Expert Insights

Expert Insights

Building Up: Skyscraper vs Groundscraper - What is the future of Development?

Over the last 6 weeks we have examined Real Estate Development in a post-pandemic world, with an exceptional line-up of industry figures who have given their time to discuss the latest thinking on the creation of tall buildings and the role they play in our society.

A key part of this was collating questions and insights from hundreds of industry leaders during the campaign covering topics from the impact of COVID-19 on home office requirements, to the need for greater sustainability, to the future of offices and the impact of the pandemic on tall buildings. 

Developing, Funding, Design & Construction


London’s skyline is striking and increasingly so with a proliferation of skyscrapers over the last decade. However, there has been a shift in mindset, with a need for adaptability and future-proofing key to responding to the changing needs of occupiers, with 89% of respondents believing the pandemic will lead to long term changes in building design to meet occupier demand, with only 2% believing there would be no change. Nick Lawson, ING Real Estate, highlighted this with "the fact that occupiers are now asking for pandemic clauses into leases to protect their situation against the possibility of another outbreak”. 



Though the legacy of tall builings is good - 67% of respondents state the legacy of tall buildings within London to date has been positive or overwhelmingly positive - there is a need for forethough, as James Angus, Gardiner & Theobald says

“Whatever you’re developing – high or low – to future proof your building your carbon strategy has got to be considered on day one”. 







The Workplace & Living


Over half of respondents (56%) believe there will be less demand for office space in the ‘new normal’, however 44% believe there will be the same demand, with a greater pressure on flexibility in use classes. Offices after all are far more than just a spot for someone to work, but a socialising, marketing and financial tool, as Michele Schneider, Salesforce, reports “We see tall buildings as a great brand visibility tool”.



Adaptability of space and quality of the space are the key drivers for selecting new office space (42% and 39% respectively), however location is still important, particularly for living. As Emily Prideaux, Derwent says “The successful tall buildings will be the ones that everybody is talking about where there are things in the middle - restaurants, gardens, community space, gyms etc”. 

Over 5 times as many respondents would rather work in tall building rather than live in one. Although a quarter of respondents would both live and work in tall buildings, a third of respondents would do neither. As Robin Grove noted "unfortunately, when high rise development goes wrong, the incidences – although extremely rare – tend to be quite understandably etched on the collective memory. In 1968, the collapse of Ronan Point led to a major change in direction for public housing policy. The legacy of the Grenfell Tower tragedy is still very much with us – legislation to remedy fire safety issues may ultimately change the viability of schemes, perhaps particularly affecting registered providers." As Gavin Eustace, Silbury, says “If you’re going to build more homes and hit the 2050 net zero target, you have to be more intelligent about how you build”

Urban Planning, Wellbeing & Social Impact


It is the ultimate role of the planning system to set the bar for acceptable development and, through a political lens, determine whether a scheme reaches the desired hurdle. National policy identifies environmental, economic and social objectives within the overall goal of achieving sustainable development. This was reinforced by all the respondents who believed the development plan should set acceptable locations for tall buildings. 

There has been conversation though when planning permissions and the requirement for 'beauty' and 'future-proofing' are sometimes thought to go too far, or become restrivetive. Over 50% believe a national policy requirement for “beauty” will mean a decrease in the number of tall buildings obtaining planning permission

If you would like to download the Building Up: Skyscraper vs Groundscraper report click here, or for more information contact Fiona Edmond, James Souter, Claire Fallows or your usual Charles Russell Speechlys contact. 

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