Bringing the cutting EDGE to London

EDGE Technologies, the developer behind Amsterdam's trailblazing smart buildings, has set its sights on London

Emily Wright

When the Edge in Amsterdam opened its doors in 2015, the news hit headlines across the globe. The most sustainable building in the world at the time of its launch, it was also hailed as the smartest and one of the first examples of an app-controlled office development.

This was a building that promoted “a radical new way of working”. It could control the temperature around employees’ desks based on their preferences, remember how they took their coffee and guide them to a workspace pre-selected to fit their needs, based on their diary for the day.

It is easy to forget that, four years ago, this was groundbreaking stuff. As a result, the Edge and latterly the new Edge Olympic – often referred to as the Edge 2 – have put Amsterdam on the map for commercial real estate innovation.

Now the developer behind these trailblazing smart buildings has set its sights on London, and the significance of the move should not be underestimated.

London showcase

EDGE Technologies this week announced the £50m purchase of 60 St Thomas Street on London’s South Bank, SE1, from Columbia Threadneedle Investments.

Currently occupied by a Home Office immigration centre, the site is slated to be redeveloped as part of a co-ordinated approach by major landowners along and around St Thomas Street, including CIT, Greystar and Sellar, to deliver integrated regeneration.

The Dutch real estate company expects its entrance into the London market will have a substantial impact as it prepares to take its innovative approach to development to the next level.

“When you come to a big market like London you have to deliver a showcase,” says Boudewijn Ruitenburg, chief operating officer of EDGE Technologies. “In a city like this, all eyes will be on us so we will definitely be bringing something completely new to the market. It is too early to say exactly what that will be yet. But it will be something that will trigger a lot of occupier demand. We will have something to deliver that is different to what is already available.”

It’s a bold claim, however the power of the Edge brand has form. The original building, which is Deloitte’s Amsterdam headquarters, is on the outskirts of the city, but that doesn’t stop thousands of people flocking to it every week.

“Huge businesses from around Amsterdam and beyond want to book desks there,” says Thimon De Jong, a future strategist based in the city.

“This is where all the corporates want to be, just to get a taste of a new way of working. And they will travel for the experience.”

Data and efficiency

EDGE’s Ruitenburg adds that the scheme is likely to embrace a “corporate cool” style and says there will be more of a focus on data use and efficiency than some of the elements that have characterised previous developments.

“Things like temperature control are nice to have,” he says. “But the key is making use of the sensors. We are getting to the point now where we have access to so much data that we can analyse patterns to make our future buildings more efficient and sustainable.”

And this, says William Newton, president and EMEA managing director of technology and real estate consultant WiredScore, is something London should firmly embrace.

He says: “Recent years have seen a clear shift towards tenants demanding more from their workplaces, with sustainability and connectivity being the leading factors.

“The next generation of developments are already focused on being smart, or smart-enabled, with a number of London’s existing forward-thinking landlords preparing for this.

“EDGE Technologies should be able to raise that bar even further with its experience from the continent.”