Engineering regional opportunities with Jo Sainsbury

Arup’s director is enthused by Socius’ appetite for reimagining existing sites and creating social value.

Arup have supported Socius in appraising opportunities for new development sites for over two years. We have a passion for integrated design and many of the projects we’ve assessed with Socius needed a range of expertise to unlock the potential of the site, from structural and building services engineering, to transport, sustainability, acoustics advice.

We help streamline appraisals with our multi-disciplinary thinking. If I see a challenge or an opportunity however unusual, I’ll table it. Socius are always looking for innovation, but with common sense. They say things like ‘we’re looking at this 1980’s office block, and we’d like to keep the a majority of building but expand and convert it to residential. That’s exciting. We share the ethos of thinking beyond the obvious and maximising opportunities for development to be sustainable.

Commercial viability can be challenging. Socius have an unusual eye for opportunities, and the work they’ve done has opened my eyes to how developers can promote successful regeneration outside London through the reimagining of existing sites.

Every site needs a different approach and as designers, our role is to find the most suitable solution. In structural engineering – my core discipline, often the question we’re asked is what’s the right material, or structural grid? It depends on the use, but grid and material are intrinsically linked. We can also challenge convention by selecting a smaller grid, enabling us to propose less carbon-intensive materials like timber, or simply improve the efficiency of the structural frame.

We’re also looking more proactively at deconstruction on our projects. I’m a big advocate of a component-based approach. The industry is focused on measuring embodied and in-operation carbon, but what about re-use and end of life. The opportunity to re-use components and materials through intelligent specification has lots of potential for reducing overall carbon in the future.

Socius also focus heavily on social impact which aligns well with our approach at Arup. We have lots of ideas for how we can contribute positive social impact on our latest collaboration with Socius, the London Cancer Hub, so it’s great to be working alongside like-minded people! Their drive to promote social impact across the supply chain can only do good for the industry.