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Broadband certification attracts business tenants to Old Street offices

Property developer Derwent London pre-lets over 100,000 sq ft of office space after securing highest level of broadband connectivity accreditation from rating body WiredScore

Property developer Derwent London is using a recently-launched digital connectivity rating scheme to guarantee that tenants in its city-centre properties can access superfast broadband services.

The firm specialises both in new-build offices and regenerating inner-city properties, bringing buildings that otherwise would have been demolished back to life.

Because of this, said Derwent leasing surveyor Philippa Davies, over the years the company has come to position itself towards businesses working in the creative industries, which tend to have more advanced technology requirements.

Derwent is currently working on a major new-build project in the heart of London’s burgeoning IT quarter at Old Street Roundabout, an area often criticised for poor broadband availability.

The White Collar Factory will provide 237,000 sq ft of office space over 16 floors, and Derwent has now secured the UK’s first Wired Certified Platinum for Development and Redevelopment rating at the property from connectivity ratings body WiredScore.

Wired certification is intended to act as a trust mark for buildings independently certified as providing leading-edge infrastructure. It started in New York two and a half years ago as an initiative sponsored by former mayor Michael Bloomberg, before hopping the Atlantic to London in 2015, when it was launched by former mayor Boris Johnson.

WiredScore’s William Newton said the certification meant landlords had more incentive to use insights from the scheme to improve connectivity standards, while tenants benefited from greater transparency before signing the lease.

“Most businesses care about three things,” said Newton. “Set-up, so they don’t end up using dongles while they wait, resilience, and pricing.”

The scoring system looks at a number of issues that determine quality of connectivity, said Newton. These include overall building design, accounting for factors such as the number of vertical risers and horizontal space to run cabling; whether or not there is a secure telecoms room; how many local internet service providers are prepared to provide services to the building; and wayleave agreements.

From these criteria, WiredScore then ranks the building in one of five categories: uncertified, certified, silver, gold or platinum. Between 5% and 10% of buildings achieve a platinum score, said Newton.

Read more about broadband in London

  • In June 2016, builders working in Brixton, south London, severed a crucial link in Virgin Media’s trunk network, cutting broadband and cable TV services to thousands.
  • A YouGov poll for the Foundation for Information Society Policy has found widespread disillusionment among Londoners when it comes to broadband provision in the capital.
  • In 2014, the City of London Corporation launched a drive to improve superfast broadband for residents and SMEs after losing patience with BT’s roll-out.

As a result of the certification, which Derwent is now using in its marketing process, the firm has already let 60% of the White Collar Factory, with tenants including Adobe, AKT II, BGL, Capital One and The Office Group. BT, Virgin Media and Colt are all understood to have committed to provide services at the site.

Derwent is also pursuing certification at 18 other sites in its portfolio.

“WiredScore’s independent connectivity accreditation allows us to highlight the first-class levels of connectivity at White Collar Factory and sets the standard for innovative and progressive landlords who hope to attract top businesses in London’s booming digital economy,” said Derwent’s Davies.

WiredScore’s Newton said that in general, landlords appeared keen to embrace the scheme, even if they did not always fully understand the need to supply best-of-breed connectivity to business tenants.

“Once this goes more mainstream, landlords will have problems letting buildings if they are not up to speed,” said Davies.

Newly-elected London mayor Sadiq Khan also gave the scheme his backing, saying: “London is already a world-class city and it deserves world-class connectivity and infrastructure to match.

“In promoting greater transparency on connectivity in commercial properties, WiredScore is helping the capital’s businesses make the right choices for the long term, while simultaneously improving our city’s connectivity.

“Great connectivity has already been displayed by properties that have achieved Wired certification, including the Greater London Aurhority’s own City Hall. This important work will continue to help connected buildings act as beacons of the capital’s already strong connectivity and enable other properties to benchmark and make the right investments to enable London’s businesses to continue to grow.”

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