On 4 June 2020, I was pleased to join a panel of experts to debate the future of tall buildings hosted by Built Environment Network.

Having specialised in advising on this form of development for nearly 20 years, I was pleased to report client interest was holding up surprisingly well, even in the office sector. During a brief presentation, I reviewed both historic and future developments and saw no reason to doubt that developers and councils would continue to support tall buildings as one way to optimise land use, notwithstanding the present challenges.

Alongside me was Mark Holbeche, Director at Regal London, who explained his company’s enthusiasm for residential towers, and the positive way they are being received by Birmingham City Council. Design was critical, and his firm achieved it against serious cost challenges. Purchasers were enthusiastic about high rise living, but wanted more flexible space to cater for home working. Mark explained the innovative construction technologies that were essential to delivering these projects in areas where values were modest.

Next was Boudewijn Ruitenburg, COO of EDGE Technologies, who described their proposed office development in St Thomas’ Street, just south of London Bridge Station. This was his firm’s first foray into the London market, which he described as exciting and innovative. The £450m development with 255,000 sqft achieved a high standard of accommodation for occupiers who demanded healthy buildings and distinctive space with many facilities. Boudewijn was impressed by the sophisticated planning process we have in London and thought other European cities should consider developing a similar approach.

Finally, Heather Cheeseborough, Director of Planning at Croydon Council, outlined the positive way the Council was planning for height, with clear policies. The result was certainty and an efficient consents process, and buildings of high quality using innovative construction methods, which the panel agreed were essential. Croydon was using height to transform perceptions and support mixed-use regeneration in their town centre, where Whitgift Shopping Centre is being redeveloped.

After the panel Q&A, I concluded the session by observing that the present situation was accelerating changes to tall building design and construction that were already in the pipeline, and the result would be a remarkable new generation of high rise buildings that achieved high standards of sustainability.

In summary, towers and tall buildings are here to stay!