Property: How Square Roots Lewisham offers shared ownership homes by the river

South-east London scheme’s apartments start at £106,250 for a 25% share of a one-bed home

An artist’s impression of Square Roots Lewisham

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The first development to feature in our focus on shared ownership is Square Roots Lewisham.

Delivered in partnership with developer London Square, the south-east London scheme presents prospective buyers with a collection of 141 one, two and three-bedroom apartments as well as duplexes.

Located beside the River Ravensbourne, the development is seven minutes walk from Lewisham Station for rail and DLR services offering links to Canary Wharf and the City.

Properties at Square Roots Lewisham feature fully fitted kitchens and bathrooms, private balconies or terraces for all apartments and space for home working.

The development boasts riverside walks, play areas and a communal roof terrace for residents as well as cycle storage, wireless door entry via handheld devices, a 10-year NHBC warranty and a two-year Square Roots customer service warranty.

Buyers can expect to be able to move into their properties this spring.

Square Roots is set to unveil a new three-bedroom show home at its Lewisham Sales Suite on March 16, 2024, and will welcome visitors from noon-4pm. 

Readers can find out more information about the event  by calling 0333 666 2535 or registering online at squareroots.co.uk.

The developer is also offering prospective buyers a package of incentives for those reserving properties at the full asking price.

Those purchasing a one-bed can get up to £4,000 of tailored benefits, while those opting for a two-bed can get up to £6,000.

The development boasts a communal roof terrace

Incentives include Window treatments from Thread And Dandy, John Lewis or Ikea vouchers, an annual travel card for Zones 1-6 or an annual parking space at Lewisham Shopping Centre.

London Square South managing director, Sean Gavin, said: “This is an outstanding opportunity for buyers keen to purchase a high quality new home close to the heart of London, which offers great value. 

“Square Roots Lewisham is part of an extensive regeneration of the town centre, where significant investment is being made.

“This is excellent news for buyers who are looking for an affordable home in a great location in the capital.”

Canary Wharf workers considering a home at the development can look forward to a commute of less than 30 minutes door-to-door.

Residents will also benefit from an extensive network of local cycle paths offering direct connections to Greenwich, Blackheath and Deptford.

Lewisham itself has seen an influx of capital and activity in recent years with regeneration projects that have delivered new homes and amenities.

The area continues to see strong price growth, with Rightmove recording a 6% rise in average values year-on-year, 11% up on the 2020 peak of £545,248. 

This contrasts favourably with trends in other areas of London, which have seen falls in recent years.

Square Roots was established by London Square two years ago with the aim of delivering 3,500 affordable homes over the next five years.

With 1,000 properties currently under construction, its schemes have already attracted recognition in the Evening Standard New Homes Awards and First Time Buyer Awards.

Square Roots Lewisham is set to launch a three-bedroom show home
  • key details

Prices at Square Roots Lewisham start at £106,250 for a 25% share of a one-bed apartment, based on a total market value of £425,000. 

The home extends to some 551sq ft and is available with a minimum deposit of just over £5,300 (5%).

Find our more about Square Roots Lewisham here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Property: A deep dive into interior design firm Rebirth’s approach to its projects

Company uses blending and layering to incorporate trends into its schemes that fit with client briefs

Paul Cuschieri and Malcolm Abela Sciberras, founders of Rebirth

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Refurbishing and updating the interior of a property can have myriad benefits.

The process offers owner-occupiers the chance to enjoy and use their home to its full potential while adding value should they wish to sell in the future.

For landlords, it’s an opportunity to boost and extend the appeal of their asset to attract more affluent tenants. 

Interior design specialists Paul Cuschieri and Malcolm Abela Sciberras have expanded their business to London, having established Rebirth in Malta.

Here we look at three of their projects that typify their approach when working for clients in the field.

Rebirth’s minimalist kitchen in a London flat


“This property is a mid-century London apartment,” said Paul.

“With us, it’s all about discussing briefs, budget, timelines, style and the needs of our client. 

“In this particular project we were tasked with creating a home away from home for our client, but with the possibility of it being rented out.

“This two-bedroom home was dated, worn and tacky, so we had to bring it up to modern standards.

“Efficiency and energy conservation were also very important, so we installed double glazing and changed the central heating system to one that uses less fuel.

“We also made sure the property was in line with all relevant regulations for rental homes.

“Once all these things were set, we went into the design of the space.

Old and new – some original furniture has been retained

“We recommended going for a minimalist, eclectic feel that’s common to many of our projects. The reason is that we layer the space, creating points of interest.” 

This approach allowed Rebirth to take existing statement pieces from the property and build them into their scheme.

Malcolm said: “It gives the place more character, with different features making it feel a bit homelike.

“Our approach also enables us to include any pieces of furniture a client may want to keep and that can be restored if necessary before being incorporated into the design.

“For example, here the dining table and the chairs, a desk and a wall unit were brought back into the final design accordingly so the living area still has those elements.”

Much of the interior on the three-month project, however, was newly installed, with Rebirth also dressing the apartment ready for rental. 

“Having worked with the client during the whole process, obviously it becomes easier for us to select items that make the apartment feel like somewhere they would be comfortable living,” said Malcolm. 

Rebirth always aims to satisfy its clients’ briefs

Paul added: “The architectural elements of the space did not convey bombast – they are a bit minimalist and we wanted to respect this and the era the apartment was built in.

“We were also inspired by the feeling that the place gave us. 

“Our design aims to be timeless so it will age well and it’s also very neat.

“The kitchen units hide the new boiler system very well and the appliances are beautifully integrated, making the space feel less cluttered.

“That’s important because rental properties need to appeal to as many people as possible.

The firm also dressed the apartment, ready for occupancy

“We use layering to make our interiors feel as though they’ve been there since the beginning, rather than having designs which look too clinical that people can’t relate to.

“The principal bedroom, for example, features darker colours with a masculine feel, but softer furniture with more feminine elements to broaden its appeal.

“We wanted to make it so that when moving from room to room, each would be aligned to the overall feel of the place.

Glass is used to break up the white cabinets


>> Functionality and versatility were the two watchwords for Rebirth when it came to the scheme for this three-bedroom apartment in the company’s native Malta.

Cupboards and doors to conceal functional elements are everywhere in this property hiding an oak-panelled cloakroom, for example. 

“The palette is white, white, white, so we wanted to break that down with warm materials, such as bronze or brass accents,” said Paul.

“It has a certain formality but it’s still comfortable.

“One of the things we do when it comes to trends – and at the moment, minimalism is on trend – is to adapt them.

Wooden elements are present in multiple locations

“This kitchen needed to be open-plan and to blend with the aesthetics we’ve got whites and neutral colours.

“But in order to break that up, we also have some glass-fronted cabinets to create interest.

“Then we have the engineered oak flooring which we’ve introduced throughout most of the apartment.

“Then against the white we have included accents via different textures.

“For example, we were given a healthy budget for the main bathroom so we clad the walls in marble with different shades of white and grey. 

“That’s broken up by the vanity unit with its textured front and the bespoke marble sink on top as well as the brass handles and accessories and a timber-rimmed mirror.

“We’re always looking to create balance.”

>> Malcolm added: “Our use of colour and texture depends on the design of the project. 

