Ikea is the world’s largest furniture retailer and a highly distinctive brand. It’s also a company with ambitious sustainability goals, and they have come together in Ikea’s latest UK store in Greenwich.
The most sustainable branch of IKEA so far, the Greenwich store was judged ‘outstanding’ by BREEAM earlier this year – the highest possible certification for a sustainable building, and the first retail building in the country to score over 90%. That makes Ikea’s latest blue monolith Britain’s greenest shop.
The building includes LED lighting, rainwater harvesting, and heating and cooling are handled by a geothermal system. Natural light and ventilation are used as much as possible. The roof has a solar array across three quarters of the space. The remaining quarter has been landscaped to include an insect friendly green roof, a publicly accessible garden and event space, and a third area with raised beds for growing food. There are orchard areas on the ground level too.
Materials matter of course, and the store makes good use of renewable and recycled materials in the building itself and the fittings.
As well as providing a high quality building, the store aims to inspire and enable greener lifestyle choices. It is accessible by public transport, with 46 buses an hour serving the site. And you don’t have to carry your stuff home if you load up on more cactuses and candles then you intended – a zero carbon delivery service can drop your shopping off around London by cargo bike.
There are some experiments in the retail space itself too. There are open areas that are free for local groups to use, and that will host yoga and meditation sessions. Learning labs will host a wide variety of activities and workshops on greener living, and a glance at the in-store events page throws up classes on plant care, making upcycled beach bags, or running a zero waste kitchen.
As a retailer, it would be easy to point out that all of this is in service to consumer sales. But Ikea is an unusual company, privately owned and operated by a trust. It’s not a shareholder corporation and it can experiment more freely than many other large companies. That’s just as well, because Ikea operates at an enormous scale. The choices that they make cause ripples, and I hope that their future stores are built to a similar standard, whether in Britain or elsewhere.