When we use the word ‘environment’, we often think about the natural environment and indeed sound environmental management is important to keep our air, water and land healthy.
However the built environment where we live, work and play also affects us every single day. It provides the setting and the backdrop by which we live our lives and it impacts on our senses, our emotions, our interaction with each other and wider communities and our general wellbeing. As with most environmental issues, the choices we make in the built environment can have a significant positive or negative effect.
British Land is a publicly listed property company and we own property across the UK, primarily offices in London where 120,000 people work and live and shopping centres across the country where more than 7 million people visit and shop each year. Our properties are home to over 1,200 different organisations ranging from international brands to local start-ups
Against this backdrop, our business strategy is focused on Placemaking — creating streets, homes, shops and offices that are easy to visit, vibrant and engaging and with high quality services on every site. Making choices to be environmentally and socially sustainable lies at the heart of this. It also helps us to deliver benefits to our business customers by supporting their own sustainability goals in customer wellbeing, productivity, energy security and efficiency for the long term.
One example of our approach is Meadowhall Shopping Centre in Sheffield. Last year, it celebrated its 25th birthday which provided a great opportunity to reflect on how investing in environmental improvements, innovation and engagement with communities has contributed to its success in the last 25 years.
In 2011, Meadowhall was one of the first UK shopping centres to pilot an advance energy metering system which identifies no or low-cost opportunities to improve energy efficiency on an ongoing basis. In 2014, the shopping centre became 100% LED, installing 15,000 energy efficient light bulbs and fittings, cutting energy use and providing a better lit environment for shoppers and retail staff.
And last year, Meadowhall arranged for a month’s free public transport for 760 retail staff to encourage them to leave their cars at home. 75% of those surveyed continued to use public transport after the trial, benefiting from a 50% annual discount. New bikes and a cycle hub also help staff stay healthy while reducing car congestion and improving local air quality.
But our work is never done. This year we have invested in a multi million pound refurbishment of the shopping centre including moving from air conditioning to a natural ventilation of the mall and all the lighting switching to LED technology. And probably one of the most significant choices we have made is how we are working with local suppliers. 50% of the materials used including large quantities of decorative steel panels are sourced within the city region, reducing travel distances and supporting local jobs.
There are many initiatives like Meadowhall happening all over the country. Their link is our commitment to creating Places People Prefer which connects communities, delivers highest quality design of building and environments and enhances how we meet the growing expectations of our business customers and consumers.
This is only the start of our placemaking journey. I believe that in this world of political change and economic uncertainty, we need placemaking more than ever before to create environments that have purpose and meaning for us all.