As published in The Academy of Real Assets Annual Essay Competition on 22 June 2023

It is not an unknown concept to us to humanise inanimate objects, popular childhood film series Toy Story and Night at the Museum spring to mind. Even in fairy tale books, as children we are left in wonderment from the giant beanstalk that grows out of magic beans and the pumpkins that turn into a carriage.

I’ve always looked back fondly on this and the childlike imagination that sits within us all. In fact, I’d quite like to imagine a world could exist where objects spring to life when we’re not looking – or even better, when we are looking! Where trees whisper in the wind and jukeboxes dance to their own tunes, or even yes, that car did just look at you strangely.

Whilst speaking from a potentially biased position, I would particularly like if buildings could come to life and talk. The history that buildings have seen would tell a story that all would want to listen to, and the buildings crying out for help may receive the attention they deserve. We always say how buildings have character and personality, but what if they truly had a voice too. And with that in mind, I’d like to welcome you to 160 Edinburgh Avenue; the building that talks.

The building that talks

“I’ve been given a recent makeover, and one that makes me special, I’m told. ‘Landmark green refurbishment’, ‘one of its kind’, what a compliment, a transformation when I’m only 34 years old.

I’m 160 Edinburgh Avenue, a 21,284 sq ft warehouse in Slough, but that isn’t the most interesting thing about me. I delivered a reduced upfront embodied carbon of 130 tonnes Co2e, which I’ve heard is pretty key.

My makeover, or retrofit, was decided by my owner SEGRO to raise environmental sustainability. Together with Hollis and Pexhurst, they gave me a new life, with an exciting future to see.

Focusing on ESG, I’ve been given some nice new features. New energy efficient LEDs and animal habitats, home to lots of friendly creatures.

My favourite fact about myself is that I’m covered in solar PV. More energy efficient and cost saving, it’s pretty cool – do you agree?

I think if I was allowed a voice I would talk in rhymes all day, but if I must write something serious, I do have something I would like to say.”

‘I don’t want to stand alone’

We know our planet is in danger and we must do something to help. And with the built environment making up 40% of carbon emissions, we hold the power to make tangible change.

As we’re on the topic of imagination, imagine the difference our industry could make on the planet if we all took our ESG responsibility seriously. If all industrial refurbishments could look like me; If all sectors took advantage of renewable energy; if all developers aimed to refurbish instead of demolish; if all contractors used recycled materials. It paints a picture to be proud of, doesn’t it?

I might be leading the way in green refurbishments, deemed one of the most sustainable warehouses there is. And whilst I’m proud my owners have prioritised the planet, I’d love if everyone in the industry did too. I don’t want to stand alone; let’s build a green real estate industry we can all be proud of and save our planet in need of care.

How can you join me?

It starts with a commitment to prioritising people and the planet, not just your bottom line; with this commitment made, the fun can begin!

Rather than demolishing and rebuilding, why don’t you think about refurbing or repurposing? That’s what happened to me! I underwent extensive refurbishment incorporating a variety of sustainability initiatives designed to vastly reduce my embodied carbon footprint over a comparative new build. I also look as pristine as a new build, if I do say so myself.

A distinctive feature about me, is my exterior living green wall; not only is this an aesthetically pleasing attribute, but has measurable sustainability impacts too. It increases air quality, producing 94kg of oxygen and extracting 71kg of carbon dioxide per year! Why not think about living features for your refurbishment?

Alongside EV charging points, cycle shelters and bike sheds, I also hold 136kWp of solar PV panels, designed to save 26 tonnes of Co2 annually – this is the same as planting over 1,200 trees per year!

With all these features, I am on track to hit BREEAM ‘Excellent’ and even potentially ‘Outstanding’, accounting for less than the top 1% of the UK’s refurbishment fit-out projects – fingers crossed!

These are just a few of my features, but there are lots of ways to be friendly to the planet and your bottom line. So, will you join me, SEGRO, Hollis and Pexhurst and make a commitment to ESG?

Before I go…

“I’d love to keep my voice all day, soon I imagine I’d be walking. But if not possible, I don’t mind, I think my ESG credentials do the talking.”