Jane Embury looks to the past to build the future
There was an interesting article recently in Building magazine by Joanne Anderson, mayor of Liverpool.
The article makes the point that urban development and heritage should not be mutually exclusive.
It comes in the wake of the city being deprived of its UNESCO world heritage status. Inappropriate new development was the reason given.
The mayor’s argument is that derelict areas of the city need development to breathe new life into deprived areas. Leaving them derelict to preserve a skyline isn’t a real option.
Because, she says, the priority is to make Liverpool a city of opportunity. That’s of critical importance in the wake of Covid-19.
To do that requires inclusive growth in the city, managed with sustainability and education at its heart.
The city, she says, is looking at new ways in which it can protect its heritage with a local charter, independent champion and heritage board.
It’s a point of view we can sympathise with because we have been at the forefront of many kinds of development.
Cities need to change and evolve, and sustainability must be central to that evolution. For example, we helped in the redevelopment of the Beirut souks. We were involved in a transformative new development in Hong Kong.
Both brought new jobs and prosperity to areas of those cities that had become neglected. These and other projects we have been involved here and internationally with have brought real benefits.
But we’ve also been involved in refurbishing old buildings, often for a new purpose.
However, as we’ve said, the vitality of our towns and cities must be maintained. They cannot be allowed to wither.
As we build ourselves out of the pandemic, we must balance new development with the needs of towns and cities to once again gain vitality.
We’ve therefore championed innovative approaches to turn redundant offices into flats, as the City of London has announced.
We’ve also welcomed a new development near London that combines both residential units with separate workspaces. The new normal means more homeworking, and this development meets that need.
Refurbishment makes a lot of sense. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has made estimates of lifecycle carbon emitted from a building development.
It calculates that to be some 35% for a typical office development. In other words, nearly a third before the building is even opened. For a residential building, it’s an even starker figure – 51%.
We believe the past should be preserved, if it’s worth preserving. For example, we were involved in the renovation of the iconic frontage of Kings Cross railway station.
Near to Kings Cross, we helped redevelop the historic Fish & Coal buildings, which sit alongside the Regent’s Canal.
For that project, we installed thermally broken, radiused head composite steel windows. Each arched opening had to be laser scanned to ensure a perfect fit.
Because expertise isn’t therefore just about refurbishment. It’s about making glazed assembles look exactly the same as the old ones.
That takes skill and design expertise and our systems are installed in many new and historic buildings around the world.
But we do believe in balance and that towns and cities must remain dynamic if they are to sustain new opportunities.
We wish Liverpool every success for the future and, hopefully, to regain the heritage accolade it still so richly deserves.
Jane Embury is a director of Wrightstyle.