“Here we’ve used brass as it’s the right amount of contrast.

The principal bedroom of the property

“Chrome and silver are on a different spectrum to brass and bronze – they are colder and white is already rather cold so we can balance that with warmer shades.

“We’ve done similar things in some of the other rooms where the furniture is white but broken up with oak drawers.”

>> Paul said: “Light and lighting are also exceptionally important in our designs.

“We always make sure there is lighting at various levels with wall lights, ceiling lights and inset lights to make sure the space works during the day and at night.

“In this apartment there is a single bedroom that we designed for the owners’ daughter. 

“We created a working area as well as a sleeping area, using a visual barrier to divide the space without stopping the natural light from the window from coming into the space. 

Textures and accents in a white marble bathroom

“It’s a playful area so we were able to bring more colour in here than in other parts of the apartment to add a bit more character. 

“We also wanted something a bit grand for the principal bedroom and we continued the oak with panelling up the walls  to do that. 

“This is linked to an en suite via a glass door to let the light through – here we’re also introducing darker, more masculine tones against the feminine elements in the main room. 

“We have a marble sink that mirrors the one in the main bathroom, but this time in a dark grey with a matching floor.

“The idea is again to create a balance.” 

This two-room project saw a kitchen and living room refurbished


>> The final property we’re featuring from Rebirth is a two-room project.

While the company often tackles whole properties, it also takes on the refurbishment of specific spaces to add value to homes.

“This was a kitchen and living room in a duplex penthouse at a residential block in Malta,” said Paul.

“In the kitchen we’ve combined traditional Maltese styles with Scandinavian influences.

“For example, with the units we’re using warm timber tones in a modern approach to Shaker style and creating combinations which are anything but minimalistic, but still aren’t overwhelming.

While different the spaces are designed to respond to each other

“There’s a modern-looking island unit and a plain matte look for the work surfaces with a marble mosaic for the splash back.

“We’ve included different dimensions of white with elegant coving and green to bring the outdoors indoors to complement the traditional tiles.

“Once again, we’ve made sure there’s plenty of lighting with track lights, pendants and illumination over the splash back.

“It’s a dynamic space that isn’t too much.”

Colour has been used, inspired by the vibrant ceramic floor tiles

>> Rebirth’s strategy, inspired by the vibrant ceramics on the floor was not to shy away from visual complexity, but rather to frame and contain it within interior elements. 

In the kitchen, that meant a wall unit housing a wine fridge, shelving and more plus plenty of display space in the living room.

“The lounge is much more subtle – still not minimalist – but softer,” said Malcolm.

“We’ve gone for white curtains, but we’ve also included plants to make it feel like a garden.

“Once more, we’re blending – the kitchen is perhaps more masculine while the living room is a more feminine space.

“To mix that up we have the black fireplace in the lounge, while the kitchen has the round dining chairs and the floral pattern on the floor. 

“There are elements of bold black in both spaces and that helps to make sure that the transition from one room to the other really works.”

Plants have been employed to soften the space

>> Rebirth offers a full suite of interior services in London including individual room design and whole-home options.

The firm can handle full renovations including engineering tasks, right through to dressing properties ready for occupancy.

Specialising in refurbishments – hence the company’s name – the company offers everything from conceptual design to detailed drawings and renders, decor and furniture selection and project management.

While Malcolm’s background is in design, Paul is an architect by training, with the pair teaming up five years ago to go into business together.

Full details of all the properties featured and Rebirth’s services can be found here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Property: How Rebirth is expanding its interior design business to London

Studio specialises in refurbishing properties with a wide range of practical and aesthetic services offered

Rebirth specialise in refurbishing properties to add value to homes

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Excitement bounces between Paul Cuschieri and Malcolm Abela Sciberras as they talk about their approach to the projects they work on.

Having known each other for more than a decade, the pair joined forces in 2019 to create Rebirth, an interior design studio that brings together multiple disciplines to offer clients a comprehensive range of services.

Working in their native Malta, the pair have now expanded operations to London, recently establishing an office to cater for clients across the capital.

A full service operation, Rebirth combines architectural, aesthetic and practical disciplines to offer homeowners as wide a range of options as possible.

Specialising in refurbishments – hence the company’s name – the pair offer everything from conceptual design to detailed drawing and renders, decor and furniture selection and project management.

“Malcolm’s background is in design and mine is in architecture and we’ve joined our vision and expertise together to offer a holistic, well-balanced approach to projects,” said Paul.

“But it’s more than that, we are now providing what we call experiential design.

“We want to create something that goes beyond just being beautiful – spaces that express emotion, that have a certain character, and immediately feel like home.

“We don’t have a specific style. That’s because our work is focused on each client and their requirements are different.

REbirth was founded by Paul Cuschieri, left, and Malcolm Abela Sciberras

“Rebirth offers a boutique experience.

“We need to make sure our spaces speak their language, so that when they have guests they can see and feel that it’s our client’s space they are in. 

“As designers, we grow thanks to these projects, because we are subject to so many influences from the people we work for and our research, which helps us creatively.

“We consider our designs as pieces of living art.”

Everything for Rebirth starts with a budget and a brief.

The first is key to identify the boundaries of a scheme, while the second is where the creativity begins.

“When we’re discussing the brief, that’s when our imaginations start to run wild,” said Malcolm.

“We’re always listening to the client, of course, but having a new project is something that’s very exciting for us and the team.”

Paul added: “We start by asking our clients how much they want to invest.

“It would be useless for us to invent all kinds of designs without knowing what they can afford.

“We need to base our concept on their budget, so that’s quite an important question.

“Something we then do – although it takes a bit more effort on our side – is to draw up a skeletal breakdown of the costs.

“Whatever the budget, we create a wish-list to identify what in our proposal we consider to be a priority.

Rather than following a specific style, Rebirth’s approach is bespoke to the property

“We presume that we will have this amount for decoration, this money for services, this for furniture, this for kitchen appliances and so on.

“That gives a starting point. This is flexible, of course, because the client will have certain priorities – communication is key.”

Having completed a diverse portfolio of projects in the firm’s native Malta, Rebirth has expanded to the UK thanks to a recent project.

“We were fortunate enough that one of our Maltese clients has a property in London,” said Paul. 

“As soon as we’d finished refurbishing it, we felt that we were on the right track. We’ve always loved London, the culture and the cosmopolitan feel of the place.

“I love its history and that’s something we know about, because we work on listed properties in Malta.

“For those reasons we decided London would be an interesting place to take our services – so we’ve established an office in the city.” 

That affinity for working with historic, listed and protected properties is perhaps typified by Rebirth’s response to a brief for a client with a property at Balluta Buildings in St Julian’s.

Built in 1928 and designed by architect Giuseppe Psaila, it is scheduled as a Grade I monument on the Mediterranean island.

“It was built in the Art Deco period and was, at the time, one of the largest and most luxurious properties in Europe,” said Paul. 

“The brief was to get the apartment back to its former glory, so we had to do our research on the style and decor.

“The reason people come to us is that we make sure our schemes are layered, that the new interiors we create for a project like this feel like they’ve been there from the start.”

Rebirth works with a brief and budget for its clients

The approach goes far beyond aesthetics too, with Rebirth able to call on the engineering expertise of Paul’s father’s firm to present clients with a full suite of options.

