Two years after Southwark Council originally rejected plans for the site, London Mayor, Sadiq Khan has approved Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates’ [KPF] plans for a 20-storey tower in Bermondsey. The decision signals the support of the London Mayor but also the planning authorities for the life sciences sector. It also is a decision of which contractors, developers and investors will take note. Life sciences is a growth alternative real estate asset class already and government backing such as the Southwark decision encourages continued investment by businesses in developing their expertise in the sector.

A key focus of the public hearing was the need for a sustainable mixed-use development. Sustainability is very much at the forefront of the life science sector’s agenda, with many developers committing to tackling their carbon footprints. Within life sciences however, there are particular challenges around disposal and carbon emission. Many developers are making this a key element of their planning and development process.

In Southwark, KPF stated: “the tower would achieve a 27 per cent embodied carbon reduction compared to the GLA benchmark, with the project targeting embodied carbon below 800kgCO2e/m2.” 

Plenty of scope for the UK construction industry to continue to innovate to address carbon and sustainability more widely. How sustainable a building is of course goes right at the heart of occupiers’ agendas as well.

From the occupier viewpoint, our Building Up research paper published last year identified how COVID-19 accelerated changes in how we use our workspaces with the increasing need for agility driving demand for flexible space options. This is perhaps more difficult in life sciences given the necessary emphasis on lab space and so there is arguably less ability to be flexible. The need for flexible works space options however is only set to increase as employers strive to make sure their offices encourage people into that space.

In response, we increasingly see Landlords, including those in life sciences, incorporating flexibility and mixed-use offerings into their portfolios. An approach which brings with it particular challenges for life sciences, given the often higher demands for security and regulation compared to other sectors.