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Lend Lease turns London estate into model of urban regeneration

Ambitious plans to regenerate a Elephant & Castle estate include 3,000 highly sustainable homes, an onsite energy centre and the largest new park in the city for 70 years.


  • Building design and technology improve insulation and air circulation, with 50 per cent energy savings for residents
  • Strong focus on natural light and fresh air in homes
  • Entire development constructed using 100 per cent controlled, responsibly sourced FSC timber
  • Combined heat and energy centre supplies homes and shops and serves as a community and educational centre
  • Masterplan emphasises walking, cycling and public transport and includes charge points for electric vehicles

The Heygate Estate in Elephant & Castle, London, was built in the early 1970s as part of a London County Council plan called New Sights of London.

The plan called for “a city that will be higher in the air and more spacious on the ground, with traffic and pedestrians travelling at different levels”.

The passage of time has not been kind to this vision, however, with rapid development of poor-quality homes leading to deterioration.

The subways and raised walkways that planners favoured then are now viewed negatively, with the main highway through Elephant & Castle actually serving to separate pedestrians from the area’s main shopping centre.

Traffic levels are huge, with the northern roundabout among London’s three most polluted areas (along with Euston Road and Marylebone Road).

In 2002 Southwark Council decided to try and improve the area. Lend Lease has begun work on developing a number of plots of land, partnering with Southwark Council to “rethink and reengineer” the borough.

Sustainability on a massive scale

Around 3,000 new homes will be built, with 25 per cent affordable housing, to replace the 1,020 old council homes.

Construction has already begun on two sites: One The Elephant and Trafalgar Place.

“We are being really ambitious in trying to make this one of the most sustainable urban regeneration projects ever”

Pascal Mittermaier, Lend Lease

“It’s a 10 to 12-year project but right now is the exciting part,” says Lend Lease sustainability director and project director for Elephant & Castle Pascal Mittermaier.

“We are being really ambitious in trying to make this one of the most sustainable urban regeneration projects ever.”

As well as the new homes, the regeneration plans include restaurants, community facilities, new landscaped areas and the largest new park in central London for 70 years.

The project’s huge scale has been turned into an advantage for the team, who are able to take a “holistic approach” to sustainability.

“We’re analysing all of the contributors to carbon: housing efficiency, transport, waste, water, and others,” Mr Mittermaier says. “And the size means we can look at everything in a much more holistic way.”

One example of this was when it came to buying lifts. “Rather than buying one lift, we are buying 100,” Mr Mittermaier says.

“So we can ensure that we’re getting the most sustainable materials and installation by working with the supplier on a large scale.

“We’re able to work with the supply chain and find partners who want to use our roadmap to their advantage.”

Road map for sustainability

This roadmap was submitted to C40 Cities Climate Leadership’s Climate Positive Development Programme, developed in partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative, a scheme designed to encourage urban regeneration projects to become models for the large cities of the future.

Elephant & Castle’s roadmap demonstrates that the development will be ‘climate positive’ by 2020.

“Only four cities have successfully written a roadmap and to be a participant sets the bar very high”

Pascal Mittermaier, Lend Lease

The development has now been formally recognised by C40 to become the third project (along with Barangaroo in Sydney and Victoria Harbour in Melbourne, Australia) of 18 globally to reach ‘participant’ status.

“Only four cities have successfully written a roadmap and to be a participant sets the bar very high,” Mr Mittermaier says.

The roadmap means Lend Lease is working closely with its supply chain to find sustainable solutions and is not just focusing on the lowest price.


The first housing units on the site will be built using cross-laminated timber. “Timber has obvious benefits in both ecological and programme terms, but it also allows us to build to a much higher fabric standard than other materials,” Mr Mittermaier says.

“And because it is faster to build, we can save money that can be reinvested in other sustainable technologies.”

Green measures are being deployed throughout every aspect of the development.

“In order to make Code 5 for Sustainable Homes, we have to invest a significant amount of money into the sustainability measures,” he says. “And things like using CLT provide savings that can be used elsewhere.”

“Carbon is actually just a marker of what we’re doing – it’s not the whole picture”

Pascal Mittermaier, Lend Lease

Transport has been considered, with bike storage and electric car charge points provided. People will be encouraged by signage to walk around the site, with the team even considering a text message service to help inform residents that walking will often be the quickest way to travel around.

“We have really considered the role of nature and air pollution, and have tried to understand the ecology as much as possible to maximise air quality,” Mr Mittermaier says.

Lend Lease hopes to use only rainwater to irrigate plants on the development, with no potable water used at all. Rainwater will also be stored in podiums outside buildings and reused for flushing toilets.

The team is committed to providing green energy and will achieve it through either a combined heat and power plant or ground-source heat pumps.

“The plan is to make the CHP into a community centre,” Mr Mittermaier says. “It would also contain some kind of community space where people can engage much more with how their energy is being provided.”

International collaboration

The CHP idea has been used abroad on other urban regeneration schemes and the C40 network has allowed the team to travel overseas and share ideas.

“We’ve been to sites in Victoria, Vancouver, Canada and Hammarby, Denmark,” Mr Mittermaier says.

“Our own development in Victoria Harbour saw the construction of the world’s tallest timber building and the team involved in that came over to the UK to educate us and tell us what to do.

“We’re now taking a very different approach to Elephant & Castle, working with some unusual partners such as the London Wildlife Trust to ensure that every aspect is considered.”

“People perhaps don’t consider sustainability when buying a home today, but 10 years from now when energy prices are a lot higher, it may be a real difference”

Pascal Mittermaier, Lend Lease

The scheme is aiming to be carbon-positive, meaning that it is effectively a “sinkhole” for carbon in the area. “Carbon is actually just a marker of what we’re doing – it’s not the whole picture,” Mr Mittermaier says.

“We have estimated how much waste, energy and water we’d use on the site normally in 2024, and then work to minimise and offset it.”

The offsetting process means that if Lend Lease uses low-energy lighting that is later picked by Southwark Council and rolled out across the borough, the developer will get credit for it.

“We would get recognised in that instance as being the catalyst because we have the ability to use it on a large scale and demonstrate the value proposition,” explains Mr Mittermaier.

Futureproof green credentials

Mr Mittermaier believes people will increasingly consider sustainability when they come to buy a home.

“I think people perhaps don’t consider sustainability when buying a home at the moment, but 10 years from now when energy prices are a lot higher, it may be a real difference,” he says.

The C40 certification is something that may be used to market the scheme in future when it is more relevant to customers. “People increasingly equate sustainability with high quality,” Mr Mittermaier says.

“The challenge comes in how to mix the interests of business, people and nature. Only on a project of this scale can you really start to see that being achieved”

Pascal Mittermaier, Lend Lease

“Nature and energy centres like we have on Elephant & Castle intrinsically make sustainability a more attractive outcome. Look at what you can achieve – improving air quality, more green spaces, better transport.”

But the sustainability director recognises that his firm is still grappling with the challenge of how to marry sustainable development with a strong business case.

“The challenge comes in how to mix the interests of business, people and nature,” he says. “I think that only on a project of this scale can you really start to see that being achieved.”

The firm’s work on urban regeneration projects will set it up well for the future. “People sometimes ask: why bother?” Mr Mittermaier says.

“As well as improving people’s quality of life, from a business perspective if we can make sure that we are good at delivering large urban regeneration schemes then we’ll be well-placed going forward.

“The global population is becoming more urbanised and these kinds of schemes are only going to become more common, as we will need to make sure we can cope with the increases in population.”

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