The Gemstone Building in Crawley
Shortlisted for Best Sustainable Brownfield/Urban Regeneration/Infrastructure Scheme
A best practice brownfield development delivering significant benefits
Launched in 2019, Sixpenny Group is a Surrey-based property investor and developer. We are a purpose-driven SME delivering the future of real estate through a focus on strategic vision, collaboration and sustainability.
In conjunction with our delivery partners, Arcus-PCD, Sixpenny Group successfully concluded the construction, pre-let and sale of a high-specification BREEAM ‘Excellent’ certified warehousing logistics development on a vacant brownfield site at the Manor Royal Business District in Crawley, West Sussex.
We are putting the Gemstone Building forward for this award as it is a landmark development delivering significant benefits for all stakeholders involved. The project:
Transformed unproductive space - We released latent value in 145,000 sq.ft of redundant office space by delivering 82,000 sq.ft of much needed high-quality logistics capacity. The 6.2-acre site (formally Virgin Group’s HQ) had been vacant for over five years, with Sixpenny Group acquiring it off-market in April 2021 for £18.5m.
Met the highest sustainability standards - The latest processes and technologies were specified throughout, resulting in the Gemstone Building securing BREEAM ‘Excellent’ certification. 98% of the original building (278 tonnes of material) was recycled with a substantial proportion of this used to create a new purpose-built facility for a community-focused sports club in Surrey. The removal of gas supply and use of high-capacity EV charging, rainwater harvesting, low carbon heating and solar panels ensured the building met the exacting sustainability targets of a multinational tenant. It was also the first building in the region to secure planning following the change in Natural England’s water neutrality guidance. Independent experts calculated that the Gemstone Building saves over 10,794,000 litres per year, enough to meet the needs of 98 homes in perpetuity.
Positively impacted the community - We worked closely with local authorities, business leaders and other stakeholders to ensure our vision for a state-of-the-art distribution facility was understood and shaped by their priorities. The development is highly regarded locally and is underpinning local jobs by securing the presence of a major employer on the Manor Royal Business District site for the next 15 years.
Met occupiers’ needs - Three months after site acquisition we signed heads of terms with a global blue-chip tenant, Evri, executing the lease in Jan 2022. The development has enabled Evri to meet rapidly growing demand by doubling the capacity of its previous operation in Crawley and opening an efficient 24/7 operating window.
Overcame challenges - Despite COVID-19 restrictions, materials shortages, labour supply pressures and a complete national lockdown, our focus on precise execution ensured the development took just 15 months from acquisition to practical completion in July 2022, and was delivered with total construction costs of £13.45m.
Underpins our long-term focus on sustainable development - In September 2022, Sixpenny Group sold the Gemstone Building to CBRE Global Investors for £47.7m. Originating and delivering this highly successful project is a platform for our purpose-driven business that is enabling us to focus on other sustainable priorities such as delivering energy positive residential developments in areas of high housing demand
We believe the Gemstone Building is delivering significant environmental benefits and social value aligned to the following UN Sustainable Development Goals:
Promoting sustainable economic growth and good quality jobs.
Supporting the sustainable management of water.
Providing access to sustainable and modern clean energy.
Building resilient industrial infrastructure.
Ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Background on the development
The transformative Gemstone Building development took 15 months from site acquisition to practical completion (July 2022).
The 6.2-acre site was formally the headquarters of Virgin Group and had been vacant for over five years. Sixpenny Group acquired the site for £18.5m, in an off-market transaction.
Throughout the demolition and construction phases we were committed to using products, materials and methods that are efficient, durable, have low environmental impact and can be reclaimed and reused as part of a circular economy.
The construction phase was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, materials shortages, labour supply pressures and complete national lockdown but was completed on time and within budget (total development costs = £31.95 million).
The 82,000 sq ft facility boasts 12.5 meter eaves, 22 docking bays and 55 metre yards on two elevations - a major advantage over developments in the surrounding area.
Watch a timelapse video of the demolition and construction process
Take a fly-through tour of the completed development
Background on sustainability
ESG factors are core to how Sixpenny Group invest, develop property and run our business.
