IKEA claims its most up-to-date London retailer is its greenest ever. But how can this be correct if an additional green creating was demolished to make way for it? asks Tom Ravenscroft.


Knocking down a single sustainable creating to make an additional is nonsensical. Still, this is precisely what has occurred in Greenwich, London, exactly where IKEA has just opened its most up-to-date retail outlet.

“IKEA Greenwich is our most sustainable retailer,” reads the furnishings company’s web-site and the creating confident is packed with sustainable functions. But there is one thing seriously incorrect. The white elephant in the area is that to make the retailer, IKEA demolished what was the UK’s most sustainable supermarket.

Created by London-primarily based architectural practice Chetwoods, Sainsbury’s Greenwich was lauded as a pioneering instance of sustainable industrial architecture that pushed the boundaries of eco-friendly design at the finish of the 20th century. It was the first supermarket to attain an superb BREEAM sustainability rating, with its green credentials earning it a spot on the Stirling Prize shortlist – unsurprisingly the very first and only supermarket ever to make the list.

Even so, only 17 years just after celebrity chef Jamie Oliver opened the doors, it was demolished. In an immediate not only was the creating wiped away, but with it the thought that it was sustainable. As Laurie Chetwood told me: “Knocking it down knocks out the thought that it was a sustainable creating. It tends to make a mockery of it all.”

IKEA has clearly place each work into making a environmentally friendly retailer

As a rule of thumb, the power necessary to construct and demolish a creating is about 30 per cent of what is necessary to run it more than a 50-year lifespan. By demolishing the creating a lot earlier than this, any environmental savings banked when operating the creating have been wiped out. No matter how small power the Sainsbury’s creating took to operate, in Greenwich a common steel box that stood for 50 years would have been the much more sustainable choice.

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IKEA has clearly place each work into making a environmentally-friendly retailer. Created by SRA Architects, the creating appears on the face of it like you’d count on an IKEA to appear. But behind its familiar blue face, it incorporates a lot of green technologies: rainwater harvesting will contribute half the water made use of in the creating, its circulation regions are naturally lit and LED lighting has been installed all through.

IKEA's most sustainable store – Sainsbury's most sustainable supermarket
Sainsbury’s Greenwich, the UK’s most sustainable supermarket, was demolished to make the IKEA retailer. Photo courtesy of Chetwoods

The store’s sustainability agenda is most visible from the air. The roof is covered with 12,000-square-metres of solar panels, broken only by rooflights, and a four,000-square-metre green roof – a single of the biggest in London.

Even so, even if it achieves the highest BREEAM rating as is anticipated, what has come prior to suggests IKEA’s ‘most sustainable store’ can hardly be deemed sustainable.

The retailer could have been repurposed by an additional retailer, or converted for an additional use

Sainsbury’s produced the choice to leave the web page as the creating was no longer large adequate for its wants and has alternatively constructed a new, bigger retailer just down the road. According to the chain, the choice to close any retailer is “by no means taken lightly”. It claims relocating has permitted it “to operate in an even much more environmentally-friendly way”.

The retailer could have been repurposed by an additional retailer, or converted for an additional use. But IKEA decided that, despite the fact that the web page was excellent for its very first new London retailer in 14 years, the creating was not.

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“There should have been an option – it ought to have been retained and made use of by an additional retailer, or develop into a neighborhood centre or it could have produced a fantastic sports centre,” said Catherine Croft, director of the Twentieth Century Society, which campaigned for the creating to be saved.

The truth that IKEA chose this web page suggests that the corporation has to bare some of the duty for the building’s destruction. A brownfield web page, or even a single with a much less sustainable creating, would have been far better – a point that was produced by the building’s lead architect Paul Hinkin at the organizing inquest.

“To destroy a pioneering environmentally sustainable creating and concrete more than its garden just after much less than 15 years does not, as claimed by the applicants, represent sustainable improvement,” he mentioned. “To be sustainable IKEA ought to be encouraged to make on brownfield land.”

IKEA's most sustainable store – Sainsbury's most sustainable supermarket
Sainsbury’s Greenwich had “sustainability in its DNA” mentioned Laurie Chetwood. Photo courtesy of Chetwoods

When the IKEA may possibly have passed BREEAM’s sustainability test, does it push the boundaries of green design and style like the Sainsbury’s did? Not only did it have add-ons like rainwater harvesting and solar energy, but the whole retailer was naturally lit with massive rooflights. As Chetwood puts it: “Sustainability was in Sainsbury’s DNA”.

It is really hard to say the identical about the IKEA, which for all intents and purposes is nonetheless a steel-framed box. “I get the impression that it’s lipstick on the face of an elephant,” added Chetwood.

Any technique that lets this come about is broken

IKEA may possibly argue that environmental creating technologies have moved on, that the Sainsbury’s was no longer a cutting-edge sustainable creating. But beneath this logic, obtaining and scraping a new electric car or truck each year would be sustainable.

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Like its predecessor, the quick sustainable credentials of the IKEA can not be doubted. However, the succession of choices that have lead to it getting constructed are definitely not.

Each IKEA and Sainsbury’s may possibly justify their actions as portion of wider sustainability agenda. Even so calling either creating sustainable now appears a stretch. Destroying a single creating to make an additional can by no means be for the fantastic of the atmosphere, and any technique that lets this come about is broken.

The failure in Greenwich comes down to lack of flexibility, each with architecture and organizing technique. Architects ought to take note of what has occurred in southeast London – even the most sustainable creating can be demolished if it can’t adapt to new makes use of.

When each IKEA and Sainsbury’s ought to be applauded for commissioning sustainable buildings, to relocate just after such a brief stint shows a lack of point of view and stewardship on behalf of Sainsbury’s and IKEA. The choice to obtain a web page with a young current structure it did not want shows a narrow definition of sustainability. The truth that the planners permitted it highlights a technique that nonetheless does not definitely take sustainability seriously.

Green buildings can only be terrific if their lifespan is longer than flatpack furnishings.

Photography courtesy of IKEA, unless stated.

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