“That means we can combine things like underfloor heating, air conditioning, central heating, lighting and fire protection with what we do,” said Paul.

“We always try to come up with challenges that we might face during a project, so we can tackle them at the design stage rather than during the implementation and risk having delays.

“As my father is an electrical engineer I’ve always been around construction sites, but decided I wanted to follow a more artistic path where I was designing and building something.

“That’s how I got into architecture and I’ve often worked on boutique-type projects with an interest in design, so it’s only natural that I’ve followed this path into interiors.”

The reasons for considering an interior refurbishment are many.

There are practical considerations, when properties require updating purely to remain functional. 

Then there are aesthetic and wellbeing concerns, where a change is needed to please the resident and ensure they are comfortable in their environment.

A refurbishment is also an investment, potentially adding significant value to a property if approached correctly.

“Number one on the list is an open-plan kitchen – that’s the thing that sells,” said Paul.

“It mustn’t look dated, it should be functioning well, organised, clean and designed with the right colours.

“The kitchen is the heart of everything and if visitors feel comfortable and welcome there, then that’s a real selling point.

“Then you have the living areas, the principal bedroom and the main bathroom.

Rebirth’s work includes the refurbishment of an apartment at Balluta Buildings in Malta

If there’s a guest bathroom, that’s a place to be a bit more adventurous and to go for a bold statement.

“At Rebirth we can tackle any one of these areas individually for a client or refurbish a whole property. 

“If we are doing single rooms, then we will always make sure our design fits with the existing home.

“We also have to make sure our designs are sustainable and that the spaces we create look after us psychologically.” 

 The overriding theme that runs through the firm’s expansion is one of anticipation.

“We get so inspired when we’re discussing everything with our clients – especially when we’re working on a different style of project and creating a nice concept for them,” said Malcolm.  

“In London, we’d love to do a Victorian house with a garden – a property with a lovely character. 

“It would be a challenge, but we’d like that and we are able to offer landscaping too.” 

Paul added: “We are, of course, a whole team. It’s not just two of us.

“But with every project we have grown and each new one is part of Rebirth’s creative development.”

Find out more about Rebirth’s services here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Old Kent Road: How The BeCa at Ruby Triangle aims to attract first-time buyers

Developer Avanton intends to maximise value for a domestic audience at its south-east London block

An artist’s impression of The BeCa in South Bermondsey

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“Value” is the topic on the lips of David Ronson, sales and marketing director at Avanton.

We’re talking about The BeCa, the first phase of the developer’s Ruby Triangle scheme, located in South Bermondsey just off the Old Kent Road.

This £150million red brick-clad structure takes its name and inspiration from the former industrial buildings of New York’s Tribeca neighbourhood – also the reason why it’s pronounced “becca” rather than “beaker”.

The 170 apartments available for private sale within, form part of the 1,400 homes that Avanton is set to build on the five-acre site.

It’s located around 22 minutes from Canary Wharf via bus and the Jubilee line from Canada Water, but could also be on the Tube if the mooted Bakerloo line extension to Lewisham is approved. 

It’s a tough time for buyers and those selling property at the moment.

The cost of living crisis and high mortgage rates present a challenging landscape to those keen to get on the ladder and those servicing that market.

The BeCa is inspired by converted industrial buildings in New York

As a counterweight, Avanton has come up with London @Last, a three-part package of incentives aimed at first-time buyers to encourage them to purchase a home at The BeCa. 

“We’re concerned with the domestic market because you want to build a place that has a community in it – somewhere that has a soul,” said David.

“If you sell everything to overseas investors, it has only transient tenants living there. 

“Our Coda scheme in Battersea is rated as one of the best places to live in south-west London and that’s because it has a community of owner-occupiers.

“That’s what we want to do with all our developments.

“Typically first-time buyers are at a disadvantage when it comes to buying off-plan.

“The least expensive units typically offer the best rental yield for investors to pick up.

“But prospective owner-occupiers, especially those feeling the pressure of the cost of living crisis are not in a position to tie up money for long periods of time without the ability to access it.

“With some developers, that could be as much as 25% of the purchase price and that’s one of the reasons we’ve created London @ Last.”

One and two-bedroom apartments are available at the scheme

The incentives on offer are threefold, amounting to a possible £40,000 saving on a property.

Firstly, first-time buyers can exchange on a property with a 5% deposit under the scheme.

Secondly, Avanton will put in a further 5% and cover legal fees for buyers using its recommended solicitor.

This allows purchasers to take out 90% mortgages on the property rather than 95%.

Thirdly, the developer says it will guarantee a 4.99% interest-only mortgage for a year.

With rates coming down in any case, it will also likely reassess this to ensure it remains competitive.

Avanton will also pay 10% interest per year on deposit money it is holding, payable on completion.

“If your circumstances change prior to completion, we’ll give you back your money,” said David.

“If not, we’ll pay you better than a bank to hold the money for you and we’re only taking 5% as a deposit.

“It gives you the flex that, if something does happen, you have the ability to step out of the contract.” 

An artist’s impression of a kitchen at The BeCa

With starting prices for one-beds at £450,000 and two-beds at £585,000, the package presents the possibility of significant savings on the initial cost of buying a home.  

Avanton, however, isn’t only about deals in the short-term.

David said the design of The BeCa had taken into consideration what residents actually wanted from a home rather than stuffing it full of facilities they may not want to use or pay for through their service charge.

“We’ve been very conscious on this scheme regarding people’s affordability,” he said. “Some developers put in too many residential amenities within a block.

“We’re a little bit different. We look at what the key essentials are for people.

“At Coda, for example, we have some flexible workspace, meeting rooms, a small gym and a 24-hour concierge service as well as two podium gardens.

“We completed these and the service charge has now come in at about £6 per sq ft.

“If you look at the south-west market, that’s quite affordable in contrast to some developments with all the amenities under the sun, and the charge is around £13.

“If, before you’re even looking at the mortgage, you’re being hit with £10,000 of service charge a year, your average domestic buyer can’t afford it.

Many apartments will feature views over the London skyline

“That’s why some developments are primarily bought by investors from overseas who rent out these properties to transient tenants.

“It’s one of the reasons 80% of our Coda scheme was sold to owner-occupiers who want to live there and not feel like they are being charged for amenities they are not actually going to be using.

“This can be a deterrent for people considering buying into a scheme.

“With The BeCa, we’ve ensured the service charge is as low as it possibly can be. 

“We’re looking at £4.27 per sq ft and that will have a day porter, about 2,000sq ft of flexible workspace and residents’ access to three roof terraces.

“In the current market, you have to look at specific locations where buyers can see real capital appreciation. Old Kent Road is the cheapest place you can buy in Zone 2.

“Ultimately Ruby Triangle will become an extension of London Bridge and Bermondsey, where you have some of the best lifestyle amenities in London. 

“As the whole wider South Bermondsey regeneration takes place, you’ll see 20,000 new homes, 10,000 jobs, it’s going to change the place massively.”

Even with all that change, Avanton is also addressing any concerns about connectivity with a further incentive.

It’s offering buyers a free electric bike on completion, or the cash equivalent off the purchase.