We are committed to responsible, sustainable delivery of real estate that has positive impacts on surrounding environments and communities.
This is evidenced in the Gemstone Building which:
Was shaped by a program of close stakeholder engagement - ensuring the development both responded to market demand and met the needs of employers and the wider community.
Has underpinned local jobs by securing the presence of major employer Evri on the Manor Royal site for the next 15 years.
Obtained BREEAM ‘Excellent’ certification.
Was the first development in the region to have ‘water neutrality’ signed off at Planning Committee. Independent experts calculated that the Gemstone Building saves over 10,794,000 litres per year, enough to meet the needs of 98 homes in perpetuity.
Reduced gas dependency by removing the site from the grid.
Includes EV charging for 30% of all car spaces and the capacity to allow the future electrification of Ervi's distribution fleet of both cars and lorries.
Uses the latest rainwater harvesting, low carbon heating and solar panel technology to minimise environmental impacts.
Provides significant external landscaping areas, including the additional green public spaces to the north and south of the development.
Saw 98% of the building recycled with a substantial proportion of this used to create a new purpose-built facility for a community-focused sports club in Surrey. Core Judo is one of only 6 England Talent Development Centres in the UK, coaching more than 750 children. The academy works in partnership with ‘CLUB4’, Surrey County Council’s holiday, activity and food camps for children who receive benefit-related free school meals. Sixpenny Group also used recycled show suite materials from the Gemstone Building to refit our new head office (carpet tiles, led lighting, furniture, plants, kitchen, toilet fittings and appliances etc).
Delivered an increase in car parking spaces to relive the acute parking issues in the surrounding area.
Was selected by Vodaphone as a ‘modern built environment’ filming location for an advert. Permission was granted after a £2,000 donation to the St Catherine’s Hospice charity was secured.
Background on best practice and collaboration
Sixpenny Group believe real estate is more than just an asset class. True value lies in creating places and spaces that incorporate the best ideas, methods and stakeholder input.
The success of the Gemstone Building project was in large part due to close collaboration with the local authority, special interest groups like Manor Royal Business Improvement District and our delivery partners Arcus-PCD, who share our focus on creating quality spaces that deliver long term value.
The high specification and modern ESG-focused approaches used to deliver the Gemstone Building were key to securing a pre-let with a global blue-chip tenant in Evri (formally Hermes UK) and the sale to CBRE Global Investors for £47.7 million.
The development is central to the growth aspirations of the occupier (doubling its capacity) and Sixpenny Group, which is reinvesting much of the proceeds from the project to pursue other sustainable opportunities including energy positive residential developments in areas of high housing demand.
Links to media coverage of the pre-let and acquisition of the Gemstone Building:
Steve Sawyer, Executive Director Manor Royal Business Improvement District:
“Sixpenny Group have proven to be highly professional and collaborative partners throughout the process. They are clearly committed to working closely with stakeholders to shape developments and this is reflected in the quality of the end result.”
Edmond Leahy BSC(hons) MRICS, Head of Estates, evri:
“The Gemstone development is a key element in our growth plans. It has enabled us to double output from our current operation and gives us the ability to operate 24/7 to meet growing customer demand. It has a great location and is key to bolstering our existing network. This new depot will help us to continue processing and delivering a record number of parcels for all our clients and customers.”
Background to Sixpenny Group
Sixpenny Group’s story starts in the late 1990s when our Directors Egor Shestakov and David Bowcock met at school in East Sussex and formed a close friendship.
They established a fledgling venture together at this point… opening the school’s first tuck shop at the tender age of 15! Despite early success in confectionary retail, both decided to ultimately embark on separate successful careers in real estate.
In 2019 they realised their shared passion and mix of skills would be a strong platform to launch a new kind of purpose-driven property investment and development business.
They wanted to marry their entrepreneurial vision and energy with the diligent and precise practical execution demanded by large scale sustainable property investment and development.
The vision, quality and focus on ESG typified by the Gemstone Building reflects Sixpenny Group’s purpose and approach. It is a strategic milestone for the business and has put us in a strong position to deliver more sustainable, impactful projects over the coming years.