Posts in Sustainability

Town Centre EV Infrastructure

Charging forward: Innovative solutions for the delivery of town centre EV infrastructure

October 16th, 2023 Posted by All, Sustainability

With just twelve years to go before the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, local councils are under tremendous pressure to deliver the much-needed town centre ev infrastructure for the electric vehicles that will replace them. However, creative regeneration strategies can offer win-win solutions for local authorities: unlocking the future prosperity of town centres whilst also creating opportunity to meet EV charging targets.

With a greater range of vehicles on the market and a looming Government ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles in 2035, the UK’s electric vehicle (EV) market is booming. Data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders reveals almost 22,000 electric vehicles were registered in November 2021, more than double the 10,345 registered in the same month the previous year.

However, the EV revolution could soon find itself veering off course as the availability of public charging infrastructure struggles to keep pace with demand. Local authorities, in particular, will need to play a key role in the delivery of this infrastructure, yet a report by the Local Government Association points to a ‘lack of coherent strategic direction’ on what and where to build. It says that many local authorities feel that they lack the appropriate skills and data to make investment decisions in what is seen as a fast-paced and evolving technological landscape.

At the same time, local authorities are already stretched dealing with the decline of their town centres and the long-term socio-economic impacts of the pandemic on their communities. However, as our work for local authorities in areas such as Lincolnshire proves, creative regeneration strategies can deliver on all fronts, unlocking investment, growth and the future prosperity of our town centres whilst also creating opportunity to meet EV charging targets.

In particular, we were recently appointed to design a scheme in rural Lincolnshire that could have a profound impact on the way local authorities reinvigorate their town centres and deliver much needed EV charging infrastructure at the same time. If successful, the LEP will use the scheme as a benchmark for others to follow in the region.

Taking its inspiration from a German concept trialled back in 2003 called Mobihub, our scheme sees a concentration of community and business activities integrated within an easily accessible transport interchange and will help meet the town’s challenges of an ageing population, low incomes, limited services and poor outward connectivity. In conceiving the design, we considered the future local needs of the town, with a dense collection of public and sustainable transport uses such as buses, a taxi rank, rental vehicles, car-share clubs and EV charging points, alongside small retail kiosks, offices, parcel storage/pick-up, and health service elements.

Designed to be as accessible and welcoming as possible, with plenty of green space and interlinked pedestrian walkways, the scheme can become an attraction in its own right; a place to go to as a shared workspace or to pick-up a parcel, meet friends for coffee and whilst you’re doing all those things, a place to charge your electric vehicle – whether that be car, van, e-bike or scooter.

Importantly, our concept can be scaled to the setting and its multiple uses designed to respond to local need. On larger sites for example, alongside an array of EV charging points, we could offer spaces for F&B pod units and co-working facilities. The mix and type of uses that are put side by side need to be well considered and, as with the scheme in Lincolnshire, uses should be closely linked to – rather than competing with – other projects in the town to deliver holistic local centre regeneration.

It is also solution that can go some way to addressing inequalities in transport and EV charging provision. Whilst the majority of current electric car owners have access to off-street parking, around 6.6 million households do not and will need to rely on a public-charging network.

Locating these chargers is often a headache for local councils, who are already under pressure to install more bus and cycle lanes on limited road space, let alone chargepoint infrastructure. On-street charging can also give rise to civic disputes about car parking space, chargers creating street clutter and making pavements difficult to navigate. It would make far more sense to site EV chargers in a dedicated, easily accessible location that promotes multiple transport modes and other socio-economic activity.

Utilising underused or brownfield town centre sites to create these hubs, as we are doing in Lincolnshire, would be the perfect solution for local authorities, allowing them to clean up the town’s infrastructure, integrate chargers with wider transport plans and create a destination that can bring footfall back into parts of the centre. Further, with the Local Government Association warning that demand for operators is now outstripping supply and that ‘chargepoint operators (are) cherry-picking the best locations’, our idea of a transport-hub style solution, with its mix of transport, community and business uses, can create a critical mass of users to make the location commercially attractive and help local authorities secure charge point operators and electric mobility service providers.

With now less than twelve years to go before the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, it is clear that a massive task lies ahead to ensure the move towards e-mobility is a success. Whilst this move will require a huge investment by local authorities in land and infrastructure, embedding that investment within the context of town centre regeneration presents new opportunities for commercial and community enterprise alongside a balanced, healthy and sustainable transport mix that meets the current and future needs of communities.