Find out more about The BeCa here

Communal facilities at The BeCa

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Shoreditch: How The Stage offers buyers and tenants a wealth of amenities

Galliard Homes’ east London scheme is now complete, with buyers able to view finished flats

Galliard Homes’ tower, The Stage, in Shoreditch is now complete

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 “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.

 “They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages”.

While it’s almost certain Jaques isn’t describing The Stage development in Shoreditch by Galliard Homes when he utters these words in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, they nevertheless resonate pretty well with the scheme.  

Built on the site of the Bard’s Curtain Theatre whose remains were discovered during construction, the £750million, 37-storey tower has been seven years in the making rather than seven ages.

It does, however, boast entrances and exits – although they are among the least of the attractions in a building of many parts.

Its 412 apartments, ranging in size from studios to four-bedroom duplex penthouses sit atop a wealth of facilities in one of the capital’s most vibrant areas.

Prices start at £750,000 for a studio, £830,000 for a one-bed, £1.3millon for a two-bed and £2.5milion for a three-bed.

Prices for the penthouses have yet to be released, with rumours of a Valentine’s Day launch next year – apt, as the Curtain may well have been the site of the first performance of Romeo And Juliet.

During construction, archaeological evidence was uncovered indicating the area was very much a cultural quarter in Elizabethan times with Londoners in crowds of up to 1,400 flocking there to see plays such as Henry V, and to eat and drink.

As part of the development, the remains of The Curtain will be preserved as a major component of the new Museum Of Shakespeare, which is expected to open its doors next year.

The building has two basement levels of amenities

More immediately of concern, however, are the properties that tower above the forthcoming attraction. 

Tucked away off Great Eastern Street, a five-minute walk from Liverpool Street, the structure offers impressive views over the surrounding area, especially to the north which has many buildings of lesser stature.

 “The really good news here for buyers is that we’re finished,” said David Galman, sales director for The Stage.

“We offer a brilliant customer journey for people interested in making a purchase.

“When you’re selling off-plan, there’s less of a connection with the buyer. 

“Here, there’s an opportunity to build a relationship – a proper viewing at The Stage is a minimum of an hour.”

That’s partly because there’s a lot to see.

The tower’s two basement levels offer some 13,700sq ft of space staffed by a dedicated games and amenities concierge to ensure services are running smoothly.

Facilities include a two-lane bowling alley, a golf simulator, a pool table, air hockey, table tennis and a selection of arcade games.

There’s also a 32nd floor sky bar, lounge and terrace for residents

There are also two screening rooms – both decorated with film posters of Shakespeare adaptations – a gym, changing rooms and a Yoga studio.

In addition, The Stage boasts a boardroom space and working facilities, including booths and a breakout area for use by residents.

Then there’s the 32nd floor sky lounge and terrace, complete with a bar and seating area. Various facilities can be booked by residents for private parties and events through the 24-hour concierge service.

“We always start by showing prospective buyers the amenity spaces,” said David.

“Today’s buyers want access to state-of-the-art amenities, and this is where The Stage stands out, with our underground amusement arcade, flexible workspaces and stunning sky terrace overlooking London. 

“We are very proud to show the lifestyle on offer, an unparalleled experience in a sought-after location.

“Obviously, it’s a different  conversation with an investor, who is primarily concerned with what a property will rent for and how much it’s likely to appreciate over time.

“But these properties have got to be among the easiest to let in London at the moment. You just show people the amenities on offer.”

Properties feature high-end interiors

As for the properties themselves, David said their size was a key selling point.

Each includes a private balcony, oak engineered flooring as well as brushed bronze and exposed brickwork details.

They boast mood lighting, multi-room speaker systems and bespoke entertainment units with 50” TVs and Sonos playbars.

 Kitchens come with oak units, white quartz worktops and Miele integrated appliances. 

Bathrooms feature ceramic herringbone tiles, white sanitaryware, Crittall-style shower doors and 22” TVs over the baths or in showers.

Bedrooms come with full height fitted wardrobes and, along with living areas, benefit from comfort cooling systems.  

David said: “These properties and the communal areas of the building provide really great accommodation. 

“That might suit a domestic buyer, but The Stage is in an international location.

 “People come to live in London from around the UK and around the world.

 “There are also students who come here with parents who can afford to purchase apartments like these.

Each apartment has a private balcony

“There are also three penthouses, which we’re not releasing to the market quite yet. 

“They are fabulous too, extending to between 2,200sq ft to 2,600sq ft and they are all duplexes.

 “Each has good outside space and they offer stunning views.” 

The Stage is located on the edge of the City within easy walking distance of myriad amenities including Broadgate and Spitalfields. 

Nearby Liverpool Street station offers a multitude of Tube and rail connections.

Total journey time to Canary Wharf is around 15 minutes via the Elizabeth Line. 

Find out more about The Stage here

The Stage has two screening rooms, both decorated with film posters of Shakespeare adaptations

Read more: How Level39-based WyzePay offers discounts at MMy Wood Wharf

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How NYC is coming to Wood Wharf as 8 Harbord Square homes launch

New York takeover will see estate carpeted with americana, offers and pop-ups to mark occasion

The launch of 8 Harbord Square will see a four-day New York City takeover of Wood Wharf arrive in Canary Wharf

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New York City looms large in the imagination. It’s the smooth vocals of Alicia Keys on Empire State Of Mind, yellow taxis and the splash of water over Carrie Bradshaw.

It’s impossibly tall skyscrapers, hip-hop, Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Jules Munshin playing over-excited sailors in On The Town.

It’s Central Park, Central Perk and the Ghostbusters piloting the Statue Of Liberty through Fifth Avenue. 

Countless heroes and villains in every kind of drama have made it their home in literature, on stage and across screens big and small.

Often those characters are portrayed living in loft apartments – open spaces with high ceilings and large windows, typically featuring exposed brickwork and concrete, hinting at  former lives as offices or places of industry.

London too has had a flush of such properties – albeit on a smaller scale – with warehouses, usually along the Thames, converted.

Many have that NYC-feel, with original features celebrated amid the sleek worktops of fitted kitchens and cleverly cantilevered mezzanines. They are now, however, few and far between for enthusiastic buyers.

Homes at 8 Harbord Square are completely open-plan in the style of New York lofts

That’s where 8 Harbord Square comes in.

It’s styled by Karakusevic Carson Architects as a brick-built structure that wouldn’t look out of place in New York’s meatpacking district – a chunk of the city that became a hotbed of fashion design, culture, dining and residential property in the 1990s and 2000s.

Its story – of industrial decline followed by regeneration – is not dissimilar to Canary Wharf’s.

The difference here, of course, is that 8 Harbord Square is newly built, with none of the potential problems of an industrial conversion but all of the style of a chic, period loft.

“There are 82 apartments in total, spread over 12 storeys and they are very different to anything that we’ve ever built or sold before,” said Melanie Conway, director of residential sales at Canary Wharf Group.

“We’ve stripped everything back, so there’s exposed brickwork and concrete ceilings – the decor is very raw – with huge Crittall windows to let lots of light in.

“There’s a real openness to the lofts.

“They are very unusual – buyers are used to seeing apartments with bedrooms and living spaces laid out.

“Here, it’s very much up to the buyer how they want to live in them.”

The majority of the building’s floors – excluding the penthouses which have already sold – are split into eight apartments in two configurations.

