Q and A | Jon Kirkpatrick, sustainability director, Lend Lease

Jon Kirkpatrick, Lend Lease

The Elephant and Castle project in south London is eating the bench mark for sustainable development. Jon Kirkpatrick sustainability director, Lend Lease explins the plan. Interview by Antony Oliver

Q: With 70% of the global population expected to be living in cities by 2050, as we heading for a crisis? 

A: Well I think we have to see it as an opportunity. Often the best opportunities come out of crisis and threat – to capitalise on it you really have to see it that way and I think that the entire industry will have to see it that way.

Q: Are we now embracing sustain design ideas?

A: I think that as an industry we may have got a bit caught up in ourselves. We talk about sustainability and energy efficiency and we just miss the bigger picture. And the bigger picture is people and understanding that people are the end users and will be living in these homes or working in these offices – so why are we designing offices for offices sake of homes for homes sake? Why are we not looking at the end user and asking ‘how do you want to live your life, how do you want to utilise this office space to work?’ We should be shaping our designs around what people want. And if you don’t then you will miss the mark.”

Q: What is so special about your Elephant and Castle project in South London? 

A: Elephant and Castle is a great example – it is in zone 1 London with fantastic transport connections and with tube lines, rail and cycle networks it is one of the most connected spaces in London. That means that you can live there work there and still be central Lonon in ten minutes. So it is about having all those things together.

Q: Are clients getting better at embracing sustainable  solutions?

A: I am quite lucky in that as a company Lend Lease is quite often its own client – so if we get the brief wrong then it’s our own fault. Projects like Elephant and Castle are about moving away from business as usual. Right now the industry is looking at reducing carbon and reducing impacts but in reality we need to go beyond that – getting to zero is not enough – we are at the point where we need to talk about positivity. What can a project do to have a positive impact on the projects around it? Not just within its own boundaries.“

Q: Does government have a role to drive low carbon design?

A: The world is changing – yes governments have a role to play but we are no longer in a scenario where we can rely on government to make these decisions for us. The younger generations are far smarter and switched on that we are and they are catching up. We have an interesting perfect storm of government and clients on one side trying toi do the right thing and a younger generation with great expectation.

Q: Is it easier to effect culture change on smaller projects 

A: Big urban regeneration projects provide more opportunities to make a difference. They bring problems with many stakeholder to keep happy but I do think that you have more opportunity to make a different. 

Q: Is there sufficient engagement with the need to take action over climate change?

A: We cannot put our heads in the sand. You are either on the train or not - and you have to be on the train. While there are some big challenges we have an opportunity to make something positive 

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