I wrote about trends in office development design back in September 2020 (which seems like a very long time ago, now) but since then things have been moving on apace on many of our projects. One in particular is very interesting.
105 Victoria Street is very much a forward-looking project. It incorporates many cutting edge trends – living walls, green roofs, even an urban farm – but it also includes more socially oriented features in the design. These include a bike workshop, a ‘village square’ market and a walk-and-talk meeting route winding through planting on the eleventh floor.
The village Square is open to members of the public as well as users of the building – the whole ground floor court is open to the street on the side. It will feature fresh fruit and vegetables on a curated basis, as well as other goods and services.
This walk-and-talk route is a circuit that goes through the offices and out on to the terrace, so that one-to-ones or small meetings can be held walking around. There is also a variety of spaces outside – for single working, and spaces for twos, fours and larger numbers so that outside space is available for meetings as well as lunch and breaks.
The topmost floor is available to all tenants. There is a restaurant, which takes a proportion of its produce from a rooftop urban farm, growing salads, herbs and vegetables. A social enterprise working with local groups for disadvantaged will plant and manage these containers, which are rotational (ie, partly off-site). We are heavily involved in the wide-reaching social strategy, which is a key aspect of how this building works.
The rear side of the building will have a ramp down to a cycle workshop which also has space for ‘Westminster Wheels’ – a local charity. The inter-twined ramp and staircase wrap around an impressive speciment tree. Westminster Wheels provides several public services focussing on community, employability and sustainability. It runs training programmes for the young community not in education which aim to lead to employment. The programme takes unused bikes (including one of mine!) otherwise sent for scrap and gives them a new lease of life by the fully trained on-site mechanics. The salvaged bikes are recycled and sold in the shop or donated back into the community. 400 bikes are donated back into the community annually to provide for those who would like to cycle to work and providing young children with the opportunity to learn to ride.
Although the social strategy is a key plank of the building’s wider strategy, its sustainability credentials are not just skin deep. All plant and tools on the site are run on electricity – there is no fossil-fuel plant or equipment at all. All the metal – steel and aluminium – is recycled and even the concrete is a result of a research programme by the developer for a ‘greener’ cement product.
Interestingly, BentallGreenOak, who are developing this with the Welput fund, have found that the sustainable credentials for the building led to more interest from funders than usual and effectively extended the investment horizon.
We’re looking forward to this building completing – not for a while yet, but also to see it in operation.