The Prospect Lofts are just over 800sq ft of open-plan, undivided space.

Each comes with a fully-fitted kitchen in stainless steel, with Siemens appliances including a built-in washer-dryer.

Heating comes from cast iron radiators arranged along the walls, while ceiling fans provide air circulation throughout. 

The only walls are around the bathroom, which includes a black-framed shower cubicle, a free-standing bath and double sinks.

These properties are single aspect and are located in the centre of the building.

The Gramercy Lofts are similar in every respect, except that they extend to a little over 1,000sq ft and are arranged on the four corners of each floor with twice as many windows.

“We’ve been holding off on a big launch until the building is nearly finished, because the best way for buyers to understand these spaces is to walk into them,” said Melanie.

“We’re expecting people to be able to move in by the end of the year.

The building has been styled to echo properties in NYC’s meatpacking district

“It’s been very interesting to see who has bought here already – it’s a real mix from young couples to downsizers who love the warehouse style, and even students.

“It’s a design that appeals to lots of different people because you can move everything around. 

“We could have dropped the ceilings and put in walls to create a typical layout, but we wanted to keep everything real.

“There’s not much decoration to be done and very little maintenance as there’s hardly any wall space that needs painting.

“The properties will also stand the test of time from a design-point of view – they won’t date.

“People buying here might be looking at older warehouses, but 8 Harbord Square is newly built so there won’t be unexpected leaks or any issues like that.

“They’re also really well insulated because they have been designed as homes. They are new, but also really cool.

“They’re very tranquil too, overlooking Harbord Square Park – an oasis of calm away from the bustle.”

Following the completion of two show apartments at the scheme, Canary Wharf Group is marking the occasion with a New York-style takeover of the whole of Wood Wharf.

The event runs for four days from September 20-23, 2023, with offers, pop-ups and installations.


“Wood Wharf feels very much like the residential district of Canary Wharf and, with 8 Harbord Square offering warehouse-style living, the takeover seemed like a great way to promote the building,” said Melanie.

“New York sits very well alongside the buildings here and on the estate as a whole.

“Right now it’s about awareness and it’s also an opportunity for people to discover what it’s like to live here.

“From the moment people leave one of our stations, the whole estate is managed by Canary Wharf Group.

The Prospect is the smaller of the two layouts stretching to 800sq ft

“There’s also security on site, 24-hours a day and a high level of cleanliness and service across the estate.

“Well known as a commercial area, for us it’s about communicating how much the Wharf has changed even since work began on Wood Wharf in 2015.

“People are now investing their time and money into coming to the estate as a leisure destination – the shops, the bars, the restaurants and so on.

“The transport is fantastic and, while people were initially buying here because they worked locally, we’re now seeing them make their home here and work elsewhere.

“People just love it.”

Show apartments at 8 Harbord Square are now available to view with prices for a Prospect apartment starting at £770,000.

Patty & Bun will be serving up its Classic American burger with a free cocktail for the takeover


Mini Manhattan – that’s what they call the Isle Of Dogs – so what’s this takeover all about, anyways?

Wood Wharf is set to be transformed into the Big Apple for four days from September 20-23, 2023.

Running 11am-7pm, expect big yellow taxis, break dancers, chess tables in Harbord Square, a subway station and an authentic US school bus serving up hot dogs and pizza by the slice.

Have a nice day now. 

In addition to the various special events that will be taking place over the four days, many of Wood Wharf’s businesses will be getting involved with the takeover, adding further layers to the immersive experience. Here are the deals to look out for:

  • Free Manhattan cocktail

Head down to the corner of Water Street and Park Drive, where Mallow will be adding a very special item to its entirely plant-based menu for the duration of the takeover.

Order its French Dip – featuring portobello mushrooms, caramelised red onion, horseradish cream, red wine jus and butter pickles – for £15 and you’ll receive a Chocolate Cherry Pie Manhattan for free to go with it.

The cocktail is made with Bourbon, Mozart dark chocolate liqueur, sour cherry molasses and bitters – for a potent take on a New York classic – and costs £9 on its own.

Mallow will have a French Dip on the menu with a free Chocolate Cherry Pie cocktail over the four days
  • Fresh gelato and cawfee

Downtown on George Street, visitors will find American flags draped over statues outside MMy Wood Wharf, which inside will be serving piccolo gelato cups with a single espresso for £5 during the takeover.

Mac ’n’ cheese will also be available, as will American craft beers including east coast brew Good Vibrations by NEPA for £7.90 per pint.

  • NYC flavours

Water Street’s Feels Like June is becoming Feels Like Brooklyn for the duration of the takeover and will be serving up NYC Bagels with pastrami, emmental cheese, pickles and mustard for £7 or with chives and cream cheese for £6.

The venue will also be hosting sets from its resident DJ from 4pm-9pm over the four days.

  • Free New York Sour

Order up the Classic American for £13 at Patty & Bun on Park Drive and customers will get either a free NY Sour or a can of Coca Cola with their burger. 

Hawksmoor is serving three of the best sellers from its actual New York restaurant until Sept 24
  • Cocktails for £10 each + a free one

Drawing on inspiration from its actual New York branch, Hawksmoor and its bar The Lowback will be offering a trio of the best drinks available at its US location for the special price of £10 each.

So that’s the Manhattans, Cosmos and Dirty Martinis sorted.

But wait, there’s more.

The venues will also welcome tables of up to four guests with a complimentary Big Apple Martini for all diners at lunch or dinner.

Bookings should be made via email to thelowback@thehawksmoor.com quoting NYC x Canary Wharf. Better still, both offers will be available until September 24, 2023 – an extra day after the takeover ends. 

  • Gelato pop-up

George Street restaurant Emilia’s Crafted Pasta is set to step outside its walls with a special pop-up throughout the takeover.

The venue’s gelato cart promises to serve up 100% Italian ice cream – one scoop for £4.50 and two for £6 in either waffle cones or paper cups.

Visitors can expect to choose from creamy mascarpone, Sicillian pistachio, raspberry sorbet and chocolate and hazelnut. There may even be a few bonus surprises from the staff.  

The skincare, haircare, fragrance, candle and gift brand will be taking over a corner of Wood Wharf for the NYC event.

Founded in Chelsea (New York City) in 2004, the company aims to create products that will work with all skin types, growing and expanding over the years to meet demand.

For the takeover, its portable cart will be offering samples and cards offering discounts at its Canary Wharf store in Cabot Place. Naturally, terms and conditions apply.

Read more: Sign up for the Santa Stair Climb at One Canada Square

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Woolwich: How Dock28’s homes are focused on affordability in south-east London

Fairview New Homes apartments are located beside Royal Arsenal’s Broadwater canal

An artist’s impression of Dock28 with Canary Wharf in the background

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A focus on affordability is the overall philosophy driving Fairview New Homes’ approach to its latest scheme in Woolwich.

Homes at Dock28 are set to become available at the south-east London site from August 19 and the developer has brought them forward with low price points and running costs very much in mind.

Comprising 216 apartments, split into studio, one, two and three-bedroom homes, the scheme is located on the banks of the disused Broadwater canal.

This once served the industrial operations of the Royal Arsenal and meets the Thames to the north.

