View on 2017: Are Sir David Attenborough’s Green Skyscrapers Coming To London?

DMZ‘ers may have seen Sir David’s Attenborough’s impassioned speech at the conclusion of his epic Planet Earth II series, where he made a public plea for more green, eco and nature friendly cities.

We take a closer look at recent innovations in green skyscrapers – will London will be the next mega-city to embrace green developments? It appears Hemel Hempstead is already one step ahead…

Speaking on top of The Shard, Attenborough urged developers to create buildings with nature in mind
Speaking on top of The Shard, Attenborough urged developers to create buildings with nature in mind. Source: YouTube

London seems to be approving huge skyscraper developments on a daily basis.

The Vase building in Blackfriars, 22 Bishopsgate in the City and Spire Tower in Canary Wharf are just a few of the recently confirmed new additions. All buildings impressive in their own right, but all predominantly glass, cement and steel based structures with little to no attempt made to incorporate Attenborough’s eco-friendly vision of the future.

Compare them to conceptual builds in mainland Europe, such as the Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) in Milan, Italy. Designed by ‘star-chitect’ Stefano Boeri, the two mixed residential/commercial use buildings will provide urban habitats for birds and will also create a humid micro-climate that produces oxygen whilst shading residences from harsh sunlight.

Boeri is keen to promote how his building will positively affect Milan, “the creation of a number of vertical forests in the city will be able to create a network of environmental corridors which will give life to the main parks in the city”.

Closer to home, in Hemel Hempstead The Beacon development boasts it’s “the worlds most sustainable residential tower”. Residents will enjoy exclusive access to an underground automated robot valet car parking system alongside access to the Tesla Model 3 and BMW i3 as part of their membership to the UK’s first Electric Car Club.

Most interestingly, The Beacon claims residents will have no electricity or heating bills for the entirety of their stay, the buildings Solar PV panels will efficiently generate all energy at no extra cost. Lumiere Developments also claim the on-site rainwater harvesting system will dramatically reduce water bills, leading to a total yearly savings of approximately £10,000 on living costs. An impressive stat.

“It’s not about climate change alone – it’s about human life. I don’t have to be a tree hugger, I don’t have to make the choice between luxury and sustainability” said Ambi Singh, commercial director of Lumiere Developments.

Due for completion in 2018, developers claim 40% of the block has sold off-plan already, equating to millions in turnover for the project.

Prices range from £218,000 for a starter home to £1 million for a penthouse in the 17-storey tower, this 3 bedroom apartment is still available for a cool £525,000.

At just under £600 per square foot for a property in Hemel Hempstead, the developers are obviously hoping would-be residents will be lured in by the prospect of no monthly bills.

Rendering of a bedroom in The Beacon, Hemel Hempstead
Rendering of a bedroom in The Beacon, Hemel Hempstead

London’s Walkie-Talkie building (aka 20 Fenchurch Street) was completed in 2014 and is currently one of the most sustainable, eco-friendly skyscrapers in the Capital. The structure has the capacity to produce 27,000 kWh (kilowatt hours) per year via its roof solar panels, which sounds impressive until you compare it against The Beacon which will produce a whopping 876,000kWh per year – thirty-two times more electricity.

London’s Walkie-Talkie skyscraper: beautifully designed, but is it green enough for the 21st century? Source: Flickr

DMZ understands that the inclusion of renewable technology within skyscrapers is not the final word on creating a ‘green building’ – sustainably sourced materials, recycling construction waste and the broader project management are all key factors. However, at the moment it appears modern skyscrapers in London are simply tipping their hat to sustainability, acknowledging its importance without really changing the infrastructure of the project in the way The Beacon or Bosco Verticale has.

As a vocal critic of the wide-scale air pollution in London, DealMakerz think Mayor Sadiq Khan or Deputy Mayor for Housing James Murray should be implementing much stronger incentives for developers to ‘go green’ when proposing plans for new skyscrapers. In addition to this, if developers such as Luminere were to privately reveal the range of profit margin available on green builds this could act as another incentive, providing the numbers were healthy.

Will we see Attenborough-style green cities in the future? Most likely, yes. We just need one developer to propose a truly green structure to kick the market into action. This may not be a sentence written very often, but; maybe we should look to Hemel Hempstead for inspiration.

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