Covid-19 has dramatically changed the way we live and work, accelerating several existing trends, such as the notion of hybrid working and increased demand for regional workspace. The pandemic has also forced us to look at the world differently, with many of us now valuing our natural surroundings considerably more than we did pre-Covid. On top of this, recent events such as COP26 have brought the global climate crisis into sharp focus for businesses and individuals alike.
The World Built Environment Forum reports that the real estate sector consumes over 40% of global energy per annum, that buildings are the origin of 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and use around 40% of raw materials.
Strict ESG criteria have therefore been introduced for property developers, with the goal of a zero-carbon economy in mind. One way of reducing emissions and waste is to repurpose and retrofit existing structures. Already, property developers and investors are implementing sustainable development practices, turning existing or derelict buildings into beautiful residences, hotels, offices, and so on.
Indeed, amongst big corporates, offices in buildings with a history are a growing trend. For instance, Google moved into the old Port Authority building in Chelsea, New York, and Apple chose to house its headquarters within the repositioned and repurposed Battersea Power Station in London. Adaptive reuse and retrofitting is far more sustainable than ground-up development, with the added benefit of delivering buildings that retain their character and past charm.
At BizSpace, we create value for our stakeholders by acquiring, repositioning and operating a portfolio of regional workspaces that have been redeveloped, rather than knocked down and rebuilt. As a result, many of our business centres – home to different types of workspaces, from offices to industrial workshops - are repurposed buildings with fascinating histories, and we have worked to keep as much of their original character as possible.
For example, the Empress Business Centre, home to BizSpace Manchester Old Trafford, was a brewery in the late 1800s until it was converted to office space in 1992; it also featured briefly on Coronation Street when a short explosion scene was filmed nearby. The Knoll Business Centre, where BizSpace Hove is located, was originally a boys’ school and the playground is now the centre car park.
Likewise, BSS House, home to BizSpace Swindon, was built in the 1950s as the primary factory for underwear manufacturer, Triumph, and was converted into a business centre in the 1980s, when Triumph moved production elsewhere. The Morelands Trading Estate, where BizSpace Gloucester Morelands is located, used to be a matchstick factory, whilst both The Arnold Business Centre, where BizSpace Nottingham Arnold is housed, and the Hollinwood Business Centre, home to BizSpace Oldham Hollinwood, used to be cotton mills. In fact, the car park of the Hollinwood Centre was once a canal used to provide water for a steam pump that powered the mill; from 1985 to 1999, the building stood derelict, until it was redeveloped into a business centre.
Renovating and retrofitting existing buildings, as we have done with many of our business centres, significantly reduces the environmental impact of the built environment, side-stepping the procurement, manufacture, transformation and construction of new materials, as well as the need to develop new utility infrastructures. The process also avoids the release of greenhouse gases and emissions caused by demolishing and replacing existing buildings. Reusing buildings also allows us to extend the life of older structures. At the same time, we reduce the need to build on new non-brownfield sites, an act that could negatively impact on biodiversity.
As occupier demands on workspaces evolve, it is satisfying to know that new buildings are not the only solution. As BizSpace has demonstrated, we can create modern and well-designed workplaces without knocking down old structures and starting again from scratch. Retrofitting and repurposing buildings delivers workplaces with character, whilst also helping to reduce our carbon footprint and protect the environment.