St James Quarter Aerial view; St James Quarter Aerial view;

St James Quarter, Edinburgh, Scotland

Engineering the biggest transformation Edinburgh has seen in a generation

St James Quarter is a 1.7 million sq ft city centre development in Edinburgh, on a World Heritage site. Arup provided a range of engineering services across the £1 billion scheme, chosen by the client, Nuveen Real Estate, for our track record on large city-centre developments and our experience in digital information exchange.

Phase one opened in 2021, with the launch of an 850,000 sq ft shopping galleria. The final scheme will be home to 80 retailers, a mix of restaurants, the UK’s second-ever W Hotel, Edinburgh’s first boutique Everyman Cinema, a Roomzzz Aparthotel and 152 New Eidyn apartments, along with nine new event spaces and 1,600 off-street parking spaces. Once complete, St James Quarter will help move Edinburgh further up the UK retail rankings from 13th to eighth, and increase the city’s market potential.

How can we unlock the power of digital to improve development?

To reduce construction costs and risks, we pushed the capabilities of Design for Manufacture and Assembly best practice. We developed a digital design, production and manufacturing package, allowing the contractor, Laing O’Rourke, to manufacture substantial elements off-site. Early engagement influenced the choice of materials and overcame buildability issues.

We combined data from multiple software platforms during the design process to drive efficiencies in delivery. By rigorously extracting, analysing and manipulating data, we significantly reduced the risk of errors and maximised value. This included mapping the structural engineering workflow and optimising high effort activities and critical tasks. To improve communication of changes, we automated tracked changes in building information modelling and upgraded links between different software packages. 

How can smart engineering enhance commercial viability?

Our engineers maximised the net lettable space through use of transfer structures and high strength steel. The three elements of the scheme – hotel, cinema and apartments, five levels of retail, and three levels of underground parking – each required a different column grid to maximise their potential. To rationalise these differing grids, we introduced two transfer levels. We also made transfer members shallower by using high strength Histar steel, maintaining head room without adding depth and cost to the structure.

© St James Quarter

With three underground levels to construct below an existing John Lewis, traditionally the occupier would have had to vacate the premises during construction, causing a significant commercial impact. Instead, we found a way for John Lewis to remain fully operational throughout. The existing five-storey concrete building was supported on temporary towers while new levels were built underground. Once complete, the load from the existing building was transferred to the new structure and the temporary towers removed. We also linked the new retail floors to the existing ones at John Lewis, supported by a deep knowledge of the existing site, thanks to our involvement in the original 1970s scheme.


How can you reduce embodied carbon on a large development?

St James Quarter used over 15,000 tonnes of steel, with 33,000 individual pieces designed and fabricated 45 minutes away in South Lanarkshire, boosting the local economy. Our engineers chose high strength, low carbon steel for the frame. S460 Histar contains 97% recycled content, versus 20% for traditional steel, and is manufactured using electric arc furnaces, which generate 80% less embodied carbon than traditional basic oxygen furnaces. Replacing 269 fabricated sections with Histar rolled beams saved 2,580 tonnes of carbon.

St James Quarter supports Sustainable Edinburgh 2020, the Council’s framework. An energy centre and district heating scheme will provide hot water and heat to the surrounding neighbourhood.

How do you grow social value at every stage?

The St James Quarter team has worked with the local community throughout to create a scheme that benefits the whole city. Some 85%  of the 5,000 construction jobs went to people living locally and 800 students from local schools, colleges and universities were engaged through curriculum activities and work experience.

Once complete, St James Quarter will create over 3,000 new permanent jobs in a variety of sectors. A new retail and hospitality skills academy, FUSE, will connect local people to opportunities, enhance the customer  experience and promote careers in retail and hospitality, working with employers at St James Quarter and across Edinburgh.

© St James Quarter

This is a momentous occasion for the city of Edinburgh – and this is just the beginning. The brands and experience that we have welcomed today demonstrate our commitment to delivering a curated destination for the people of Edinburgh. We are now looking forward to continuing on our journey to deliver a truly mixed-use destination of the future as we welcome more brands, leisure, and our new neighbours ” Martin Perry Director of Development for St James Quarter, Nuveen Real Estate

Award wins

Ground Engineering Awards 2019 
UK Project with a Geotechnical Value over £3m – Winner