We must build to eco-conform

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From John Carney, principal, J S Carney & Co Ltd.

THERE have been some calls to delay the already delayed commencement of the Esplanade Quarter development.

The PBSD/Planning application (submission and architects fees presumably paid for by Harcourt) and the Island’s first public inquiry have deemed that the development is ‘in principal’ in the Island’s ‘best interest’ subject to various financial checks/States ratification.

The project as proposed would not be a States of Jersey funded development, but produce, over a period of some years, inward investment to the Island in the order of £350m with relevant tax receipts/payments, 388 new units of accommodation, 1,400 car parking spaces, boutique/self-catering hotel, bars, shops, public spaces, a rationalised link between the centre of St Helier and the Waterfront, in addition to the office buildings/floor space.

The financial risk in respect of all of this, in particular the rentable office space, would surely be the stakeholders’, namely the developer’s?

This would only vary if the developer encountered financial difficulties resulting in work pausing on site, and the bond had to be invoked by the States to complete the build.

The Island generally needs to be aware that as well as ensuring Jersey’s finance industry meets its international/legal/accounting obligations under OECD and so on, that the buildings within which they operate will also become subject to increasing legislation and scrutiny.

In the big picture, the current financial global difficulties have quite rightly added an impetus to all government-driven environmental, fuel/energy/cost saving measures, sustainable building design/operation associated legislation currently applicable and on the law draftsman’s desks in the USA, Europe and the UK.

The ‘in-tray’ of building legislation ultimately relevant to Jersey’s commercial stock of offices/buildings, among other documents, contains the Carbon Reduction Commitment which is expected to hit thousands of organisations big and small in the UK, such as local government, health care trusts, supermarkets and offices where they use more than 6,000 megawatt hours of electricity per year.

In addition to this, the Energy Certification of Buildings is already in place and affecting the UK. This applies to buildings with an internal floor area over 1,000 sq m with compulsory efficiency checks being required on heating/cooling systems over 250 kilowatts.

However, by January 2011 this will apply to systems with an output of over 12 kW and is expected to be required to be checked every five years.

The finance industry is internationally based and it is not unreasonable to assume that, increasingly, most large and even smaller clients/organisations are going to be requiring full adherence locally to eco-conscious building legislation as part of any professional financial package.

There is, indeed, a large amount of vacant office space in St Helier at present, but as far as we are aware, none of this (including all of the States of Jersey buildings except the Hospital) has been energy audited to ascertain, even approximately, what percentage need to or could even be economically upgraded to meet these impending new requirements.

The PBSD/Planning Department are clearly listening sympathetically to owners of financially redundant office buildings and granting various change of use/redevelopment approvals in St Helier, but there appears to be no proper information available upon these matters at this time.

The new Esplanade Quarter, as designed, is anticipated as BREEAM ‘excellent’ rating, working towards the goal of carbon neutrality, namely as eco-friendly as possible and would not have any such letting or use problems for the foreseeable future.

The message that an up-to-date, efficient, financial quarter would send out into the real world, should not be underestimated.

The purpose of this letter, therefore, is really to simply warn that any States debate to even consider delaying or amending this development should be undertaken in an open, fully-informed forum in order to ensure that current and future building micro and macro legal/design issues are also properly considered, particularly in St Helier, in conjunction with all of the other planning/political and general matters.

8 West’s Centre,

Bath Street.

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