Objecting to IKEA

The Sainsbury’s store in Greenwich, which I worked on with Paul Hinkin of Black Architecture in the late 1990s is set to be demolished to make way for a big blue IKEA box, despite its being regarded as the most influential retail building worldwide in the last 30 years (Building Services Journal).

Photo: Millennium Sainsbury's

The Greenwich Council Planning website is open for comments on the IKEA Outline Application which requires the demolition of Sainsbury’s. I urge you to make a brief comment in support of retaining this important building.

My comments on the application are reproduced below:

The Greenwich Sainsbury’s was the first retail store to achieve BREEAM ‘excellent’, long before this requirement was adopted into planning policy. The original design achieved a 50% reduction in Carbon emissions at a time when the Building Regulations did not even measure Carbon. Further, the design focused on minimising the fundamental need for energy, rather than simply displacing energy supply from the grid to renewables. If a new building’s Carbon performance is predicated on renewables, then when the technologies eventually fail the building’s full demand will revert to the grid. By contrast the Sainsbury’s store will always be a low Carbon store by virtue of its fundamental design.

It is an appalling waste of resources and completely unsustainable to allow this store to be demolished so soon after construction. It is unfeasible that this should have come about by Sainsbury’s being able to place restrictions on the re-use of the existing building. Greenwich Planning Committee could make a strong statement about sustainability by calling for any restrictive covenant to be set aside and the building retained.

If the existing Sainsbury’s Store must be demolished please consider conditioning all of the building fabric improvements and energy efficiency measures set out in the Energy Assessment produced by Envision Energy in support of the IKEA application. Energy saving design is expensive compared to general construction and is typically value engineered out prior to contract. Without the full set of features described in the Energy Assessment, you would be left with a standard store design, compliant with the Building Regulations, but no more.

With regard to renewable energy, the IKEA development should aim to utilise the ground source energy potential left as a legacy by the Sainsbury’s store. Boreholes were sunk to serve as heat rejection for food refrigeration in the Sainsbury’s and these could be repurposed to serve a ground source, space heating and cooling system. This would be preferable to adding heavy goods vehicles delivering woodchip in an already congested part of South London, or the installation of photovoltaics, which essentially relies on offsetting to achieve Carbon abatement.

7 thoughts on “Objecting to IKEA

    • James it appears that the only reason that there is no business use for the existing building is that Sainsburys is preventing any other retailer from using it as a supermarket. That has nothing to do with sustainability.

      • Sustainability is the ability to sustain. When an organisation puts a block on the building’s ability to sustain itself, it is by definition unsustainable as a direct result by the block by Sainsburys. Similarly, if the business was unable to sustain itself for lack of revenue/profit, it is by definition unsustainable for the building.

        When architects and engineers typically look at the sustainability of the planet, they focus on material choice, passive design and engineering systems despite a defunct building will have a higher energy cost than any savings allow due to design. Lack of revenue and a legal block are thus highly relevant to the planet’s sustainability as the energy cost of replacing a building is enormous. If a building had a unfixable leak in its systems, it would lower its sustainability rating. (Similar to the Gherkin that can’t open windows as a result of problems created due to the lack of communication between the interior designers and architects.)

        In this case, there is a leak in the legal documentation that make the building unsustainable. A leak is a leak due to bad design, which doesn’t concern architects nor engineers, but lawyers. Business models can also be a leak too, but when all professions without leaving anyone out build a tight system, then you have proper sustainability. This case is unfortunate, but a lesson learned hopefully. Goodluck in the fight. If you want to win, worth trying to affect the influencers of Sainbury’s (customers/investors) which is the only way to change their mind. Example: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/9994354/Facebook-advertisers-enraged-by-rape-ads.html

  1. So if I understand this correctly, as an ordinary member of society, we/I am to recycle re-use and be sustainable, yet as a company that promotes an asperational lifestyle and product range, I have to allow a vito on the most basic of sustainability,
    It is such a shame that as a professional Builder I am also guided by various environmental guidance a and some very strict policies, most I have to say serve there ideals quite well,
    Then on the flip side a perfectly usable and in fact quite beautiful building let alone sustainable building is threatened with demolition to make way for a new standard of ‘ sustainability ‘. Am I missing something ??

    • Unfortunately Paul, I feel that we still have not achieved sufficient recognition of the sustainable imperatives for our society. Thus sustainable ideals, whether behaviour or buildings, are still sacrificed to commercial gain and capitalism. If Sainsbury’s was not frightened of competition they would not have put a restriction on the reuse of the building and that would make the building attractive to a host of other potential purchasers. As it stands Sainsbury’s themselves appear to have condemned the building rather than let anyone else benefit from it.

  2. Replace this with a Blue box selling meatballs, rollmop herrings and furniture that is normally discarded after a year? Total bonkers…

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