CROYDON, WHAT A DIFFERENCE TEN YEARS MAKES!
MPN was initially appointed by Westfield to value engineer the original Whitgift! scheme in Croydon in 2013, as part of the £1.4bn redevelopment of the town centre. Now, ten years on, MPN is part of new plans to regenerate the area. Societal change as well as economic and environmental considerations have all played a part in reshaping the future masterplan, and the demands placed on MPN as structural engineer, as well as the wider design team have changed too. Being more innovative and resourceful can mean a lighter engineering “touch” in order to achieve the commercial and environmental viability necessary to help ensure that this time the plans will come to fruition.
Prior to Croydon, MPN and Westfield had already worked successfully on Stratford City, Shepherds Bush, and other major UK town centre schemes. MPN stayed onboard through the JV with Hammerson and their acquisition by the French firm Unibail Rodamco. Working with Westfield/URW as landlord, developer, and contractor over so many years has put the practice in good stead for working with diferent stakeholders and finding alternative engineering solutions that suited everyone.
The first plan for Croydon was a mixed retail and residential development, including a major shopping centre anchored by two department stores and some 600 residential apartments in towers. With changes in shopping and leisure habits as well as Brexit, the COVID pandemic, interest rates and inflation the re-imagined second plan will have far less reliance on retail and a likely quantum increase in residential-type uses, alternative workspaces, and new leisure uses.
MPN has seen a similar adjustment in other schemes where residential has included BTR, PRS, affordable, senior living, and student housing as part of the mix. In some cases, retail is being repurposed or even built over by residential to improve asset values.
It is not only the content of the plan that is altering. While start-on-site used to mean demolition of existing redundant buildings, the new plan will look to re-use as much of the existing structures as possible, including almost all of the existing basement and substructure.
This presents clients and structural engineers with the need to provide a warranty for older structures that have reached the end of their original design life. A significant cost is therefore invested in physical testing and carrying out back calculations to prove the integrity to investors that the structures will last another 60 years. Fortunately, MPN has acquired plenty of experience dealing with this issue internationally over its 60-year history. However large or small the schemes, if you require a lighter engineering “touch” to improve environmental and commercial viability, then do get in touch.