Charting a Course Through ISO 14001

Charting a course through ISO 14001

February 9th, 2023 Posted by All, News, Sustainability

Last year, we were thrilled to announce that we had been awarded certification for ISO 14001:2015, the international standard for designing and implementing an Environmental Management System (EMS). This achievement was especially important to us, as sustainability has always been at the heart of our business strategy and fully supports our goal to be a net-zero carbon business in line with Government targets.

At first, the process of gaining ISO 14001 can appear to be a daunting task; the design and implementation of an EMS requires extensive documentation, careful decision making and a considerable time allocation. Fortunately, we had already made a number of key decisions to limit our environmental impact and our prior experience working towards ISO 9001 accreditation for Quality Management had prepared us for the types of processes involved. Nonetheless, the guidance and recommendations provided by the ISO-approved assessor were invaluable.

Creating an Aspect and Impact Register is a crucial part of the ISO 14001:2015 process, identifying environmental impacts and efficiencies created by business activities. By listing all the activities included within the scope of our EMS, we were able to evaluate the significance of each one and consider which we should prioritise and how we might tackle them.

One of our biggest early decisions was to switch energy providers, moving to 100% renewable provision with Corona Energy. Another area we quickly looked at was our office waste streaming. Whilst our main waste collection was already streamed, we decided to be more ambitious with the waste directly inside our studio as well. We have introduced battery and pen recycling and are donating coffee grounds to local allotments. Alongside this, we’re recycling our printer toner and looking to make paper resources go further by reusing as much as we can internally.

Architectural Assistant, Adam Caffrey, who has been instrumental in pushing the practice towards the achievement of ISO 14001 certification, said: “Our sustainability team meet regularly to share ideas and we have lots of things planned for the coming year. It’s been a great start so far and we’ve already implemented some quick wins – but some of these ‘quick wins’ can actually make a big difference. For instance, the change of bins in the studio, which now separates waste, makes you more aware about what can and can’t be recycled.” 

Lydia Coupe, HR and Office Administrator, added: “We’ve approached changes in the office in the best possible way, by making small changes that have a regular impact on improving our environment. For example, we have replaced the existing toilets with dual-flushing systems to reduce our water usage. We also found a free resource to recycle batteries which has proved to be super useful, not only in the office but with colleagues bringing in batteries from home, especially so after the Christmas break. Batteries are often incorrectly thrown into the general waste, which can prove to be dangerous causing fires. It’s a real no brainer, and helps on all levels.”

In the meantime, we have been assessing our current direct and indirect emissions in accordance with Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) requirements to better understand our overall carbon footprint. This not only has benefits for the environment, but can help futureproof us as a business, potentially allowing us to create efficiencies and reduce costs, prepare for future regulations and better meet the procurement demands of clients, who will increasingly require transparent emissions data.

Not only do we now better understand our overall carbon footprint (including an average total per staff member), but in assessing the emissions from different business activities, we can set reduction targets across different areas of our business for the coming financial year. In particular, we want to see a reduction in our electricity and gas usage, as well as water consumption, and evaluate sustainable options for business travel.

We are also committed to strengthening environmental considerations in our design processes, improving staff knowledge with continuing professional development. Last year, for example, members of the team took part in a series of lectures at the University of Lincoln to learn about the latest research into BREEAM and Passivhaus, as well as the whole-life impact of a building.

Director, Tom McNamara, said: “Whilst looking to reduce our carbon footprint is a key objective for us, the influence we can have on our environment as designers is fundamental to our core values. We found the process of working towards ISO 14001 accreditation very enlightening and it made us think hard around challenging further our environmental standards.”

Urban Edge awarded ISO 14001 certification

September 30th, 2022 Posted by All, News, Sustainability

We are pleased to announce that we have been awarded certification for ISO 14001:2015, the international standard for designing and implementing an Environmental  Management System (EMS). Alongside our ISO 9001:2015 accreditation for Quality Management, ISO 14001 accreditation continues our longstanding commitment to reducing our impact on the environment, improving our operational processes and providing the highest quality of service for clients.

Sustainability has always been at the heart of our business strategy and forms a part of our everyday thinking, both in our business operations and the design solutions we deliver for clients. In recent years, we have helped Nando’s design and deliver its first ever 100% eco-friendly restaurant in Cambridge, are working with Inspired Villages to deliver the UK’s first net-zero retirement community in Bedfordshire and have recently completed a BREEAM Excellent industrial scheme for Aberdeen Standard Investments in Croydon.

Adopting ISO 14001 means we will continue to measure and reduce our environmental impact and fully supports our goal to be a net-zero carbon business by 2030.

