Sir Stuart Lipton backs study that recommends cutting the cash spent on iconic City facades

A consortium, backed by construction heavyweight Sir Stuart Lipton, has approached the City of London with a plan to save the capital from any more over-expensive iconic towers.

The group, which includes Davis Langdon, Aedas, WSP and Hilson Moran, believes it can halve the price of commercial skyscrapers.

Lipton (pictured), founder of Stanhope, approached Davis Langdon nine months ago and “challenged” the group to come up with a way of developing office buildings for just £125/ft2 rather than the average £250/ft2 they are understood to cost now.

The plan was presented to Peter Rees, London’s City planning officer, last November. Sir Stuart hopes to facilitate the construction of a pilot scheme to show how the study would work in practice, through his development company, Chelsfield Partners.

He said: “What I wanted to do with this study was re-evaluate why construction costs are so high and why tennant’s needs are not always taken into consideration.”

Sir Stuart threw the gauntlet down. How can we make the City more effective?

Steve Watts, Davis Langdon

Steve Watts, director of Davis Langdon’s tall buildings division, has been leading the project since May. “Sir Stuart threw the gauntlet down in May last year. He explained that these landmark towers in London are all well and good, but why not come up with high-rise commercial schemes that are half the price at just £125/ft2 for shell and core?

“We pulled a team together of about 10 people from four companies and we had to ask whether investment is directed towards the right outcomes. How can we make the City more effective? Rather than spending £1,000/m2 on a nice facade, could that money be better spent on flexibility or sustainability? We want to show how tall buildings can be made more sustainable for the end user. Now we want to show how this would work on a real building. We are hoping that a developer might be interested in joining together to develop one.”

Kamran Moazami, director at WSP, was involved in the project. He said: “The results show you don’t need to make a building extraordinary to get planning. You just need to build it well and sustainably. It’s about how to get a building working economically.”

The research also revealed that while most US buildings are now designed commercially, starting on the inside of the building working out, UK designs for London high-rise buildings are still focused on iconic facades and complex structures - which no longer make financial sense.

At the British Council for Offices’ conference on the Future of Offices in May, it was pointed out that occupiers will be more interested in the facilities and technology inside buildings. At the event Ken Shuttleworth, founder of Make, said: “Buildings will need to be simpler on the outside but with more functional interiors.”