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The latest news and events at Maples Teesdale

| 2 minutes read

Branching out: Bywater’s timber Paradise leads by example

The real estate development landscape is changing. Owing to a combination of top-down “net zero” targets, and a bottom-up drive from developers who actively want to create better, healthier and more sustainable buildings, we are beginning to see the rise of innovative solutions to the huge carbon problem facing our industry.

In a recent article for EGI, our client Theo Michell of Bywater Properties sets out the problems with the current approach to development, of which there are several: buildings are typically constructed with steel and concrete, and so begin their life cycle with high levels of embodied carbon; they are difficult and costly to redevelop or deconstruct at the end of their life cycle; and, increasingly, we are learning that the ‘feel’ of these hard material structures might actually have a negative impact on mood and productivity at the workplace. 

Fortunately, Theo also presents the industry with a long-forgotten lifeline: timber. 

The advantages of timber are as plentiful as they are essential. Timber produces a significantly smaller carbon footprint in development, it emits less carbon during its lifecycle compared to concrete alternatives, it is easier and cheaper to repurpose or dismantle and there is growing evidence to suggest that the materials and the design of a building improve the overall user experience for its occupiers.

Bywater’s own development at Vauxhall, “Paradise”, is a leading example of the innovation that the sector so desperately requires in order to bring about genuine and much-needed change. Paradise, which sits on a space previously occupied by an old, uninspiring coffee roastery, will be an enviable riverside office block, sporting solar panels on the roof, a partly openable façade overlooking neighbouring Old Paradise Gardens for natural ventilation and, yes, you guessed it, a timber structure.  

Aside from the physical aspects, Paradise goes one step further than most by seeking to cultivate a healthier and more open relationship between landlord, tenants and the local community. Thought will be given to the type of materials and the amount of energy consumed at the building, the behaviours of its occupiers and how they journey to and from work, and also the role that Paradise plays in the community itself, by providing high-quality space for local makers and green enterprises. This is also reflected in the lease documents that we are preparing for Bywater in relation to Paradise.

With development of Paradise well on the way, this seemingly utopian pipedream will soon be a reality for several tenants and their employees. Through a wider lens, leading examples such as Paradise will go a long way in challenging some of the outdated misconceptions surrounding timber, which will surely now continue to emerge from its 400-year slumber to once again be a primary building material for urban landscape of the future (if inspiring developers like Theo have anything to do with it, anyway).

Ultimately, timber provides an accessible and impactful solution to the built environment sector’s overriding challenge of decarbonisation, as well as answering the demand from occupiers for healthier buildings. Its sustainability credentials far outweigh the challenges and, as we have demonstrated, these can be mitigated through careful early-stage design, patient innovation and long-term belief.


scott burn, theo michell, bywater properties, commercial real estate, construction, corporate real estate, planning, hospitality & leisure, hotels, industrial & logistics, living, offices, retail, esg, wellbeing, csr, real estate development, development, timber