Sited about 16 minutes’ walk to the east of both Woolwich Elizabeth Line station and Royal Arsenal DLR and rail station, future residents will benefit from the widespread regeneration of the area as well as the multitude of improvements to the historic town centre.

Such developments mean those buying at Dock28 will be within 15 minutes of numerous pubs, bars and restaurants as well as the extensive cultural space of Woolwich Works and the many shops of the High Street.

Fairview New Homes sales manager, Sohail Saiyed, said: “When you look at this development and the way we have approached it, it’s a very affordable option.

“It’s set within a really lovely area – when you look at what’s happened here over the past few years, I think the location massively benefits from the nearby regeneration.

“What we’re offering – when you look locally at how much apartments are being marketed for – is very good value with the guide price for a studio starting at £275,000, one-beds from £297,000, two-beds from £390,000 and three-beds from £475,000.”

Homes at Dock28 will be located beside the Broadwater canal

These prices are markedly lower than those in the likes of Royal Docks or the Isle Of Dogs, with buyers able to save tens of thousands of pounds on similar sized properties.

Prospective buyers can also look forward to lower service charges, with Fairview taking a pared down approach to on-site amenities in favour of lower bills for residents.

Sohail said: “There will be a communal residents’ garden as well as a roof terrace for people to use, but Fairview’s approach is to try to make the homes we build as affordable as possible both to buy and in terms of the service charge.

“Amenities like gyms and concierge services mean higher bills, but we still put security at the heart of our designs with a two-step entry system so packages and mail can be delivered safely to the blocks.”

The apartments themselves aren’t short on features either with private balconies and patio spaces offering outdoor space.

The three-bedroom duplexes at the scheme will extend to more than 1,000sq ft of internal space too.

Fairview is currently marketing one, two and three-bedroom homes

“You have large windows throughout the apartments, a white matte finish on the walls, with premium painted doors, chrome handles and sun-bleached oak Amtico flooring in the living areas and grey carpets in the bedrooms,” said Sohail.

“In the kitchens, there are quartz, salt-and-pepper, worktops with dove grey doors to the units, fully integrated appliances including fridge-freezers, induction hobs, electric ovens, wall-mounted microwaves and free standing washer dryers in the storage cupboards.”

Some properties feature views of the Thames, while others take in the Canary Wharf skyline to the west – a reminder perhaps that the estate can be reached in less than half an hour, door-to-door thanks to the arrival of Crossrail.

The DLR offers access to Royal Docks and London City Airport, while trains offer trips to Greenwich, Deptford and London Bridge – not to mention the nearby Uber Boat By Thames Clippers river bus.

All in all, Dock28 is very well connected.

Read More: How Jon Hala in Canary Wharf became a family business

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Limehouse: How AEG Cleaning Services aims to fill carbon neutral niche

Managing director George Mills says his business uses eco-friendly alternatives to minimise pollution

Managing director of AEG Cleaning Services George Mills

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Sit with George Mills for any length of time and you’ll be left in no doubt that there are two things he’s especially passionate about – cleaning and the environment.

I confess, when I arrived to interview him as the managing director of east London-based AEG Cleaning Services, I was expecting to hear the story of the business, perhaps a bit about him growing up in Limehouse where he still lives and then a rundown of the kinds of things his organisation offers. 

Instead I found a man driven to improve the world around him by demonstrating a different way of doing things.

“Traditional cleaning services are among the worst polluters – they typically use so many chemicals, it’s so harmful,” he said.

“I saw a gap in the market for an eco-friendly, carbon neutral cleaning company and thought that would be a good place to be.

“My dad and my aunt had run a cleaning business, so I had some knowledge of the sector.

“When I was a young teenager I’d go with my dad at weekends to clean banks and offices and that was a valuable experience although my approach to the industry is different.”

“For me, it’s about where the next generation is going to be.

“We have to do something about climate change and the way we’re treating the planet and AEG is doing that.”

Launched in 2021, George’s business has expanded across the capital in response to demand – but the company’s core ethos remains the same.

“We’re really going back in time – before all these chemicals were around, people made their own cleaning products,” he said.

“We started off doing that, although we now have a supplier of eco-friendly products because of the quantities we need to use.

“However, for every single job that needs to be done, there is a natural or non-polluting alternative to chemicals.

“And the results are the same. It might take a little longer to achieve, but there is no difference in quality at all.

“We also try to educate our customers on the kinds of products they can use or even make themselves – it’s so easy to do.

AEG offers a range of services including carpet cleaning

“That goes for businesses too. They have a real problem because they need to be cleaned all the time – just imagine a deep clean of a restaurant and kitchen.

“With a traditional firm the amount of chemicals used is crazy.

“We did one the other day – completely carbon neutral – and the result was the same.

“It’s vital we take this approach now, so that future generations can benefit.

“We even have a calculator on our website so people and businesses can see what they are saving in CO2 emissions by using our services.

“When I started the company, I wanted to do something that meant something to me and that would help people on Earth in the future.”

AEG offers home cleaning from £20 per hour while commercial premises start at £25 per hour.

The company offers fixed fees from £180 for end-of-tenancy and Airbnb cleans, while carpet cleaning starts at £5 per sq m. 

The latter is a good example of George’s other passion – the cleaning itself.

Having cracked the problem of cleaning limescale without harsh chemicals, his focus now is very much on carpets with a complement of trusted, trained contractors handling much of the company’s core workload.

“My background is in customer service and the way I run AEG is always – for me and the people I work with – to look round and put themselves in the customer’s shoes to ask whether they are happy with the job,” said George.

“If the answer’s no, then we need to fix whatever isn’t right. If that means staying extra time, then that’s what we do.

“We always start by asking people what kind of clean they are looking for and then we check on the job to make sure the level they have picked will achieve what they want. 

“We do a basic clean, a seasonal clean and a deep clean as well as bio-hazard levels. Our prices include all the products we use.

“We really like the deep cleans, which is when we get into every nook and cranny and people come in and go: ‘Wow’.

“That gives me a real sense of achievement – people call me ‘Magic George’ quite a lot, for some reason.

“When I started the business I began small, often making my own products because I wanted to learn exactly what worked.

“It’s been the same with the carpet cleaning. I did training to ensure the hot water cleaning we offer delivers the best results.

George advocates using eco-friendly ingredients in cleaning products such as lemons

“Attention to detail is very important – you need to know what the carpet and backing are made from.

“Then we pre-spray and aggregate it with a special tool before using the machine to rinse it. We use hot water because it dries much more quickly and that means you can get the furniture back in faster.

“You can see the change in the carpet right away – it’s very satisfying because it comes up like new and we don’t use any harmful chemicals. 

“I had one customer who had a carpet that was 10 years old and thought they would need to get a new one fitted.

“But after one clean they decided to keep it because it had come up so well. Cleaning is hard work.

“I take my hat off to anyone working in the industry because to do it properly, it’s a lot of effort and long hours. 

“But both me and the people AEG works with get real pleasure from the job, especially when you see the difference it can make in people’s lives.

“We’ve won some awards and to get that recognition for the company is great – but it’s important people understand why we do things the way we do.

“Cleaning the planet – one job at a time.”

