Office completions up but construction starts down in London

London saw 3.9 million sq ft of new office space complete in the last six months, delivering the largest volume of office space in central London for 13 years. 

The London Office Crane Survey, published by Deloitte Real Estate, has recorded 28 new construction starts over six months, compared to 40 in the previous survey. In terms of volume, this adds 3.2 million sq ft into the development pipeline, a rise of 13%.  Despite this increase, the total office space currently under construction across the capital is 13.9 million sq ft, a 6% decrease from the previous survey’s 14.8 million sq ft. 

Shaun Dawson, author of the London Office Crane Survey at Deloitte, said: “The sheer volume of completed space is no surprise given the surge in development activity 18 months ago. In total 4.4 million sq ft completed in 2016 and this momentum has continued into 2017, we expect this year’s annual total delivery to be the highest since 2003.”

The City continues to dominate development activity with ten new schemes totalling 1.9 million sq ft taking the City’s construction pipeline to 8.2 million sq ft. This represents a 7% decrease, but comes on the back of a number of large schemes having completed in the last six months. However, the largest decrease in construction activity was recorded in the West End, down 27% in six months. This is notwithstanding the addition of nearly half a million sq ft across eight schemes starting construction. Other markets remain active with Midtown and Southbank’s development activity increasing by 9% and 6% respectively. 

Occupier demand remains resilient with 43% (six million sq ft) of space currently under construction already let. Dawson added: “Good quality new stock is attracting significant tenant demand with ten of the new schemes starting construction already achieving leasing success and of the 3.9 million sq ft of completed space, half was pre-let. This early leasing activity has softened the impact the volume of space completing has on the market.”

Trending this survey are new-builds compared to refurbishment projects. New-builds now account for the largest share the new space starting construction - 2.6m sq ft, pushing the average size up from 70,000 sq ft to 113,000 sq ft. 

Nigel Shilton, managing partner at Deloitte Real Estate, added: “The decrease in overall volume of space under construction could suggest that developers have slowed down, yet this is more a result of timing and two years of elevated levels of construction completing rather than developers holding off. Demolition levels remain high at 7.9 million sq ft, which chimes with the sentiment of our surveyed contractors who expect a rise in workload over the coming 12 months. Looking at the development pipeline, we forecast around 39 million sq ft to be delivered by 2021. Very few schemes have been cancelled, highlighting continuing developer confidence.”

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