The restructure at property giant Lendlease that includes a cull of 400 or so jobs from the organisation continues with a number of people in the sustainability team leaving the company, but also with an eye to the growth in low carbon materials such as timber

Among those who have recently left the team are Andrew Scerri who has joined Mirvac as senior sustainability manager, Lucy Sharman who is joining Western Sydney Parklands as sustainability director and, as previously reported, Andrew Coles who left after 14 years for the job of group head ESD with Charter Hall. Rowan Griffith also left after nearly seven years when his role as head of sustainability, property Australia, became redundant with the merger of the building and property business into a single unit, in line with other business units globally.

It’s part of new chief executive Tony Lombardo’s plans for how the company tackles rough waters that have emerged globally in the wake of Covid. 

According to company spokesperson the staff losses from sustainability are a fraction of the 40-strong team and the business is advertising for some replacement roles.

“The recently announced changes to the organisational structure better position Lendlease to accelerate development production, continue to deliver our construction program and grow our investments platform in a more focused and efficient way,” the spokesperson told The Fifth Estate.

“While the changes to the structure have resulted in a small number of people leaving the Australian sustainability team, it has created a number of new roles dedicated to delivering our industry-leading sustainability targets and our well-publicised triple bottom line strategy.”

The company recently warned of a challenging year to come and said cost cuts of about $160 million were needed to deal with the challenges globally of COVID-19.

Mr Lombardo said he expected an upturn in the company’s business in the financial year 2023.

Among the hurdles are slowing residential sales associated with the massive Elephant Park project in London and One Sydney Harbour at Barangaroo Central for a “combined $100 million hit”. 

“The enforced lockdowns and isolation from the COVID pandemic are having significant ramifications for the way society lives, works and plays,” Mr Lombardo told The AFR in August.

“This has been reflected across workplace occupancy, retail vacancy and, in some cases, population shifts from immigration and a population decline.

“As an organisation we’ve experienced significant adverse effects, from the deterioration of these conditions.”

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Interestingly the company has come under fire in London for wanting to replace a residential tower at the Elephant Park project with a commercial tower that would accommodate what it said was a new appetite to work closer to home, in a signal that more office investors may reconsider preferred locations.

The job cuts are in addition to the 4000 that will go following the sale of the engineering and services business. 

A Sydney Morning Herald report said Lendlease would undertake one of the biggest shake-ups of the business in the past decade and “focus on selling out of what it sees as non-core developments and bring in new sectors such as build-to-rent, data centres, and reposition its older office assets into more flexible spaces”.

Timber is Go

The company recently announced a new partnership with Scandinavian-based sustainable timber supplier, Stora Enso. 

The move was launched in Milan, Italy, early this month, where Lendlease has A$7.9 billion in urbanisation projects underway.

As part of the announcement, the company said it would also establish a dedicated studio in the city named Podium MX, to facilitate “the creation of new sustainable timber products and increased use of sustainable timber across its A$52 billion portfolio of European development projects”. 

The studio will be part of the A$3.6 billion Milan Innovation District (MIND), the former 2015 World Expo site, and will complement a similar facility also recently established in Silicon Valley, a media statement said. 

The Stora Enso product catalogue “will be fully digitised through Lendlease’s end-to-end digital platform, Podium, making it easier for the company to design and build with sustainable timber in the future”.

The motivation is the big savings in embodied carbon offered by timber materials at a time when the world’s built environment is waking up to the vast impact it has on greenhouse gas emissions.

Lendlease claims that at its 25 King office project in Brisbane the use of timber instead of conventional materials reduced carbon emissions by 74 per cent, or 5000 tonnes of carbon.

“Given the built environment currently contributes about 40 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions globally, sustainable timber products represent a compelling opportunity for the construction industry to lighten its environmental footprint. Strong, lightweight and resilient to fire and shocks, sustainable timber contains much less embodied carbon than traditional building materials such as steel and cement,” the company said.

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