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Thames Tap: ‘A New Level in Office Accommodation’

Posted by UK Property Forums on 7th December 2021 -

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The UK’s first development to have BREEAM Outstanding, Fitwel three-star and RESET Air accreditation, has been launched at Thames Valley Park – and it is also net zero carbon.

Here + Now, a total 145,000 sq ft development of two former Microsoft buildings, aims to go a stage further in sustainability and wellness than rival schemes in a bid to make the office a destination people will return to after the lockdowns. Agents were shown the new-look scheme last week.

The linked buildings will operate as one with amenities including two cafes, an outdoor cinema, indoor and outdoor gym, an outdoor working zone and a fleet room where items, ranging from stand up paddleboards , weights, and yoga mats to artistic materials and electric scooters, can be borrowed.

Air quality and energy efficiency are monitored and can be checked by occupiers’ staff via an app which can also be used for a host of activities including entry, booking meeting rooms and ordering food and coffee.

The 62,000 sq ft Now building welcomes its first occupier, Foundation SP, on December 20. The fast-growing tech firm has taken 5,000 sq ft on the ground floor. Another similar space is under offer. The 73,000 sq ft Here building is due for completion in April.

Chris Hunt, founder and director of V7 which manages the buildings for BauMont Real Estate Capital, said the refurbishment of the scheme was carried out by using as much existing material as possible to avoid unnecessary landfill. It uses a utilities provider called Good Energy which only uses renewables.

He said: “Most developers of big buildings will talk about their BREEAM Excellent and net zero carbon but do not disclose what that really means. We are doing something completely different and being completely transparent.”

He said only one other building in the world – an art gallery in Toronto – can match the sustainability and wellness credentials.

The Now building has had to use an existing gas boiler. Mr Hunt said he faced a choice between replacing the three-year-old system, causing more landfill, and keeping it while offsetting the carbon by tree planting, which was the chosen option. The Here building will have a new electric heating system.

Occupier leases are designed to allow fast-growing firms to cancel them if they wish to move to bigger space within the scheme.

The outdoor cinema, with its bean bags and deck chairs, can be used to show sporting events, films or company videos. There are raised garden areas which can be used as allotment space for occupiers’ staff.

Tom Fletcher, director for Hatch RE which is marketing the space alongside Knight Frank and LSH, said: “It’s about giving employees a reason to go to work. This offer is better than saying ‘I just don’t want to commute’. We are giving people the opportunity to work from a great space.”

He said the specification of the development is higher than any he has dealt with previously, part of an upward trend in office accommodation.

He added: “The quality of office space has risen immeasurably over the last five to seven years. Previously office buildings were just white boxes – high quality and great space but they were just office buildings. What’s happened is the introduction of showers, better bike facilities, cafes, roof terraces, concierge services. That all happened pre-Covid. What this scheme has done is taken it to another level.

“You’ve got to accept there’s a new flexible working model but, by creating a destination workspace, an office with everything you could possibly want, then perhaps employers and employees will want to go back. I think then they will want to use the office more than working from home.”

TVP is undergoing a number of improvements. A £1 million Enlivenment Programme, managed by the Thames Valley Park Management Company, includes a new seated outdoor working area, new solar powered uplights to illuminate trees on the central reservation in Thames Valley Park Drive and changes to the park’s shuttle bus to make it available as an Uber-style service in off-peak hours.

Image: Chris Hunt (left) with Tom Fletcher among the deckchairs and bean bags of the outdoor cinema at Here + Now.

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Matthew Battle

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