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London Vs New York – Office Development

London Vs New York – Office Development

Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 76) – All IMHO:  

When I worked in New York I thought things would be similar to London. Not so, things were the same but also quite different. 

There was the obvious such as metric Vs imperial, lifts Vs elevators and A4 Vs Letter size paper. Then there was the not so obvious such as different cost structures and building design strategies driven by regulations. 

I read an excellent article by Alinea and Dharam Consulting in the July 15, 2016 edition of “Building Magazine” ( ) on the differences between office development in London and New York City. 

It would have been useful for me to have read and understood this before I went to New York. There are property professionals today considering or actually moving between London and New York. Understanding the differences between the two property markets would enable them to avoid mistakes and stand out within their organizations. 

I have tried to summarize the differences between the two property markets from the article in the table below. 

My take aways are;

  • Regulations, local AHJ, politics and culture impact property development and the city skyline as much as the design team. Local market signals I guess.


  • Most people think developers are megalomaniacs who always get their way. Not so, they are risk takers navigating a minefield of rules and regulations that can be obscure, particularly in London, and involve “negotiated local community betterment contributions” or development “ransom and tax” by another name. 

  • The skyline reflects the “hand of regulation”. Take the image I used for this post. The London skyline has high rise buildings in clusters as required by the various “protected view corridors” to St Pauls Cathedral. The “Cheese Greater or Leadenhall Building” in the image is shaped specifically to meet the view corridor requirements from Parliament Hill. Whereas the New York skyline is a more uniform mass of rectangular buildings.

  • The harsher calculations for NIA and therefore ROI (via rental yield) in London have the consequence of favouring hydronic based heating and cooling solutions and therefore, IMHO, more energy efficient and “greener” buildings result. 

Bottom line, If you are an architect, engineer or development manager you must know your market. This applies particularly to building services engineers who want to be “green”. It is economics that drive property development i.e. ROI in the form of rent. Any “green” building strategies must fit within economic constraints.

I think this is the argument for legislation on building sustainability and energy efficiency as the property development market will only react to two things:

  1. ROI 
  2. Local regulations i.e. legislation 

I have not yet met a tenant who will pay a premium for a low energy sustainable building, therefore legislating for sustainability and energy efficiency seems to be the only way to make high performance buildings the new normal?   

Related posts & links:

# Building Magazine: 

#59 – Building Design Principals Hierarchy ( )

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