Read More: Why there’s only weeks left to see Punchdrunk’s The Burnt city

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Canada Water: How British Land is building a new, 53-acre town centre for Rotherhithe

As the first concrete cores rise, we take a snapshot of the mammoth mixed regeneration project

An artist’s impression of British Land’s new bridge over Canada Water

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Before we begin our walk across the 53 acres that British Land (BL) is regenerating on Rotherhithe peninsula, Roger Madelin indulges in a raspberry croissant at Canada Water Cafe (only £2.70 for those who fancy a treat).

The place is packed. Local residents are meeting, chatting and working at tables. It’s the kind of image developers like to mock up on computers to show the thriving neighbourhoods their schemes will hopefully create.

It’s also cause for Roger to reflect on the fact that BL has a very rare opportunity at Canada Water – a project it describes as a chance to “build London’s first new town centre in 50 years” at the heart of a mature, expectant community. 

Carpeted with mostly suburban housing in the first flush of Docklands regeneration, the area is already home to residents, increasingly attracted by its close proximity to both the central London and Canary Wharf, thanks to the Jubilee line, but also to east and south London via the Overground.

Roger tells me it’s within 45 minutes of more places in the capital than anywhere else.

As joint head of Canada Water at BL, there’s a glint in his eye as he talks about the firm’s ambitions for the area.

Having spent 29 years at developer Argent overseeing the projects across the country such as Brindleyplace in Birmingham and the rebirth of King’s Cross in north London, there’s a sense that he couldn’t quite resist this one.

“BL noticed I was leaving Argent and asked if I wanted to come and run Canada Water,” he said.

“At first I was sceptical, I didn’t want to do a residential development, which is what I thought it would be.

“But then I came down here and realised it would be an opportunity to build a new town centre – what an extraordinary privilege.

“Then you get to ask what that is and I think it’s about health, environment and sustainability.

“Everyone in the world should regard urban places as very important and I think both Canada Water and Canary Wharf can be exemplars for how to reposition areas as urban centres.”

British Land’s joint head of Canada Water, Roger Madelin

While Canary Wharf continues its transition from pure business district to a place that’s home to companies, residential housing and a potent blend of leisure and hospitality attractions, Canada Water is still in the first chapter of its journey.

Concrete cores are rising on the first of its new buildings, which will include a new leisure centre for the area and social housing on the site’s eastern periphery. 

But these first structures are very much the vanguard in what will be a transformation of a plot that includes the whole of Surrey Quays Shopping Centre, the old Harmsworth Quay Printworks and connects Southwark Park with Greenland Dock and Russia Dock Woodland.

“With the planning permission we have, we can create a new urban centre,” said Roger.

“We have the ability to flex from 3million sq ft of commercial space to 4million – likewise we can build a minimum of 2,000 homes or a maximum of just under 4,000.

“Similarly, we can build up to 1million sq ft of retail and leisure space – we may not do that, but it will be a substantial amount. With the current shopping centre and leisure park, the area has about 350,000sq ft.

“As an overview, we’ll have about 35 new buildings, 20 acres of new public space and a 3.5-acre park.

“Many of our buildings will be five storeys high to protect the view of St Paul’s from Greenwich, so this will be on a human scale and I think that will attract people.

“The development I was involved with at King’s Cross has more people going there at weekends than to work during the week.

“There are dozens of places around London that are teeming with people on Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s great for people that live in them, but we also want people living outside to come here and enjoy themselves.”

British Land intends to preserve The Printworks building as a cultural venue

That attitude has doubtless been bolstered by the success of event and music venue Printworks, which has seen Harmsworth Quays’ immense press halls regularly fill with revellers enjoying some of the very best electronic music in London.

While originally conceived as a temporary use for the vast building in partnership with Broadwick Live, the plan is now to preserve the venue as part of the overall scheme, enclosing and enlarging the existing building and creating a park next to it.

“I credit my wife entirely for the decision to explore retaining the whole building,” said Roger.

“She and I walked round here in the summer of 2015 and she immediately saw the amazing opportunity it presented and asked what we were going to do with it.

“I said the assumption was that we would knock it down because it looked a bit harsh but she said we shouldn’t because nothing like it would get built again.

“Today, of course, you’d start with that assumption because of all the embodied carbon in the building.

“That was a little in my mind at the time, but not as much as today, when the view is where possible you don’t touch existing buildings.

“So, after three years of investigations – drilling, digging and studying – we’re pretty confident it was built a lot better than we even hoped, so we have applied for planning permission to keep it and extend it.

“If that’s successful, we’ll aim to be opening it by the end of 2025 – an amazing cultural venue to complement the others in the city.

“We already know the acoustics are extraordinary, whether it’s an electronic music event or a BBC Prom, both of which have been hosted there.”

Another artist’s impression of how The Printworks could look

This article is, naturally, far too short to do justice to the extent and depth of BL’s Canada Water project.

Even a brief walk to its borders reveals the sheer scale of the project, with plans for a new pedestrian bridge across Canada Water itself, which will also include work to boost wetland habitats and see the water level pumped up.

Already there’s been space made for charitable endeavours, work to help boost startups and a facelift for Surrey Quays Shopping Centre itself, including wallball courts and a new climbing wall.

Then there’s investment in a modular building for TEDI-London – a new higher education enterprise co-funded by King’s College London, Arizona State University and UNSW Sydney and focused on engineering – that was erected in only six weeks.

While some of these are temporary benefits, they significantly add to the buzz of the area and provide a flavour of BL’s direction of travel as the wider project continues to unfold.

“If we could do something here with applied engineering higher education, that would excite me,” said Roger.

“How we deal with the world always involves engineers sorting stuff out and I think, in the UK, the sector has had a bad rap in the past. 

“The other things I think are crucial is what we do with the new high street, which will be along Deal Porters Way – what it means to build a space like that now and how we create the public spaces and routes to the amazing parks, docks and woods that are already here.

“We want to make it so that if you have nothing on your agenda for the weekend and you want to stay in London, then you’ll just go to Canada Water and all the amazing stuff that’s there.

“King’s Cross is great – I think this will be bigger, better and greener from a public space point of view.”

An artist’s impression of the first phase from Canada Water station

Read more: Discover the 2022 Greenwich Theatre panto

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How Unifi.id delivers tech that helps firms cut carbon in their buildings

Level39-based company’s real-time occupancy data designed to help reduce energy wastage

Unifi.id CEO and founder Paul Sheedy

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“You cannot manage what you can’t measure,” said Paul Sheedy, the CEO and founder of Unifi.id.

“The one thing we focus on is giving clients the right measurement tools so that they can manage their buildings better.”

In the mouth of a lesser individual, technology designed to track building occupancy in real time and adjust systems such as lighting, heating and air conditioning accordingly might seem a little dry.

But Paul positively vibrates with passion when it comes to his specialist subject.

On the one hand there’s the engaging Irish lilt of a Dubliner and a glint in the eye.

On the other there’s a burning frustration and exasperation that more isn’t being done to tackle climate change and humanity’s continued overuse of resources.

He’s disarming, funny and deadly serious.

“We talk a lot about smart buildings,” he said, waving a hand to indicate the London skyline stretching out to the City and beyond as we gaze out of the 39th floor of One Canada Square in Canary Wharf.

“But 96% of buildings around the world are not smart.

“What we’re trying to do is deliver the things companies need to actually make them smarter.

