Property Australia

Development innovation in 2021

Karen Jamal Karen Jamal March 23, 2021

Lendlease has cracked Fast Company’s top 10 of the world’s most innovative development companies in 2021. What does forward-thinking look like today?


  Three key takeaways:

  • Each year, Fast Company honours the companies making a profound impact on their sectors, with Microsoft, Walt Disney Company, Apple and Patagonia among previous recipients
  • Lendlease ranked ninth in the urban development category, singled out for its leadership in sustainability and carbon neutral precincts
  • US company Stablegold Hospitality took out the top spot for an affordable housing solution, followed by prefabricator Veev and material manufacturer LafargeHolcim for its strong, affordable and low-carbon earthen brick.


Lendlease has world’s largest collection of healthy workplaces in one portfolio, rated under the WELL Building Standard, and was ranked the world’s most sustainable real estate fund by GRESB for the fifth time in 2021. Lendlease has set an ambitious target of net zero scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 2025 and absolute zero carbon emissions by 2040.

In 2020, Lendlease launched Podium, a property lifecycle platform that captures data and will enable Lendlease to optimise its choice of partners, suppliers and sustainable materials. This, in turn, promises to reduce material waste and inform renewable energy decision-making.

Steve McCann, Lendlease’s group CEO and managing director, says Fast Company’s acknowledgement “endorses some of the great work our teams are undertaking” but “the ultimate measure of success will, of course, always be how well our places help the communities in which they’re located thrive”.

Other companies on the list include:

  1. Stablegold Hospitality in the United States has targeted and rehabilitated nine extended-stay hotels, usually home to hundreds of low- or no income-residents. In doing so, Stablegold has created a housing safety net – with rent temporarily reduced or even eliminated during the pandemic – while still turning a profit.
  2. Veev has cut the cost and timeline of construction with an integrated approach that brings together design, material supply chain, manufacturing, and construction in-house. Veev, based in the US, can build housing at half the cost of traditional construction and four times faster. A 78-unit development of emergency housing built in San Jose last year took less than 90 days.
  3. LafargeHolcim is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of building materials. The company’s Durabric is a strong, affordable and low-carbon earthen brick that requires no kiln firing. In Malawi, where a quarter of the population lives in extreme poverty, LafargeHolcim’s product is driving down the cost of building and providing hundreds of local jobs.
  4. HOK, a global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm, has transformed a blighted industrial district in St Louis, Missouri into a technology-infused life and plant sciences district. On completion the Cortex precinct will have created nearly 420,000 sqm of space and nearly $3 billion of development and added 15,000 permanent jobs to the St. Louis region.
  5. Ascent Real Estate Capital has led the creation of a $75 million fund to preserve 1,500 units of affordable housing in Charlotte, North Caroline, while providing investors with modest but consistent returns. The company purchases apartment buildings in gentrifying neighbourhoods and then uses long-term deed restrictions to keep rents affordable.
  6. Icon has recently 3D-printed six 37 sqm homes for a planned community of affordable housing in Austin, Texas. Icon also delivered the world’s first community of 3D printed homes in Mexico for families living on less than $4 per day and launched “Project Olympus” with NASA to develop a space-based construction system for future exploration of the Moon.
  7. Renoveru is streamlining the renovation process of vacant homes in Japan, offsetting the waste of demolition and uncovering new opportunities to reuse vacant structures. Renovation is still revolutionary concept in a housing market with little resale activity. Renoveru brings together designers, construction companies, loan providers and mostly first-time homebuyers to renovate roughly 600 projects annually.
  8. BoKlok, a partnership between Ikea and Skanska, promises to revolutionise the mass production of buildings. The company has developed around 11,000 prefabricated starter-homes for average income families in Sweden, Finland and Norway. In 2020, Boklok expanded into the United Kingdom, with 1,000 new homes in the pipeline in 2021.
  9. Lendlease caught Fast Company’s attention for delivering a “surprisingly” carbon-neutral precinct at Barangaroo. Centralised power, heating, cooling and waste management infrastructure and “super-efficient district cooling plant” gained a round of applause.
  10. PAU, a New York-based architecture and urban design firm, has developed a “surprisingly feasible” proposal to transition the Big Apple to a nearly car-free urban environment. The plan shows how private vehicles can be eliminated from Manhattan without the city grinding to a halt. Though still a proposal, Fast Company says the concept “represents the kind of clever and reasoned planning that today’s cities need”.

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