Director, Tom McNamara, says: “We have held regular Sustainability Group meetings to discuss the practice’s environmental responsibilities for some considerable time and had already implemented a number of processes and measures to improve our environmental performance. Our decision to work towards ISO 14001 accreditation has more clearly defined some of that activity and ensures we now have robust environmental management systems throughout every aspect of the business.

“It’s important that we work together as an industry to limit the impact of our activities on the planet and  we have been privileged to work with many forward-thinking clients who are themselves on the same journey towards net-zero carbon. Our ISO 14001 accreditation is further reassurance that we can consistently meet the rigorous requirements of our clients as we all work towards the same goal.”

As part of the ISO 14001 process we have developed a framework for establishing and reviewing the practice’s environmental targets and objectives, all of which will be embedded at a strategic level. Key objectives include promoting the health and wellbeing of staff, promoting environmental and sustainability policies internally and evaluating sustainable options for business travel. We are also looking to expand our existing recycling measures, as well as ways to reduce water consumption and energy use and have recently switched energy providers, moving to 100% renewable provision with Corona Energy.

We are also committed to strengthening environmental considerations in our design processes, improving staff knowledge with continuing professional development. Earlier this year, for example, members of the team took part in a series of lectures at the University of Lincoln to learn about the latest research into BREEAM and Passivhaus, as well as the whole-life impact of a building.

Tom concludes: “Whilst achieving ISO 14001 certification can present many challenges, we have been particularly delighted by the enthusiasm from all members of staff and, in particular, we would like to thank Adam Caffrey who was instrumental in pushing this forward. Actively reducing our carbon footprint is very important to everybody at Urban Edge, both in terms of our day-to-day operations and in the legacy we leave through the design of our projects.”

Industrial strength for net-zero

June 29th, 2022 Posted by All, Logistics, Sustainability

Industrial and logistics is one of the property classes to have emerged stronger than ever from the global pandemic, with increased investor interest in the sector accounting for 27% of all investment into UK real estate in 2021.

However, the investment boom in industrial and logistics arrives at the same time that the United Nations has declared a climate emergency and institutional investors are looking to mitigate the risks to their property portfolios from climate change and deliver better Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) outcomes for all their stakeholders. Developers of industrial and logistics property are coming under increasing pressure to satisfy the ESG criteria of investors and meet the UK Government’s legally binding target of Net-Zero Carbon by 2050.

Owners and developers of industrial and logistics property are also needing to meet the expectations of occupiers, many of whom have their own ESG and net-zero strategies, as well as a requirement to look after the health and wellbeing of their staff. According to Cushman & Wakefield’s recent ‘Industrial Goes Green’ report, over 80 percent of industrial occupiers are asking about sustainable warehouse solutions and 60 percent of them would like their facilities to be green-certified.

Designing and delivering sustainable schemes

For those of us charged with the design and delivery of industrial and logistics property, the rapid influence of these pressures is evident to see, with owners, developers and operators looking to upgrade the sustainability of their schemes. Here at Urban Edge, we’ve received a number of recent enquiries from industrial and logistics clients looking to improve the sustainability of their schemes or to design and deliver net-zero buildings. Where targeting BREEAM Excellent was once a rarity and something to shout about, it’s now rapidly becoming the bare minimum.

Our design for a new 95,000 sq.ft industrial distribution warehouse on the Erdington Industrial Estate in Birmingham, for example, is targeting BREEAM Excellent. Likewise, we have recently completed the redevelopment of a former factory site in Croydon to provide a high quality Class B development for modern industrial operators and have, in the past six months, been directed by our client to design and deliver the scheme to net-zero.

At the same time, we are currently working with industrial and logistics property owners who are looking to decarbonise their existing portfolio of stock, improve their energy efficiency and find ways to achieve net-zero.

Rising energy costs have, of course, had their part to play in some of the decision making, as too has impending legislation. Owners of existing industrial and logistics property will need to keep an eye on the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) which is expected to extend further to non-domestic properties by 2030 and require an EPC grade B or above. This will be of particular concern for landlords with more historic property portfolios as significant retrofit measures may be required to meet the new energy-efficiency regulations. We would advise landlords to futureproof their portfolios against regulatory changes by seeking advice sooner, rather than later, so that a detailed profile of a building or buildings can be undertaken to decide where and what interventions are needed.

The net-zero journey

Whilst net-zero is fast becoming the ‘must have’ for owners and developers seeking finance or looking to attract and retain top-drawer tenants, we must also pause to acknowledge that the industry is at the very start of its net-zero journey, with differing interpretations of net-zero clouding matters further.

