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16 June 2023
Steel saved from department store demolition to be reused in new London office scheme

Pre-WWII steel is being re-used in a UK construction project for what is believed to be the first time, in the latest breakthrough in ‘urban mining’. 20 tonnes of 1930s steel beams have been salvaged from the former House of Fraser on Oxford Street to be reused in a new London office scheme, being developed next to Tower Bridge by FORE Partnership.

The construction sector is one of the largest consumers of materials and produces more waste than any other sector in the UK. Re-use of existing materials is an essential step in the industry’s transition to a net zero future.

The re-use of steel is in its infancy. While there are certain protocols for the re-use of steel manufactured in 1970 to current days, there is a lack of clarity around steel produced in earlier eras.

The deal to re-use steel from House of Fraser at TBC.London, conceived between FORE and Civic Engineers, will save an estimated 48 tonnes of carbon dioxide when compared with using new steelwork, equivalent to driving a car around the earth 50 times, or the annual carbon absorbed by 20 acres of trees.

Following the first 20 tonnes, the developer plans to save at least 100 tonnes of steel from the department store refurbishment. This will make up 20% of the total steel to be used at TBC.London. The remaining steel framing at TBC.London will contain at least 56% recycled content.

“We have been able to overcome many false assumptions and perceived barriers to re-using the steel”, says Basil Demeroutis, Managing Partner of FORE, referring to the steel being riveted and encased in concrete – an outdated method of fireproofing. He continues, “We think it will represent the largest percentage of a London office development made using reclaimed steel, and we are unaware of any other commercial project where the structure is made re-using 100-year old steel.”

Demeroutis says, “Innovation and collaboration are critical to FORE’s journey to net zero carbon by 2025 and indeed to transforming the built environment more broadly. We need to think creatively and systemically.”

Civic Engineers liaised with McLaren, contractor on the House of Fraser refurbishment, to support the proposal. Webb Yates, the engineer appointed to TBC.London, ensured there was a smooth transition for using the recycled materials in the Thames-side design, and will work with TBC.London contractor Willmott Dixon to incorporate the beams.

Gareth Atkinson, director, Civic Engineers, says: “It’s exciting working with clients and collaborators with this much vision. We’ve proved it isn’t ‘too difficult’. These types of deals can and should be brokered time and time again.”

The reclaimed structural beams will be used throughout TBC.London, and visibly on display in some parts of the building in order to educate occupiers and the wider public about the benefits of applying circular economy principles.

Reflecting FORE’s commitment to retrofit first, the existing five-storey building will be stripped back and renewed through a deep refurbishment – already halving the embodied carbon in the construction project compared to rebuilding. The developer is looking to use alternative materials to bring this down further.

TBC.London will be 100% electric and net zero carbon in operation, with no fossil fuels used in running the property. Designed by architect Stiff + Trevillion, the project is targeting EPC A and BREEAM Outstanding, the highest possible environmental assessments.

The building is also targeting WELL Platinum, the highest rating under the WELL Building Institute’s certification programme, a global rating system which serves as a marker of healthy building design. Only around 30 offices across the globe have attained a Platinum rating, and combined with the target BREEAM score, TBC.London is aiming to be one of Europe’s greenest, healthiest buildings.

The project is on site and scheduled for completion in 2024. CBRE and RX London are letting agents on TBC.London.

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