“In most buildings, energy wastage is about 30% – just think of that in the wider context of cutting emissions and gas and electricity prices rising so quickly.

“My focus is all about using less energy and so lowering organisations’ carbon footprint very, very rapidly.”

Unifi.id's long range RFID cards are logged by its detectors
Unifi.id’s long range RFID cards are logged by its detectors

Based at Canary Wharf’s tech community Level39, Unifi.id has developed technology embedded in entry and exit swipe cards that allow its detectors to log employees as they pass key points in a building. 

Paul is quick to stress this isn’t about tracking the exact movements of individuals as they go about their day, but rather knowing who is in what general area at any given time and then using that data in a number of different ways.

“The lingering effect of the lockdowns is a good example,” he said. “Almost all buildings are being run as they were pre-Covid.

“Companies have all their cleaning staff, their restaurant staff and security staff in as though the occupancy was the same.

“But some buildings still have only around 2% of staff in on a Friday.

“That those buildings are being run in the same way is ridiculous.

“Before Covid, the way buildings were occupied was consistent, but now there’s not a single one that we run that has any consistency.

“Occupancy is so sporadic and it can be extreme on Mondays and Fridays.

“It’s criminal that all the lights are on, the air conditioning is cooling every floor, with only a fraction of the staff in.

“That’s why our technology can have an impact – the more we monitor, the better our predictive analysis gets. For example, we can see the effect of external factors. 

“We see that about 7%-12% fewer people come to the office on a Thursday if it’s raining.

“In contrast, rain on a Tuesday hardly affects anything and we think there’s a psychological reason for that because if you’ve been working from home on Friday and Monday, by Tuesday you’ll be feeling a need to return to the office despite the weather.

“On a Thursday, you might just think it doesn’t matter so much, especially if you’re working at home or off on the Friday.

“Then you have other factors such as train strikes, which can affect occupancy over an entire week.

“Occupancy detection also allows building owners working with us to tell the buildings in advance so they can adapt – keeping floors closed and turning down the air con, for example. 

“What we’re really trying to say to organisations is that they can adapt to this new way of working, but there will be consequences, so they may need to use hot-desking because certain areas won’t be open.”

The key for Unifi.id is giving organisations this ability to track change so they can adapt what their buildings are doing in real time, rather than simply guessing what’s happening.

Paul says energy is wasted in the vast majority of buildings
Paul says energy is wasted in the vast majority of buildings

“We think there will be a change,” said Paul.

“People working from home, paying for all the lighting and heating, will recognise that it would be cheaper for them to go to work, so it will get busier later in the year.

“In many sectors where there is flexibility, we already know what’s happening.

“Staff are seeing that it’s the right time to go back to work, socialise and interact with other people again.”

Greater numbers back in buildings makes Unifi.id’s technology even more relevant, given its obvious safety benefits.

Should a building catch fire, for example, knowing exactly how many people are in it and where they are is potentially life-saving information for the emergency services.

“This is something I’m particularly passionate about, because back in Dublin when I was a child, we had 48 of our neighbours die in a dance hall fire – they couldn’t get out of the building,” said Paul.

“What we want to do for the London Fire Brigade and for the tenants of buildings is to bring in a new policy where, in real time, if something does go wrong, the emergency services and building managers know the occupancy of the building.

“That means they can monitor the evacuation of the building and could save firefighters’ lives if they then don’t need to go in.

“Also we look at how many people in a building have mobility issues and where they are, so efforts can focus on getting them out safely.

“People don’t always do sensible things when it comes to an evacuation. 

“We have mechanisms in place where, if we can see people heading the wrong way, a completely automated communication is sent to their mobile to tell them where to go and what to do to get to the ground floor, even if that’s to avoid a certain evacuation route.”

Paul created Unifi.id following the success of Symphony Retail AI, a company he co-founded that analyses loyalty card transaction data to better understand the behaviour of shoppers.

Originally conceived to create beacon technology – the idea of sending messages from companies to people’s phones based on their location and profile – his firm switched its focus to property when it eventually became clear in the advertising world that this was a non-starter.

“I hate to admit failure, but I will,” said Paul, who has been based at Level39 since it launched as a tech accelerator hub in 2013.

“The world was convinced that beacon technology was going to be the next big thing in advertising, but it never happened.

“No retailer anywhere in the world ever made it work to detect the right customer at the right time to send them the right offer.

“In reality it didn’t work because it didn’t think about the individual and what they would have to do. 

“So now we focus on making technology that isn’t dependent on people doing certain things to make it work – the more you do that, the better your product is going to be.

“It’s more difficult for the company, but hey, I wouldn’t get out of bed if I didn’t know it was going to be a challenging day ahead of me.

“I enjoy squeezing the grey matter and the brains of brilliant people I work with to find what piece of physics we can break, bend or enhance.

“So we transformed into a proptech company, delivering simple essential data to those managing buildings so they can make them more efficient and better for the environment.

“Over the past two years, it’s not been a great time to be working in occupancy technology, so a lot of what we did in 2020 was to go back to our clients and say: ‘This will end, tell us what we could do to be even better after Covid’. 

“With their responses, my tech team sat down and we just worked relentlessly on building new solutions, working out what the next steps would be.

“We saw that the market was moving from card-based access control to apps.

“But we know this doesn’t make sense because people don’t tap in and out so much using an app, whereas the RFID technology in our cards  means we automatically detect people walking into or out of a building or past our detection points.

“We realised that the way to get around this was to develop a facial recognition system. 

“We only hold the vectors of a face in the camera, and only when an employee of the company walks in or out of the building – this would be detected and put in the database of who is in the building.

“Then we’d mesh that with 3D counting cameras – with these, we don’t know who you are, but we do know how many people pass them, so in reality we have absolute accuracy on the usage of each floor of a building.

“This means that if we do have an evacuation, for example, we know the numbers of people on each floor and we can detect them as they enter each stairway, so we can see the flow and quickly identify where there might be blockages or problems and allow the fire brigade to get to them.

“We really believe that this will become a global system, which will go into major cities around the world, like Dubai and New York.

Paul is clear that Unifi.id’s technology cannot be used to monitor the exact position of employees – this isn’t about tracking who’s at which desk and how many trips they take to the toilet in a day.

He said this would not only be an invasion of privacy on an ethical level, but also that such data would not be very useful.

“We have been careful with every client that we will never be a Big Brother solution – we’re only detecting people as employees or visitors who are allowed access to a particular floor of a building,” he said.

“Secondly, we will never put our technology into places like toilets or cigarette-smoking areas. If an employer wants to do that, they will be doing it without our technology. That’s not what this is about.

“One of my key points is that it should be actionable data, which would deliver the best solution, not just collecting data for the sake of it.

“The world isn’t taking climate change seriously enough.

“We’re failing on every single metric and we have to realise this isn’t about governments – its about organisations and individuals making the right choices on every single thing they do. We have to contain energy with every single device we use. 

“What the UK does have is an amazing ecosystem of accelerators for technology companies and a lot of them are now focused on proptech. 

“We’re now working in collaboration with a lot of those companies and, because we’re working with them, this country is now at the forefront of this sector going forward. 

“We work with people on LED lighting and automated building management systems and by using our data, businesses can rapidly cut energy wastage now.”

Read more: How Ultimate Performance helps its clients achieve their goals

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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