In truth, most current net-zero buildings are primarily targeting the elimination of fossil fuels (net-zero energy), but there is a clear distinction between operational carbon and embodied carbon. Put simply, operational carbon emissions are those associated with the energy used to run the building, whilst embodied carbon emissions are those associated with the materials and products used in its construction and across the building’s whole life. A true net-zero carbon building would need to address both of these sources of carbon, without recourse to major offsetting.

Net-zero has proved particularly challenging in the industrial and logistics sector where institutional standards for the specification of buildings have dominated for a long time and many developers and designers have just stuck with what they know. This is gradually starting to change, driven primarily by the demands of modern occupiers who not only want smarter and more efficient space, but also sustainability and wellness initiatives to meet their ESG benchmarks and attract and retain quality employees.

You can see this reflected at our scheme in Erdington, where our design not only maximises the site with a single 95,000 sq.ft building, split into two independent units, but also proposes a number of interventions and initiatives to improve energy performance, reduce air pollution and improve local air quality. Available roof space has been fitted with PV technology, whilst car-share spaces are to be included on the site to encourage shared journeys and 12 EV charging bays are provisioned for electric vehicles.

For the industrial and logistics sector to start delivering fully net-zero carbon buildings, a number of challenges lie ahead, not least tackling the predominant use of steel in construction which has very high embodied carbon. Whilst we’ve spoken to a number of progressive industrial and logistics developers who are exploring the possibilities of timber frame and cladding, insurance hurdles remain due to perceived fire and water risk. Hybrid construction models, such as the use of a concrete core and base as recently proposed by insurance research group RISCAuthority, could provide a way forward to allow for an increased use of timber and other sustainable products whilst mitigating the safety concerns. We will watch with interest how the situation develops.

Early engagement the key to a greener future

Clearly, delivering on commercial expectations, maintaining productivity and profitability, whilst ensuring buildings are highly sustainable or net-zero is an extremely fine balancing act and requires a deep understanding of the industrial and logistics sector’s needs, coupled with experience of sustainable design and technical know-how. Early engagement with experienced architects is key as we can consider sustainability and energy efficiency at all stages of design from site considerations, design and masterplanning, construction and all the way to a building’s operation.

As buildings are currently responsible for approximately 25 percent of UK CO2 emissions, with around 30 percent of those emissions from non-domestic buildings, industrial and logistics real estate has an important role to play in meeting the UK’s overall net-zero Carbon targets. Whilst net-zero is challenging, it also opens up opportunity and will secure a long-term future for companies operating within the sector.

Dave Frost | Senior Associate Director

Darren Hodgson contributes to significant new ARCO Grey Going Green report on net-zero in the integrated retirement community

June 14th, 2022 Posted by All, News, Senior Living, Sustainability

We are delighted to have contributed to ARCO’s Grey Going Green report, published this week, which highlights how the integrated retirement community sector can tackle the net zero carbon challenge.

Drawing on our experience working with Inspired Villages to deliver the UK’s first net zero carbon (regulated energy) retirement community at Millfield Green in the village of Caddington, we set out some of our key learnings on net zero for both parties, the lessons that need to be taken further forward and the important questions clients who haven’t yet embarked on this path need to ask of themselves.

ARCO’s introduction to the report, which has seen members of its expert Advisory Council come together to highlight different areas of the net zero carbon agenda, states that “Integrated retirement communities can’t just have the longevity of older people as their mission. They must also have the longevity of our planet right at their core… the ambition of this report is to help set the integrated retirement community sector on the right track; to provide a strong foundation from which operators of all kinds can draw expertise and put net zero right at the heart of their work.”

Millfield Green and other similar integrated retirement community schemes we are working on in the Inspired Villages portfolio are leading the way on net zero and provide valuable lessons and insight for the sector to take forward.

Darren Hodgson, Senior Associate Director, said: “We are pleased to have contributed to this important report and share our experiences of delivering net zero on real life projects throughout the UK. In sharing this knowledge, the integrated retirement communities sector can work together to ensure that the route to net zero carbon is both practicably and commercially achievable, meeting the needs of investors with an increasing focus on ESG solutions and discerning customers who want homes that are cleaner, greener and healthier.”

ARCO’s Chief Executive, Michael Voges, added: “With over 70,000 homes in integrated retirement communities and the sector set for rapid growth, we’ve got a key role to play in meeting the net zero carbon challenge. Our Advisory Council experts have some great insights on this issue, and we’re delighted they have worked together to produce this extremely timely report.”

If you would like further information on our work on net zero integrated retirement communities, please contact Darren Hodgson at