advocate for a beyond-compliance approach at an early stage to avoid the risk of stranded assets down the line.

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

Designing for performance beyond compliance

TFT is a delivery partner for the Better Buildings Partnership (BBP) Design for Performance programme. The BBP aims to tackle the performance gap: the difference between how buildings are designed to perform, and how they function after the project is finished and the occupants move in.

Projects which rely on design intent alone to measure building performance, miss out on the most important indicator of success: the experience of the buildings’ users over time.

Designing for performance means gathering data on how the finished building is used by its occupants, and how well its component parts meet their needs. Operational targets can refer to aspects like energy efficiency and occupant satisfaction levels, broken down to whichever metrics are most important to the key stakeholders.

Choosing the right indicators and monitoring their performance is the best way to ensure that an asset is delivering value for its occupants, and therefore sustainable returns for its owners.

If you’d like to know about evaluating the impact of sustainable building decisions, or about climate change adaptation, our follow-up article on this topic is here.

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

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.

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.

Sustainability and wellbeing standards re-aligned: WELL Crosswalks

The International Well Building Institute (IWBI) has released an update to the WELL crosswalk tool following the release of WELL version 2. The update aims to make this certification more accessible, impactful and better localised to its users around the world, by aligning WELL with sustainability assessments like BREEAM and LEED.

The latest release enables WELL version 2, as a standard for human health and wellbeing, to mesh with the most updated version BREEAM 2018, the leading sustainability assessment in the world – on which we advise many clients’ strategy and implementation across their schemes.

There are few synergies as connected and complementary as sustainability for both our planet and for people everywhere. Longevity is at the heart of the term “sustainability” – preserving and enhancing what we have now for generations to come.

From IWBI’s introduction to their latest WELL v2/ BREEAM crosswalk tool

But what impact does this have on our work, and for client projects?

Simply, the crosswalk tool insures that WELL version 2 and BREEAM New Construction 2018 cater to new developments across the UK, meaning that requirements for both are better aligned and can be met more efficiently.

Looking further ahead, this latest update shows the power of engagement with standards bodies. We have been proactive in communicating with IWBI for the WELL building standard to adapt and evolve for a better fit with other industry standards within the UK.

Our voice, along with those of other outspoken users in the wellbeing and sustainability community, has been well heeded by IWBI, which is clearly interested in developing its work to fit the needs of its users, and in providing a flexible standard for a globally developed WELL community.

It’s a great sign for continued advancement – both of the standard and therefore the quality of the buildings it contributes to.

My MIPIM: Lisa Gunn

Lisa Gunn, TFT’s Head of Business Development and Marketing, suggests a little sustainable self-reflection and wants to hear new ideas for future-proof buildings this year on the Croisette (or during the Cycle to MIPIM ride beforehand, if you can catch her!).

What do you hope to see more of at MIPIM this year?

Though sustainability has been a prominent theme in previous years, I am happy to say it will almost certainly be even more widespread this year as the global environmental condition becomes more of a mainstream concern. What I would like to add to those conversations is a little self-reflection on our own industry. When we’re advising our clients on measures to improve their sustainability and wellness credentials, are we consistently applying that thinking to our own industry operations?

Will proptech set the agenda at MIPIM 2019? Should it?

As the market matures, we may be approaching a period of consolidation in proptech. So perhaps a gathering like MIPIM is a good place to understand where the real innovation and long-term value is. It’s likely next year will present a very different landscape of tools or services, so we’ve got to look closely at what could grow and what might disappear.

What would be your advice to a MIPIM first timer?

Two things:

  1. Take time to get away from the madness! MIPIM can be an intense experience, so step away from the Palais and see the old town and Cannes Castle on the top of the hill. The views from the Castle at dusk views are stunning.
  2. Don’t lose sight that MIPIM is work, and that you’re most likely attending as an ambassador for your business, and always as a representative of the industry too. Drinks are everywhere, so know your limits or devise a strategy to limit your consumption without having to duck out of the action. I find early meetings are some of the most productive of the day, so make sure you’re able to get up and make them count!

Is there an industry topic you feel is not getting enough attention?

Though it’s often brought up, we don’t yet have an industry consensus on the skills shortage, or a shared course of action to remedy it. Brexit will only make this issue more acute for construction and affect the viability of buildings due to increased costs of labour. 

Who would you like to meet at MIPIM?

I’m fascinated by Innovations in flexible use of buildings – not just multi-use developments, but buildings which have multiple lives planned in to them from the outset.

One example I’ve enjoyed seeing is from the U.S., where AvalonBay Communities has created a parking garage which anticipates a time when ride-sharing services or self-driving cars reduce car reliance (and our need for parking places).

With some smart design, such as level rather than inclined floors, the building is designed for future lives as shops, a gym or a theatre, for instance. I’d be very interested to meet with ambitious funds or owners who are applying this kind of long-term view to their assets.

Oliver Morris becomes a UKGBC Future Leader

The Future Leaders program is run by the UKGBC and is focused on facilitating the development of unique leadership skills for a group of the industry’s rising stars. Participants are challenged to develop their problem solving and leadership skills, and to put these practices back into their own organisations to create truly sustainable businesses.

Ollie Morris, Senior Sustainability Consultant at TFT, is one of 24 successful applicants on this year’s programme which kicks off in January 2019. He’ll be provided a unique opportunity to work alongside peers over a 5 month period, to address critical issues facing the industry.

Together the group will be challenged to identify innovative and disruptive solutions for issues like the housing crisis, diversity in the built environment sector, building’s whole life carbon emissions and the circular vs linear economy.

Ollie’s motivation to join the programme stems from his belief that personal and emotive engagement is key to sparking real change and promoting innovation and buy-in from the industry as we move towards a holistic, sustainable future. The leadership skills gained through the course will empower Ollie to further embed sustainable practices across TFT and to engage with colleagues and our partners to interrogate design and construction practices and instigate positive behavioural change.

You can read more about the programme here.

New CPD event added to calendar

TFT is running another CPD event in London on 6th December, focusing on building viability. Topics covered will include Rights of Light, Sustainability, Dilapidations and Fire Safety. Some of the issues being addressed will be:

  • The factors to consider for maintaining the long-term potential of the building
  • Why fixtures and chattels can cost or save you money when negotiating dilapidations
  • Why calculating operational energy demands at the design stage is key to identifying opportunities for minimising energy consumption and costs
  • What might the Government ban on combustible cladding materials mean for existing stock?

To book your place, click here. Please note that this is a strictly RSVP event and space is limited. Attendance will be confirmed following registration. There will be two sessions to choose from, morning and afternoon, to suit diaries. One starts at 8am and the other at 4pm. Please state which session you would prefer.

Hattrick of shortlists for TFT in 2018

This year, we have been named finalist for the Property Awards, the BusinessGreen Leaders Awards and the EG Awards. They come about following our dedicated effort to deliver better buildings, and happier, healthy occupants, creating the BPF Aftercare Guide and providing leading energy and sustainability advice to some of the biggest commercial property investors, respectively. TFT has been acknowledged as a candidate for providing the UK’s leading sustainability advisor. We believe this is a result of us hiring the best people; working on the biggest projects for blue chip clients and delivering market leading thought leadership.

With the BusinessGreen Leaders Awards right around the corner and the EG Awards in September, we look forward to meeting up with our fellow nominees and hearing about success stories from all corners of the commercial property market.

The BusinessGreen Leaders Awards takes place Wednesday 27th June at The Brewery London. To find out more, click here. The EG Awards takes place 19 September at Grosvenor House Hotel. To find out more, click here.